Play More Work Less
Through Sunday, August 21
The Delaware Contemporary, Wilmington
OPENING EVENT: Friday, June 10 | 5 - 9 PM
This exhibition explores the multivalences of play as a noun and a verb. Play connotes leisure, creativity, wonder, humor, experimentation, and joy. It also bears a relationship to action, effort, and performance as well as sociopolitical critique. Through installation, video, performance, painting, printmaking, and interactive sculpture, the seven artists featured here approach play as a medium in itself.
Peter Williams and Patricia Renee Thomas explore the relationship between color and creativity. While both artists regularly deploy dark humor in their paintings to interrogate the persistence of racial stereotypes, the works on view in this exhibition use play to different ends. Known for large-scale compositions that combine figuration with abstraction, Williams’s paintings in this gallery represent an exercise in pure form. During the pandemic before his untimely passing, the artist turned to color studies to push the boundaries of his creativity while also delighting in simplicity. Though more abstract than the work Williams typically makes, these canvases feature two of his most recognizable mainstays, namely bold color and complex patterning. Thomas is likewise drawn to bold colors such as hot pinks, emerald greens, and glossy blacks, and her scene of play brings together hopscotch and three sisters. Made specifically for this exhibition, the painting serves as a commentary on Black girlhood and the great outdoors. Relatedly, the bold colors and strange creatures in Simphiwe Ndzube’s work in the Platform Gallery on the façade of the museum amplify these themes, creating a through line that moves the exhibition beyond this gallery.
Many of the works focus on new media and interactivity as well as questions of access and equity. Kelli Williams’s installation enfolds animation and augmented reality into portraiture to bring the everyday routines and self-fashioning practices of young Black women to life. As a visual and community artist, Williams often uses experimental animation, photography, installation, and humor to challenge cultural, racial, and gender norms that emanate from social media and technology. Artist, writer, and musician Devin Kenny is also interested in the limits and possibilities of interactive media and the role that technology and online environments play in our everyday lives. The works in this exhibition invite viewers to consider the promises and pitfalls of facial recognition technology by donning a transparent mask and to imagine new uses for outmoded mediums such as VHS tapes.
Jennifer Mack Watkins’ series of prints and Salim Green’s short film envision play as a formative attribute of both childhood and adulthood. Watkins’s print series is named after a 1920s children’s periodical that sociologist and organizer W.E.B. Du Bois pioneered to publicize positive imagery of African-American life. Green’s film follows young adult actors over the course of eight hours, compressing the time that passes from day to night along with the emotional highs and lows that result from recreational activity and amusement. Both works remind us that play can induce joy and excitement as well as loss and nostalgia. The 1-800 number that accompanies Green’s film also adds an element of interactivity, inviting viewers to dial in to hear a unique sound score. Lastly, Zalika Azim’s prints situate play within a transnational, diasporic context of African retentions, masquerade parties, and tactics of subversion in the afterlife of slavery in the Caribbean and the U.S. Created during the early-morning ritual j’ouvert in Brooklyn, each work displays the remnants of revelers, covered in paint, mud, oil, and other materials, dancing the streets as a practice of liberation.
In considering the multivalent purposes of play, this exhibition engages art and creativity in out-of-the-box ways. Each work asks viewers to think carefully about who in our society has the time and resources to play as well as how play reflects and transmits cultural values. In so doing, the works implicitly address how Black labor, ingenuity, and invention have been historically devalued yet also desired and consumed at a global scale. Play, in this frame, engenders new understandings of our world.
Schedule & Tickets
Through Sunday, August 21 ·
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Play More Work Less
The Delaware Contemporary, 200 S. Madison Street, Wilmington, DE, 19801
200 S. Madison Street
Wilmington, DE 19801
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