Lou Stoval Passes Away, Carrie Mae Weems Honored, Lisson Gallery To Represent Otobong Nkanga -This Week in Black Art and Culture

Lisson Gallery has announced it is representing internationally renowned artist Otobong Nkanga. Lou Stovall, printmaker, passes at 86. The Hasselblad Foundation has named Carrie Mae Weems the 2023 Hasselblad Award laureate. A docuseries on the history of ESSENCE Magazine is to air on OWN. Learn more in This Week in Black Art and Culture. 

Lisson Gallery To Represent Otobong Nkanga 

Above: Otobong Nkanga

Lisson Gallery, London, has announced that it will represent internationally renowned artist Otobong Nkanga. The artist will present a number of works for Lisson Gallery’s upcoming exhibition, Matter as Actor, including a new tapestry alongside the renowned series Solid Maneuvers, which references the extraction of resources and damaged landscapes and was inspired by a visit to a railroad in Namibia. 

The exhibition, curated by Greg Hilty of Lisson Gallery, runs from May 3-June 24 at 27 Bell Street and 67 Lisson Street in London. Her work also is featured in the Hayward Gallery’s major exhibition in response to the climate crisis, Dear Earth: Art and Hope in a Time of Crisis (June 21-Sept. 3, 2023), which was inspired by Nkanga’s statement that “caring is a form of resistance.” Her forthcoming survey show in Spain at IVAM, Institut Valencià d’Art Modern (July 13-Nov. 5, 2023), includes a major new site-specific commission alongside historical work and follows monographic shows staged over the past five years in France, South Africa, Norway, Italy, Belgium, Austria and the United States. 

Nkanga’s work emphasizes ecological themes of relationality and becoming. Her multidisciplinary work investigates the intricate social, political and material connections between bodies, territories, minerals and the earth. She creates pathways translating the natural world into networked, aggregated situations evoking memory, labor, home, care, ownership, emotion, touch and scent through drawing, installation, performance, photography, textiles and sculpture. Nkanga has consistently broken new ground with her ambitious, long-term endeavors in addition to producing distinct, meticulously researched works of art. Landversation, which toured four cities from 2014-2020, put the artist and visiting public in dialogue with multiple local communities that have deep connections to the land. 

The Carved to Flow Foundation, established in Akwa Ibom, Nigeria on the occasion of a series of performances held at documenta 14 in 2017, is a platform dedicated to researching material cultures and fostering shared experimentation and exchange locally. Her works’ allusions to the reparative capabilities of connectivity urgently imply the possibility of more habitable futures. 

Additionally, Lumen Travo Gallery, Amsterdam and Galerie In Situ – Fabienne Leclerc, Paris represent Nkanga. 

Acclaimed Printmaker Lou Stovall Passes 

Above: Lou Stovall

Lou Stovall, a printmaker, passed away on March 3 at his residence in the District of Columbia at age 86. His wife, Di Stovall, confirmed that complications from cardiac problems were the cause. 

Lou Stovall was a master printer who collaborated with renowned artists to create intricate, brilliantly colored screen prints. He was a pillar of the Washington art community for over 50 years, collaborating with prominent artists at his Workshop Inc. studio. Using sponges, brushes, towels, squeegees, hand-cut stencils and a variety of oil-based dyes, he assisted in establishing printmaking as an art form. 

He later collaborated with artists from Washington, D.C., including Gene Davis, Sam Gilliam, Elizabeth Catlett, Lloyd McNeill, and David Driskell. Born in Georgia, Luther McKinley Stovall was reared in South Carolina. At age 15, he was employed as a stock clerk at a grocery store and quickly promoted to assistant sign painter. Additionally, he experimented with printmaking as a fine art and was awarded a scholarship to the Rhode Island School of Design. 

Above: Lou Stovall, Roses IX. From The Phillips Collection.

After his father’s death, he pulled out of school to help support his family. He moved to Washington, where he attended Howard University and earned a bachelor’s degree in art history in 1966. Stovall was a student of African American art history pioneers James A. Porter and James Lesesne Wells, who helped him refine his silk-screen techniques. As an accomplished artist, Stovall relocated to Cleveland Park in the early 1970s and began concentrating on his own work. Stovall had created activist posters prior to joining Workshop, including some for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. In addition to his practice of lithography, Stovall also painted. 

Additionally, he designed posters for The Who. Briefly, Stovall’s atelier was located in the now-defunct museum, Dupont Center. The brief residency was the subject of an exhibition at the Phillips Collection last year. He served on the board of the PEN/ Faulkner literary foundation and as a volunteer with local art institutions. He delighted in the rural images he created and relished working on a variety of projects at once, including creating frames for fine-art prints. 

Carrie Mae Weems Named Hasselblad Award Laureate 

The Hasselblad Foundation has announced Carrie Mae Weems as the 2023 Hasselblad Award laureate. She is to receive a gold medal and SEK 2,000,000 (U.S. $186,198). The award also includes a medium format Hasselblad camera from the Gothenburg-based camera company, Hasselblad. The award ceremony will take place in Gothenburg, Sweden on Oct. 13, 2023. That same day, an exhibition of Carrie Mae Weems’s work will open at the Hasselblad Center, and a new publication about the artist will be released. Weems is a visual artist from Syracuse, New York. 

She was born in 1953 in Portland, Oregon, studied modern dance and became politically active as a union organizer. She received her first camera as a 21st birthday present and used it as a tool for political rather than creative purposes. While still an undergraduate, she embarked on her first major photographic series of her friends and relatives, titled Family Pictures and Stories (1978). The photographs predominantly were taken by the artist herself, but some works are based on archival imagery, such as the series, From Here I Saw What Happened and I Cried (1995-1996), The Jefferson Suite (1999), and The Hampton Project (2000). 

“In the midst of the radical shifts taking place across cultural institutions, and as the first African American woman to receive the Hasselblad Award, some might say, ‘it’s about time!’” Weems said. “Nevertheless, receiving the Hasselblad Award has left me speechless. I don’t have the words to express the depth of my gratitude. To have my family name inscribed on this historic roster, alongside some of the most outstanding photographers of our time, is a cherished honor. 

“To be recognized comes with the continued responsibility to deliver on the promise made to myself and to the field, which is to shine a light into the darker corners of our time and thereby, with a sense of grace and humility, illuminate a path forward. For this honor, I thank the Hasselblad Foundation and the jury.” 

Weems often inserts herself into the images, thus embodying and commemorating the Black female subject not only in a specific historical context but also making her subject matter timeless. Her work is often explicitly political as she continues to explore themes of racism and the African American experience. She has also embraced the medium of video, and her short films include People of a Darker Hue and Imagine If This Were You (both 2017). She has taught photography at several colleges and founded Social Studies 101 in 2002. 

In 2012, she launched a mentorship program, the Institute of Sound and Style. In 2020, she spearheaded the public art campaign Resist COVID Take 6! to thank essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic and draw attention to the disproportionate effect of the coronavirus on Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. She is represented in such institutions as the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and Tate Modern in London. 

Her multimedia installations were recently the focus of a major exhibition, The Shape of Things (2021), at the Park Avenue Armory in New York, and her latest retrospective exhibition, A Great Turn in the Possible (2022), was shown in a multi-venue presentation in Barcelona, Spain. 

Upcoming solo exhibitions in 2023 include retrospective presentations at the Barbican in London and Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland. The exhibition at the Hasselblad Center will be the artist’s first solo exhibition in Sweden. 

OWN and ESSENCE Magazine Host New Docuseries

A new docuseries, Time of Essence, will air this summer on the Oprah Winfrey Network. According to OWN, the series celebrates the pioneering magazine that has uplifted a worldwide community of over 20 million Black women and has revealed some of the most alluring and influential covers of the past 50 years. OWN will debut the five-part, one-hour documentary series this summer. 

Featured voices include iconic ESSENCE Magazine editor Mikki Taylor, longtime editor-in-chief Susan Taylor, and current CEO Caroline Wanga, alongside some of the brightest celebrities, thought leaders and culture-shifting influencers of the past several decades, including fashion model and icon Beverly Johnson and daughter Anansa Sims, Academy award-winning actresses Halle Berry and Whoopi Goldberg, Regina Hall, Taye Diggs, Sheryl Lee Ralph and more to be announced. 

The documentary Time of Essence will explore how, for more than 50 years, ESSENCE has shaped and reflected Black society in America. From the 1970s to the present, each episode focuses on a different decade and includes first-person comments on the most significant events from the icons, trailblazers, staff members, and leaders who lived and defined that decade. Along with this open commentary, there is exclusive behind-the-scenes material from the entertainment, sports, politics, fashion, and beauty industries as well as never-before-seen video. 

According to Tina Perry, president of OWN, “In 1970, ESSENCE recognized that Black women’s contributions to society were being undervalued and set a new standard as the first publication to reflect Black womanhood, affirming her strength, style, and achievements and provoking industry reform and change. This series will be a testament to what ESSENCE has been historically and how it continues to shape the culture at large today.” 

“For the past five decades, ESSENCE has served as a lighthouse and an institution for shaping culture as we live our mission of deeply serving Black women,” said Caroline Wanga, president and CEO of Essence Ventures. “Time of Essence is both a celebration of that remarkable and rich history and a catalyst for the critical work that remains ahead of us—reminding the world that Black women are not a monolith and that it is only through her that society and the world continues to progress.” 

51 Minds and ESSENCE Studios LLC are collaborating to create Time of Essence for OWN. Executive producers for 51 Minds include Christian Sarabia and Nicole Elliott, Major TV’s Raymond Garcia, and ESSENCE Studios LLC’s Emmet Dennis, Sidra Smith, Barkue Tubman-Zawolo, and Stephanie Hodges-Dunivan.

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