School of Art, Media, and Technology

Fine Arts Alum Jonathan Gardenhire and Bill Gaskins in Conversation

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Jonathan Gardenhire & Bill Gaskins in Conversation

Thu, September 26, 2019

6:00 PM – 7:30 PM EDT 

The New School Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Gallery, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center

2 West 13th Street

New York, NY 10003

Jonathan Gardenhire’s installation pays homage to a work in The New School’s art collection. Gardenhire first encountered Glenn Ligon’s diptych Condition Report (2000) in the corridor of The New School en route to class. Ligon’s piece, which is an etching of his earlier painting with a conservator’s annotations, replicates the sign worn by striking sanitation workers in Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement. Taken out of context, the phrase ‘I AM A MAN’ can mean many meanings; for Ligon, the condition report’s documentation of damage and decay signaled the passing of time and with it, the ongoing negotiation of civil rights legacies. For Gardenhire, the question of race and masculinity resonates in this piece, and his own photographic practice reflects a deep engagement with portraiture that pulls the moniker ‘man’ into a personal focus. In these thick accumulations of research materials, reproductions of Condition Report appear alongside photographs and texts by Thelma Golden and Henry Louis Gates, Marvin Gaye, bell hooks, Langston Hughes, Robert Mapplethorpe, David Marriott, Herman Melville, Walter Mosley, Walt Whitman, and Richard Wright among others. The artist notes that, coupled with pornographic images (some of which are appropriated), a tenderly inverted portrait and a smile sporting grills—the last photograph that the artist took as a student at Parsons—they “become like a muscle with a peculiar role in the larger body or constellation.” This orrery shows the material practices of citation and the public life of Black male embodiment; is “history [as] not only what hurts but what arouses, kindles, whets, or itches.”

Gardenhire is a photographer and cultural producer whose work considers the erotics of Black masculinity and questions of value and commodification. He is a graduate of the photography program at Parsons School of Design where he worked under the tutelage of Bill Gaskins and the late photographer George Pitts. His work has been shown at Aperture Foundation (New York), Medium Tings (New York), the Slought Foundation (Philadelphia), among others.

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