Entries in Press (58)

Monday
Mar272017

ARTE: Make Some Noise x Angeleno Mag

Thrilled to be in the April issue of Angeleno Magazine.  Equally excited to announce my next project! Read all about in a preview of the magazine HERE or look for it on newstands now.  More to come soon... 

Tuesday
Feb212017

ARTE: TALK STORY - How do you know when you meet a genius?

My first interview of the year! I spoke with Nishat Kurwa at Talk Story about my inspirations, influences and opened up about my recent 6 month sabbatical. You can read the full interview at this link bit.ly/2lW2JOt

 

Michelle Papillion's eponymous art business, Papillion Art, began around seven years ago as a pop-up experience in downtown LA. These days, the hub for her work is her gallery in the black cultural district of Leimert Park. But her mission is also manifested in projects like the magnificent float she commissioned for LA's Martin Luther King Day parade last year: experiments in community-driven, place-based art. Papillion curates sculpture, painting, video and other forms of installation, and has garnered attention in the art world for presenting innovative emerging artists with an eye for the spectacular. Sometimes, though, art critics have lazily oversimplified her work, a problem she pondered while on a recent six-month sabbatical.

Is there a specific gap in the industry that you were hoping to address by opening Papillion?

When I started I wasn’t trying to address anything. The thing that I didn’t imagine happening is, my voice and my identity was kind of hijacked because I’m black and I’m a woman, and I’m young. I look at my contemporaries that are white, and they’re able to do what they want to do without the objectiveness of it being a “liberating” or “special” thing. They’re doing what they want.


I noticed that when I embarked on doing what I wanted to do, in art and in my space, there was always this thing like, “Do you know that you’re black, and you’re female, and that you’re showing artists who are black, and women artists?” And in my mind, I’m like, “I’m just participating in the art world, talking about things I want to talk about.” I felt like the Other once the rest of the world started putting those boxes around it. 

I went on this break in the summer of 2016 because I didn’t realize how burned out I was, and a lot of things were happening in our country and the world. I like to refer to it as a transitional moment, not just for myself but the entire world. And I needed a break from all of those boxes of being black, being a woman. You carry a lot on you day to day, running a business, trying to stay true to the agenda, which for me, is always like, “Art is for everyone.” 

What are some of the strategies you used to navigate the expectations imposed on you by the art world or the press? 

I think about that a great deal, and I don’t know if have an answer for that. But I’m still leaning towards the perspective of, “Do I feel like I’m contributing in a way that is more important than being in these boxes?” Obviously I have a way that I perceive myself and my work. Do I feel that the work that I’m doing is more important than the perception of what others may think about it? I love that I can work with artists, support artists, work with community, support community, and give platform, voice, opportunity to things that are not represented in art worlds or in media or anywhere. I guess I’m sort of like, “Whatever boxes we may be existing in, I’m not sure if we’ll ever not be in.” But…I think the work that I’m doing is more important than thinking about the boxes.

Describe a specific show or initiative that’s aligned with the mission you set out with. 

I was flash backing to a project we did last year, where we participated in the (Martin Luther King Day) parade with an artist named Lauren Halsey, and she built a float for us. I was looking at all these photos and video from that day, and that was the moment I realized that we’re really throwing grains in the life of this community that we’re in, which is South Central, South LA, Leimert Park. That felt like a 100 percent collaboration between us, the artists, and the neighborhood. All three of those things came together and made something really beautiful and special. And I think when I’m working in that way, that’s when it feels right, and works itself out in a way that can be successful, even if it’s not how we planned it. 

The one “aha!” moment during the sabbatical was: my business is really people. Art is the vehicle that drives the ideas of it, but what I enjoy and love the most is servicing people. It was a big breakthrough for me, because it allowed me to think about the business going forward, and how can we be more experimental, how can we broaden the spectrum for people who can’t visit the physical gallery, how do we expand outside the space, do more. 

What are the cues that help you recognize the “genius factor” in an artist? 

I have a little formula. I guess the first thing that I’m looking for is that they have something important to add to humanity. I think of my work in terms of the future, like: legacy. When I visit an artist for the first time, I’m thinking, “Where will this artist be in 5, 10, 25 years from now?” I always say if I do two studio visits,  the first visit is like, “Let’s see this art, what it’s about, is it good, is it not?” But the second visit, if I’m there, I already believe in the art — I need to now believe in the artist. I just spend the time really investigating who the individual is, the moral compass that they built upon. What are they saying, what do they think about the world that we live in now? When I start investigating in that way, it allows me to figure out if they have that thing that I call the “genius factor.” And if I feel that, then, yes this person does have the genius factor, maybe they’re not at that point today, but they’ll get there eventually. Maybe I can help develop that, or introduce them to the art world, or give them a platform for visibility for their career.

I’m looking for artists that, when we’re all gone and someone opens a textbook, and they’re like, “What was 2016 like?” — these are artists that are documenting the times, but also looking for ways to confront the abnormal things about the world, the beautiful things about the world, all the nuances that are happening on a daily basis, artists who are critically talking about those things.

Tell me about a moment of transition in your career and a piece of advice you received that helped you navigate it. 

When I first started in 2010, I didn’t really have the plan or focus to start anything. I had an idea for an exhibition that I thought was just going to be a pop-up shop, or a pop-up show. That first show was really successful, surprisingly. I was shocked and I decided to do another thing, and that worked out, and then another — and then a year had passed, and this pop-up idea was still around.

But I think around there was a transition moment around year three where I was like, “Wait, we have something here, and I should be more serious, and more focused, and more together about what the mission of the space really is, and where it can go.” At the time, we were at the outskirts of downtown LA, and there was really nothing else around. I decided to go to Leimert Park, and at the time, all of the businesses were longstanding mom and pop, family-owned shops that had been there a really long time. The Leimert space was my attempt at thinking more seriously about what I wanted to do, not just with my business, but also with my life, and be devoted to something that is my passion in a way that I could do until I die. 

I had one of the greatest individuals in art as my mentor, someone who’s sort of a living legend and an icon, and that was Jeffrey Deitch. Jeffrey moved to Los Angeles the same year that I started my business, and he got to see it literally from the beginning and saw the changes. And he saw me changing as well.

He was very instrumental in mentoring me at that time of transition, and he was planting the seeds of “You could do something special if you really buckled down, applied yourself, and got serious with it.” I felt like, well, if Jeffrey Deitch feels like this little thing that I have on the outskirts of downtown could be something, then maybe I should try. He was very encouraging during that time, giving advice, and being very practical too. I could run things by him, and he was able to give next steps on, “This is a good idea, this is something “ — he was very hands-on with me during that time. The things that I learned from him were invaluable.

Tuesday
Jan102017

ARTE: PERRIER ARTXTRA

Very happy to serve on the advisory board for Perrier's new art initivative ARTXTRA

"At Perrier, extraordinary art has always been a part of who we are. That’s why throughout the years, we’ve partnered with extraordinary artists in a variety of ways. This year we introduced ARTXTRA, an art program which took our partnership with art even further. Through the ARTXTRA Advisory Board, a panel of experts from across the art world, we selected three artists to showcase their art, one of whom would reimagine and design our new limited edition bottles and cans based on your votes. You voted and we’re proud to announce our Artist of the Year."

The ARTXTRA program will also support the selected emerging artist with a stipend for a year as the new label is commissioned and completed.  Saya Woolfalk, HOTTEA and Hayal Pozanti are the artists nominated that the audience (you) get to vote for! Visit perrier.tumblr.com/artxtra to find out more.

 

Tuesday
Sep272016

ARTE: INSECURE

So excited to see the new HBO comedy series "Insecure" by Issa Rae.  We've been fans of Issa since the early days of Awkward Black Girl.  The director Melina Matsoukas brought me in to consult on art for the show.  The show premieres on HBO October 9th, but if your an HBO GO or HBO Now subscriber than you can catch the first episode now. I've seen it and its soooooooo good.

 

 

Sunday
May292016

ARTE: SMASHD/ She Made It

Smashd presents “She Made It” a new original series which gives you an inside look at the authentic and inspiring stories of female entrepreneurs.

Monday
Apr182016

ARTE: NEWSMAKER

Featured in Modern Painters magazine April issue. Read the article online at Artinfo

Thursday
Mar242016

ARTE: W MAGAZINE

Check out Zoë Buckman in the April issue of W Mag as she discusses her solo show Every Curve! On newsstands now!!

Wednesday
Mar232016

ARTE: Rising Stars

OZY featured me under there Rising Stars column!!!!

Boy, can artist Derek Fordjour remember the first time he met Michelle Papillion. They were in a room full of big names and up-and-comers at the estate of a very important Black artist. Papillion stood up in her purple pants and great shoes and proclaimed: “I run a gallery in the hood.” 

Since then, Papillion’s gallery has shifted quarters, but not too far, and today you can find it below a neon sign — PAPILLION, it spells, in flamingo-pink capitals — in Leimert Park, Los Angeles. Nearby, there’s Jamaican food, African-style silhouette murals and a whole lot of dudes drumming in the parking lot for a Friday afternoon. Maybe it’s an unlikely birthplace for the next great renaissance of African-American art. Or maybe it’s the perfect one. Whatever the case, Papillion’s ambitions recall nothing less than the Harlem of 90 years ago. Her shows, which feature the work of Black artists on the rise, already draw some of the most powerful collectors in the world. “We’re in the beginning of it,” she tells me when I visit. 

She looks weirdly fashionable in her oversize gray hoodie, hoop earrings, black pants and all black sneakers — even the Reading Rainbow mug she’s clutching seems somehow cool. Papillion isn’t the only reason that New York and London bigwigs like Jeffrey Deitch and Jay Jopling have come calling on the L.A. art scene, of course. Los Angeles looks a lot more like Brooklyn nowadays, with artists going at giant canvases in abandoned warehouses and an accompanying gentrification. But art in the City of Angels has a different kind of aesthetic — bigger pieces, bolder colors, outdoor installations — and a more inclusive, less elitist vibe. “People need to feel comfortable in this environment,” Papillion says.

To me, Papillion’s gallery recalls W.E.B. DuBois’ dream for Black drama: It would be by, for and near African-Americans — though it’d be inaccurate to suggest that Papillion is only for Black audiences. Visitors are greeted by one of Fordjour’s canvases, featuring faceless Black men lined up as targets in a carnival game. Two panels of a Black man at an ATM cover an entire wall of Papillion’s office; it’s the work of Haitian-born, New York–raised, L.A.–based artist Andy Robert. A collage of magazine photos by Suné Woods (formerly a photographer), stressed and manipulated, hangs with a texture like overlapping tissue papers. “Curatorially she’s doing all mediums,” Shelley Holcomb, cofounder of Curate L.A., says, with “really young artists that are subsequently gaining attention internationally.” Indeed, the day I visit, she’s just met with a couple of collectors from Tokyo. 

In some ways, Papillion’s work runs parallel to that of Theaster Gates, the South Side Chicago revitalist, in whose property she made that declaration about the gallery in the hood. Making the space around her beautiful is Papillion’s art project. “There are no galleries on this side of town owned by people of color. Period.” To do good for a community is an art in and of itself, she says. And there’s much good to be done in Leimert Park, a predominantly Black neighborhood with the second-highest property crime rate in the city, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Papillion is protective, even possessive, of the dozen Black artists she’s shepherded to wider renown. Sometimes she is downright political. In Artforum, in the pages where owners typically advertise upcoming exhibitions, she took out an ad that said, “Dear Art World, Let’s End Police Terrorism #blacklivesmatter.” Last Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Papillion underwrote a colorful float, designed by one of her artists, to represent the Crenshaw neighborhood, near Leimert Park. One of the sayings plastered on it was “Black money matters.” It’s rare of a gallerist to be that explicit — and loud — about her politics. 

But activism was in the water she drank, growing up in Oakland. Her mom was an educator, and her dad an architect. At Howard, she studied the classics at first, learning Latin, Greek and Egyptian (yes, she can read all three and waves off my impressed expression). She joined an Egyptian art class, and in terms of falling in love with visual arts, that was “the tip of an iceberg for me,” she says.

It’s not easygoing, of course. Finding emerging artists is like winning the lottery, and turning unknowns into collectors’ darlings takes an eye, nurturing, skill, advocating, branding — as well as time and justice. Of the 10 people on the Most Powerful Art Dealers list that Forbes put out in 2012, none were women of color. But Papillion, has already come far, says Fordjour, who remembers coming up with her: “We were all at this scrappy space at the same time,” he says. Things have changed: “Now people know her name when she comes into the room, and that’s a different way to advocate.”

Monday
Mar142016

ARTE: 'Every Curve' a ground breaking exhibition! 

Artnet News lists Every Curve as one of the groundbreaking exhibitions by female artists to see!

 "Zoë Buckman, "Every Curve" at PAPILLION ART, Los Angeles:
Zoë Buckman is a must-watch multimedia artist best known for hand-embroidering lyrics by rappers Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur on delicate pieces of vintage lingerie as a means of reconciling her feminist beliefs with her love of hip-hop music and culture, where male chauvinism often runs rampant.

Michelle Joan Papillion, an up-and-coming Los Angeles gallerist and an important art world figure in her own right, will display the entirety of Buckman's most famous body of work for the first time in one place.
"Every Curve" will be on display from March 12–April 30, 2016."

 

 

Monday
Mar072016

ARTE: Suné Woods wins Baum Award

Congratulations to Suné Woods, she is the 2016 recipient of the Baum Award sfcamerawork.org/2016-baum-award

SUNÉ WOODS NAMED 2016 RECIPIENT OF THE
BAUM AWARD FOR AN EMERGING AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHER

Award Exhibition on view at SF Camerawork from May 5 - June 25, 2016

PRESS RELEASE

The Baum Foundation and SF Camerawork (SFC) are pleased to announce Los Angeles-based artist Suné Woods as the recipient of the 2016 Baum Award for an Emerging American Photographer. Now in its 10th year, the national award is given bi-annually to an artist of exceptional talent working in the medium of photography, providing exposure and resources at a critical career-point. 

Suné Woods creates photographs, collage works, and multi-channel video installations. Woods employs a combination of appropriated and created imagery to address sociological phenomenon, imperialist mechanisms, and formations of knowledge. Her work engages absences and vulnerabilities within cultural and social histories through the photographic image. She is interested in how language is emoted, guarded, and translated through the absence/presence of a physical body.

Woods is a recipient of the 2015 John Gutmann Photography Fellowship Award and the 2012 Visions from the New California initiative. She has participated in residencies at Headlands Center of the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, Center for Photography at Woodstock, and will be in residence at Light Work (Syracuse, NY) in 2016.

About the Baum Award

The Baum Award was founded in 2001 by Glenn and April Bucksbaum.  Since 2008, the Baum Foundation has partnered with SF Camerawork to administer the award nomination, manage the jury process, and host the exhibition. Each year, 25 contemporary art curators throughout the United States are asked to nominate two emerging artists for the award. A panel of professional artists and curators are then selected by SF Camerawork to jury the nominations and select the recipient.

The jury for the 2016 Baum Award included: Robert Johnson, Curator Emeritus, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco; Hesse McGraw, Vice President for Exhibitions and Public Programs, San Francisco Art Institute; Sergio De La Torre, artist and lecturer, San Francisco University; Santhi Kavuri-Bauer, curator and lecturer, San Francisco State University; and Heather Snider, Executive Director, SF Camerawork.

Past recipients of The Baum Award include: Jaime Warren (2014); Eric William Carroll (2012); Christopher Sims (2010); Sean McFarland (2009); Mike Brodie (2008); Lisa Kereszi (2005); Katy Grannan (2004); Luis Gispert (2003); and Deborah Luster(2001).


About the Baum Foundation

The Baum Foundation, which is dedicated to improving the quality of people’s lives through support of the arts, has funded the Baum Award since the inception of the program in 2001. The project originates from a conviction that photography is a powerful and influential medium with the capacity to emotionally connect with audiences in ways that words cannot. This ability to reach people on a visceral level can transform awareness into understanding and lead interest into action—fundamental aspects of a healthy and vital society.

Thursday
Jan212016

ARTE: TBT with SLJ

Great interview in Artinfo with Samuel Levi Jones when his Studio Museum in Harlem solo show "Unbound" debuted.

BOOKWORM: SAMUEL LEVI JONES AT THE STUDIO MUSEUM IN HARLEM

BY MOSTAFA HEDDAYA

Hardcover books today are as much about sentimentality as they are about text, but the work of a young artist now on view at the Studio Museum in Harlem eschews textuality altogether for an aesthetic and material communion with these spined signifiers. Californian Samuel Levi Jones has taken over the three walls of the project space on the lower level of the Studio Museum in Harlem for “Unbound,” a small but compelling exhibition curated by Naima J. Keith.

Consisting of just three large works, Jones’s wall-mounted abstractions take as their source material the covers of hundreds of law books which the artist has ripped apart and refashioned into geometric patchworks. Motivated by national conversations on police brutality and the failures of the justice system, Jones, whose previous body of work used encyclopedias as a source material, turned to legal texts. But the only traces of language visible in the exhibition are those on the spines of the exhibition’s titular work, “Unbound,” the wall-mounted piece that anchors the space. “Unbound” is flanked on either side by two smaller works on canvas that display the deconstructed cover material, which varies between cardboard, paper, and canvas. Taken as a whole, the show is subtle yet expressive. In a recent conversation, the artist spoke with ARTINFO about his process and work.

Tell me a little about how you came to this site-specific project at the Studio Museum, and how it relates to the work you’ve done with books so far.

In terms of having a show, Naima [J. Keith] saw my work at the gallery I work with, Michelle Papillion in LA, and we started having a conversation about potentially having a show and it came down to me submitting a proposal. This was before they contacted me about the Wein prize, which is a separate thing, because people who have gotten the prize haven’t necessarily had a show there. That’s how it came to be.

In terms of working with the space and working with the material, the really large piece with the spines, titled “Unbound” — I wasn’t intending it to making it the size of the wall, but with it being a site-specific space it pushed me to make it much larger than I originally intended it to be. That piece is a continuation of a much smaller piece I made from spines. I made a piece from a set of spines from an encyclopedia, but it’s basically embedded in a wall, the spines themselves sewn together and embedded in a hole in the wall, and about half of it drapes off the wall.

I had considered making a larger piece with spines based upon that piece, and I came to the law books because I was really thinking about a lot of things, what happened around the country in terms of law and law enforcement and I immediately told myself I wanted to get a set of law books and work with those and see what they looked like visually, I really wanted to obtain the books. The first set of books I purchased was maybe about 500 books or so, and sort of a discovery because I had no idea what they were going to look like inside, on the outside they are all completely the same, the finish is the same, but underneath the material is completely different, from canvas-like material to paper-like material, which was really interesting. That was a discovery in and of itself and kind of a risk, so to speak, because I started acquiring the material thinking that’s what I was going to use for the show, and it just worked itself out.

You mentioned that national events relating to the justice system drove you to seek out the law books. Could you speak a little bit to the relationship between material and theoretical substance in your work?

A great deal of my work has been about encyclopedias, thinking about the framework of the encyclopedia as a power structure that controls information, thinking about who compiles that information and who has that information. Thinking specifically about information that has been left out, and intentionally left out. This cathartic process of deconstructing the materials as a stand-in for these structures that exist and reconstructing the materials to create something visually, to have dialogue about the sorts of things that are going on.

Would you consider this process with the materials as part of the work? And how did you get into working with books in the first place? 

I wouldn’t go so far as to say that one is any better than the other. For me personally it’s interesting, this process of deconstructing the material, it’s this personal thing, my way of grappling with these things from personal experience. Thinking about the ways in which we navigate the systems we exist within. It started off with a portrait series sort of in response to Gerhard Richter’s "48 Portraits,” first shown in the 1972 Venice biennale. The images he used were from an encyclopedia, and my immediate response was to get a set of encyclopedias, and by chance the very first set I got was from 1972, this coincidental thing.

So what I did is I recycled the pages to make prints, and I would end up printing my own portraits of 24 men and 24 women that could have been represented that year [in the encyclopedia] and weren’t. They’re under-exposed and you can barely see them, when you first see them they’re like black squares until your eyes adjust. Then I started experimenting with the materials more... all these layers. That's how I came to the books. Once I skinned the books and saw what they looked like underneath they were very visually interesting to me, so I ended up experimenting with ways of putting them back together and ended up putting them on canvas.

The material is directly associated with the ideas that I originally started thinking about and working with, it's fortunate that they're visually interesting and can create a conversation. Pretty much anyone can relate to the material, it's very recognizable, a natural entryway into the work.

Let’s go back to what’s on view at the Studio Museum.

So the biggest and most obvious piece is “Unbound,” which is composed of spines from the law books, and those are sewn together with a sewing machine — I sew all the materials. And the piece “Don’t Feel Right” is the front covers and the back covers of “Unbound.” “Unbound” was an entirely new piece. The scale of it was made for the space; I actually sourced five different sets of law books to have enough material to make the piece, about 1,700 books. The others are the largest ones I’ve done on canvas, they were made to fit the space. The scale of the encyclopedias are usually built around the amount of books that are in a set of encyclopedias. In a set of law books there can be several hundred books, so it opens up the possibility of working at scale.

Was there anything within those books, which I understand are at least in part California State Supreme Court decisions?

I just ended up with those sets of books… the only significant part is that they are law books.

Your educational background is in photography — how does that inform your practice today?

Photography was my entryway into making, and I didn’t start making until I was in my early 20s. I picked up a camera, and was interested in framing things. Photography was a way of seeing things, and the work that I’m doing now is an extension of that.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Friday
Jan012016

ARTE: TEDx Crensahw

Zanetta Smith organized the TEDxCrenshaw event and I was very excited to be apart of it.  

My talk was the "Art of Doing Good"

Wednesday
Dec302015

ARTE: BLIND COUTOUR IS A MUST SEE

Tuesday
Dec222015

ARTE: Suné Woods awarded the John Gutmann Fellowship

The San Francisco Foundation has awarded Suné Woods the 2015 John Gutmann Photography Fellowship

 

 

The San Francisco Foundation Names Woods and Donovan Recipients of the 2015 John Gutmann Photography Fellowship

The San Francisco Foundation announced today that Suné Woods of Los Angeles and Dru Donovan of Brooklyn, NY are the recipients of the 2015 John Gutmann Photography Fellowship. The annual award is given to an emerging artist who exhibits professional accomplishment, serious artistic commitment, and financial need in the field of creative photography.

The prestigious award, established by the late photographer John Gutmann (1905-1998) and administered by The San Francisco Foundation, brings with it $5,000 each to support the development of Woods’ and Donovan’s creative work. Eminent photographers and curators Jim Goldberg, Reagan Louie and Leland Rice were this year’s jurors.

“This year’s nominees were all impressive and strong, making our choices difficult, as reflected in the decision to split the grant. I was impressed by the accomplishment and ambition of Suné Woods’ and Dru Donovan’s work. What ultimately persuaded me was both their work is at a tipping point. I am confident that the award will help them realize the full potential of their work,” said Reagan Louie, Gutmann Fellowship juror and photography professor at San Francisco Art Institute.

Suné Woods is interested in how language is emoted, guarded, and translated through the absence/presence of a physical body within cultural and social histories. Her work takes the form of multi-channel video installations, photographs, and collage. She also uses microsomal sites such as family to understand larger sociological phenomenon, imperialist mechanisms, and formations of knowledge. “Suné Woods’ deeply personal and transformative work is revelatory in its quietude,” said Jim Goldberg, photographer and member of Magnum Photos. “Her multimedia montages navigate presence and absence with touching directness and perceptive complexity, creating a new language that captivates through empathic synthesis.”

Woods received her BFA at the University of Miami, Coral Gables, 1997 and an MFA in photography from California College of the Arts in 2010. She has participated in residencies at Headlands Center of the Arts, Vermont Studio Center, and The Center for Photography at Woodstock. Woods is a recipient of the Visions from the New California initiative and will be in residence at Light Work in 2016.

“I’m thrilled and honored to receive the John Gutmann Photography Fellowship. This award will assist me with research materials and equipment for my practice. I am extremely grateful for this timely support”, said Woods.

 

Monday
Nov232015

ARTE: Derek Fordjour New York Times review

Derek Fordjour has a site specific installation on view now in New York City.  Holland Cotter of the New York Times reviews his show.  Very excited to debut new paintings from him in our January 2016 show!

Entering Derek Fordjour’s “Upper Room” from Madison Avenue is like changing planets. The small reception area in Robert Blumenthal’s third-floor gallery is carpeted with loose crushed stone, destabilizing underfoot; fragments of neon advertising signs hang from and lean against the walls. To the right, up two steps, a small door leads to a darkened larger space swathed, tent-style, in semisheer fabrics and burlap; the floor here is covered with packed earth. As your eyes adjust to the dimness you can make out tree trunks standing upright like tent poles. Wreaths of dried flowers are suspended from them.

This installation is partly autobiographical. Mr. Fordjour grew up in Memphis, a child of Ghanaian immigrants. “Upper Room” refers to places of worship: a prayer room in his family home and church revival meetings in forest clearings. Worship was intended to strengthen personal identity and safety-in-numbers solidarity, though powerful forces were set against this. A soundtrack of hymns plays in the gallery, but so does live audio from a police scanner in New York City, where the artist now lives. The installation’s atmosphere is one of menace rather than safety. It feels less like a place of communion than one of abandoned ritual. The dried flowers could easily be funeral wreaths.

Mr. Fordjour takes risks here: If he had overstated his basic image, or editorialized on it, the piece would have landed with a thud. He has trusted in the truth of materials to tell a story, and they do. “Upper Room” balances information and mystery. It comes out of personal history, but refers to larger ones, including the history of refugees who still live, destitute and unprotected, in the campgrounds that are streets of this rich city.

Friday
Nov132015

ARTE: ELLE MAG "Women In Art"

Totally honored to be in this year's issue of Women In Art by Elle Magazine, I'm one of 14 fierce women included!  Anne Pasternak, Carmen Herrera, Xaveria Simmons, Teresita Fernandez, Catherine Opie, Joan Jonas, Margaret Lee, Agnes Lund, Samantha Boardman, Hannah Hoffman, Maggie Kayne, Davida Nemeroff, Mieke Marple...its the December issue, on newsstands now!

Photo by Patric Shaw for Elle Magazine

"Meet Hannah Hoffman, Michelle Papillion, Maggie Kayne, Davida Nemeroff, and Mieke Marple: Five L.A. gallerists making the case—one show at a time—that when it comes to art, West is best.

In 2014, Michelle Papillion moved her four-year-old space, Papillion, from downtown L.A. to Leimert Park, an area so dense with creatives she compares it to the Harlem Renaissance. The gallery has since become "a scene all unto itself," she says, where seasoned collectors mingle with local musicians, dancers, and DJs. "I love diversity, which is why no two artists in my program are the same," she says."

For the full story and more on the other 13 ladies included go to Elle.com

 

Saturday
Oct242015

ARTE: Suné Woods LA Times Review

Los Angeles Times review of To Sleep With Terra:

A melancholic sense of fragmentation runs through 13 recent mixed-media collages by Suné Woods. Ire rumbles just beneath the graceful surface.

At Papillion Gallery, “Human Achievements in Limbo” is emblematic. Two modest slips of paper, both parts of pages torn from a book, are casually tacked to the wall, side by side.

One shows a West Indian woman entering the Guinness Book of World Records for doing a seemingly impossible dance maneuver, sliding her supple body beneath a limbo pole barely 6 1/2 inches off the ground.

 

The other displays an Apollo rocket — symbol of soaring human achievement — plus a luminous quasar, a remote celestial object that even the most advanced rocket cannot reach.

Collaged onto that faraway, unreachable quasar, a black woman’s finger seems to be scratching through its surface, like a chick attempting to emerge from a distant egg. The carefully considered juxtaposition with the black dancer is heartbreakingly lovely — and bitter, too, given the uncertainty and suspension of triumph associated with a state of limbo.

An otherwise invisible undercurrent of racial and gender suppression — of grand ambition thwarted and held in check — pushes into the foreground. Woods coaxes layers of resonance from very simple means, a key to a powerful collage.

The remaining works, two nearly 5 feet on each side, elaborate similar themes, sometimes in more abstract ways. Likewise, fleeting images of solitary, fragmented existence mark a short, two-channel video projection.

The looped video, “A Feeling Like Chaos,” is punctuated by a sudden, brief shot of a woman dressed in finery and reclining on top of a sidewalk retaining wall. She is laughing madly, but her glee seems less an expression of authentic joy than a clamoring hedge against alienation and anguish.

By Christopher Knight for the Los Angeles Times Arts & Culture section

Thursday
Oct012015

ARTE: Interview with the NY Observer

Interview with Observer Arts...full interview at this link

Photo by Bridget Fleming courtesy of Rent The Runway

Fourth in The Expanded Field, a series of talks with unique art world personalities.

Michelle Papillion opened her eponymous space in 2010. Since then, she’s tapped into a talented circle of Los Angeles-based artists that includes Kenturah Davis, Samuel Levi Jones, and the late Noah Davis among others who make powerful artworks in every medium imaginable. The Observer spoke with her right after her successful showing at EXPO Chicago last week and discussed the changing face of the LA art scene and how she’s navigated it.

You started your career as a curator in New York. What made you decide to move to Los Angeles?

The weather and the beach.

Would you say that your gallery “focuses” on African-American art, or are you simply exhibiting the artists in your circle?

This question always perplexes me. I’ve never seen someone ask a white dealer, “Do you only focus on white artists?” and yet I am asked the above question repeatedly. My galleries focus is being the best at what we do. We show great artists who I believe all have the “genius factor.”

Would you say that you might have a greater understanding of work by African-American artists than many dealers? Particularly in Los Angeles?

I would feel more confident saying that I have a greater understanding of the emerging market, particularly for Los Angeles.

One of your artists (Samuel Levi Jones) has recently become wildly in demand and very hard to get. What is it like to suddenly go from a position where you’re predominantly pushing an artist to a one where you’re predominantly protecting them?

Good question, I think for me “protecting” the artist is something that is a priority at all levels of their career. The artist and I make a plan of what we would like to accomplish and if we’re successful then the profile for both of us is raised. I am very happy with what Jones and I have accomplished together, he is a very diligent worker and very very smart. I think at this moment for he and I we are continuing the work we set out to do when we first decided to work together.

Are there any other galleries or institutions that have particularly inspired you to do the work that you do?

Deitch Projects was a source of inspiration for me when I started and it still is.

What is it about Mr. Deitch that you admire?

When I lived in New York, from 2001 to 2008, Deitch Projects was always a space that stood out because they did lots of risky things in art. I admired that they were able to do these really ambitious over the top curatorial ideas but still upheld the integrity of the artist and the gallery. I also really appreciated how comfortable and non-elitist it felt when you would visit his galleries in Soho.

Over the last five years, galleries have sprung up or moved to a variety of neighborhoods in Los Angeles–Downtown, Culver City, Venice Beach–but you chose to open up in Leimert Park. What was it that drew you to this neighborhood?

I just wanted to be there. When you drive onto our street were on you realize right away that there is some magic that lives on this block.

You’ve shown every type of medium at Papillion; from film and video to painting, drawing and sculpture. Do you feel like there is a certain aesthetic that connects all of your choices?

I really push the artists that I work with, I demand that together we work hard to present something spectacular. That’s probably the most common thread that connects everything together.  I’m also thinking about the work that we do as a historical archive. One thousand years from now, there should be a record of what we accomplished from both a business and curatorial perspective.

The art scene in Los Angeles has really exploded over the last five years. Do you see a lot of new collectors entering the marketplace and what fields are they coming from?

Yes, I do see new collectors and there popping up in LA, coming from places as far as New York, Europe and Africa.  I’m most interested in building with and helping to develop the next great art patrons, so cultivating relationships with millennials is a priority.

One last question: Is Papillion your real last name?
Haha, yes! And you have my father to thank for that.

 

Tuesday
Sep292015

ARTE: Suné Woods and the IRAAA

Tuesday
Sep222015

ARTE: Thelma Golden x Cultured Mag

Thelma Golden on the cover of Cultured Magazine standing in front of Lauren Halsey's "Doo Rag Gods" Totem columns.

PS: HAPPY BIRTHDAY THELMA!!!