“home/body” by Corey Pemberton
(Los Angeles, CA) — UNREPD is pleased to present home/body, Corey Pemberton’s debut West Coast solo exhibition. Featuring mixed media works on canvas, home/body considers “the ordinary” as an embodied experience. The exhibition begins from the premise that, in Pemberton’s words, “to feel ordinary is a luxury.” In this series of portraits, Pemberton extends that luxury to people in his life whose bodies and identities fall outside of the traditional raced, gendered, and sexualized boundaries of ordinariness.
Pemberton anchors his portraits within the domestic, as his subjects’ homes allow space to rest, to lounge, to contemplate, to be free. These seemingly quotidian tableaus are at once light and approachable, and yet suggest the high stakes involved in claiming space for oneself as a member of a historically oppressed group. In challenging prevailing notions about blackness, queerness, and womanhood, Pemberton’s works redefine the boundaries of the everyday. Using acrylic paint, photography, textile, and glass, Pemberton assembles domestic spaces in which accordingly diverse people are centered and enjoy safety, love, and wholeness.
Rendered in vibrant color, layered pattern, and rich texture, the scenes depicted give insight into the humanness of their subjects. Through exquisite attention to objects that provide a feeling of home, Pemberton invites viewers into intimate moments that reveal his subjects’ private selves. Encountered on their own turf and terms, Pemberton’s figures resist easy categorization according to bias or stereotype. Where one might expect strength, they find softness; where one assumes superficiality, they find depth. In bodily gesture or clothing thrown over a chair, books on a nightstand or art on the walls, the viewer is invited to know these subjects and, in so knowing, to see that their comfort, their solitude, their joy, their yearning, is not so different than one’s own. In these moments lie the possibility of transformation that powers Pemberton’s work—a hopefulness that, like the work itself, is anything but ordinary.
Corey Pemberton (b. Reston, VA 1990, lives Los Angeles) received his BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2012. He has completed residencies at The Pittsburgh Glass Center (PA), Bruket (Bodø, NO), as well as a Core Fellowship at the Penland School of Crafts (NC). He is the cofounder and director of Crafting the Future, a non-profit with a goal of increasing BIPOC access to the fields of art, craft, and design. His work has been shown across the United States, including solo exhibitions: creature, comfort at Contemporary Art Museum, Raleigh, NC, in 2020; and Finding Home in Otherness at Blue Spiral 1, Asheville, NC, in 2019. He was the recipient of the Excellence in Glass award from the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art in 2016.
“Like Watermelon for Chocolate” by Kirk Henriques
UNREPD is pleased to announce Like Watermelon for Chocolate, a solo presentation by artist Kirk Henriques, featuring a selection of abstract and figurative paintings in oil and acrylic on fiberglass mesh. Opening on Juneteenth, or Black Independence Day, a holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States, the exhibition will be on view through July 20, 2022.
At the center of this body of work is the watermelon, an icon ripe with socio-economic significance. The exhibition considers watermelon’s fraught history as a symbol of freedom and prosperity, as well as denigration and shame, for black people in America. After the Civil War, black people grew and sold watermelon as a way to support themselves in their newly-established independence. Because their success was threatening to the Southern social order, white people quickly stigmatized watermelon as a symbol of black laziness, uncleanliness, and childishness; this stigma persists through present day. In his paintings, Henriques seeks to reclaim the watermelon as an uplifting symbol of black independence across various contexts. Like Watermelon for Chocolate, then, is a meditation on the possibilities of freedom for black people.
Inspired by Laura Esquival’s Like Water for Chocolate, the exhibition situates watermelon in a familial framework. In mining the depths of emotion based in personal spaces and experiences, the exhibition begins to take the shape of a black American telenovela. Dramatic and poignant, Henriques’s paintings incorporate movement both literally and figuratively, leading viewers through the amalgam of signification within each piece; the paintings’ layered surfaces repeat materially the histories they represent. Henriques’s formal interests therefore echo his narrative and, despite their historical bases, concern themselves with futurity. The exhibition tells the story of an abstract idea of American life, one in which black independence is a self-evident truth. If we begin from a place of black freedom, the paintings posit, “American life” begins to look like black joy, black love, and black peace. That is to say that if black independence is the soil, the fruit it grows tastes as sweet as watermelon.