The Artsy Vanguard 2020: Ja’Tovia Gary
B. 1984, Dallas. Lives and works in New York.
Ja’Tovia Gary’s video work transports viewers into another world. Her lush combinations of sound, archival footage, and splashes of color create disorienting, dreamlike experiences that explore questions of sexuality, Blackness, womanhood, and history.
For example, her piece An Ecstatic Experience (2015) presents a non-linear narrative that meditates on family history, inexplicable phenomena, and the notion of care. The piece was included in the show “God Made My Face: A Collective Portrait of James Baldwin,” curated by Hilton Als, at David Zwirner in 2019.
In early 2020, Gary’s three-channel video installation THE GIVERNY SUITE (2019) was shown at Paula Cooper Gallery in New York and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. The spliced-together footage—both original and archival—includes the artist herself in Monet’s famed gardens in Giverny, France, and interviewing Harlem residents on the street. We also see historic recordings representing decades of racial and cultural history, from Josephine Baker in the 1930s to Diamond Reynolds after the murder of Philando Castile in 2016.
Gary’s 2020 solo show with Paula Cooper, “flesh that needs to be loved,” included her first multimedia sculptural work, Citational Ethics (Saidiya Hartman, 2017) (2020)—a bright, neon purple sign that reads: “care is the antidote to violence.” The exhibition as a whole contemplated the ways that we talk about the autonomy of Black women.
Gary’s films have also been shown at major institutions, including the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among others.
The Artsy Vanguard 2020
The Artsy Vanguard 2020 is our annual list of the most promising artists shaping the future of contemporary art. This year, artists are organized into two categories: Newly Emerging, which presents artists who’ve gained momentum in the past year, showing at leading institutions and galleries; and Getting Their Due, which identifies artists who have persevered for decades, yet only recently received the spotlight they deserve. Now in its third edition, the feature was developed by the Artsy staff, in collaboration with our network of international curators and art professionals. Explore more of The Artsy Vanguard 2020.
Header and thumbnail image, from left to right: Ja’Tovia Gary, still from “An Ecstatic Experience,” 2015. Courtesy of galerie frank elbaz, Paris and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York; Ja’Tovia Gary, detail of “Precious Memories (Tower),” 2020. Photo by Steven Probert. Courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery, New York; Portrait of Ja’Tovia Gary seated in front of “Precious Memories (Tower),” 2020. Photo by Taylor Dafoe. Courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery. Ja’Tovia Gary, detail of “THE GIVERNY SUITE,” 2019, in “flesh that needs to be loved” at Paula Cooper Gallery, 2020. Photo by Steven Probert. Courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. All artwork and installation images: © Ja’Tovia Gary. Courtesy of the artist.