Janiva Ellis, ‘Thrill Issues’, 2017, New Museum

Courtesy the artist and 47 Canal, NY

About Janiva Ellis

In works that charm and unsettle, Janiva Ellis repurposes the familiar pictorial language of cartoons to present unflinching examinations of psychological suffering. The Los Angeles-based painter grew up in Hawaii, often feeling isolated as a young black woman, and her work creates a space for earnest narratives of African American female experiences. In bright pastoral scenes interrupted by anti-black violence, Ellis calls attention to the trauma and absurdity of casual racial discrimination. Ellis’ work unpacks pernicious assumptions about black identity and exclusions of black narratives, surfacing a problematic cultural precedent for pleasure at the expense of black pain. “To me, my images aren’t any more violent than many everyday interactions. Any more anguished than they are obliged. The unrest in my work represents a release, a shared sardonic moment of tension and amusement.”

American, b. 1987, Oakland, California, USA, based in Los Angeles, California, USA