Inman Gallery is pleased to present STANDARDZENBLŪZ, an exhibition of work by Jamal Cyrus. This will be Cyrus’s second show with Inman since 2013. The exhibition will open Friday, October 28th, with a reception from 6:00 to 8:00pm, and will continue through December 30th.
Drawing on the languages of collage and assemblage, as well as the cultural politics embedded within Black American music, Jamal Cyrus’s work pursues sculpture as a series of metaphysical encounters. Cyrus is engaged with an aesthetic practice that aims to transform the most mundane materials and objects into rich, densely packed networks of meaning and purpose. For the exhibition STANDARDZENBLŪZ, he has taken as his point of departure what he sees as the “transcendental push” within strands of Southern material culture.
The works on view in STANDARDZENBLŪZ aspire to the polyvocality of their source material. Embedded in each object are fragments of unsettled political aspirations, discontinued rituals, and anonymous oral traditions. In the work BPPGG, Cyrus utilizes an iconic black leather jacket, as worn by members of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. At once a statement of fashion and uniform, the black leather jacket and its accompanying beret are tied to images of militancy and style. The symbolism of the jacket, however, is transformed by the artist’s use of small hand sewn black leather pouches of varying sizes. Packed tightly with unknown contents, the patches bulge slightly from the taut leather of the jacket in a shiny smooth grid. In various cultures across the African continent as well as in the Caribbean and Southern US, such garments are created to provide protection against various forms of harm, both material and spiritual. Cyrus’s choice of such a historically loaded raiment brings together the metaphysics of Black folk culture with the matter and politics of Black resistance struggles.
Also on view is a small selection of works on canvas. New to Cyrus’s oeuvre, they have the initial appearance of two-dimensional textiles, yet they are highly sculptural in form. The work Redacted List_1 combines simple materials—wax and ink on canvas—and maximizes them to evocative effects. In previous work Cyrus mined FBI Counter Intelligence Program files of notable figures from the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements for textural and textual elements to be used in the large scaled drawings. Where the conceptual impetus for the drawings was found in the processes the artist performed to create them, the new works on canvas speak through the artistic traditions they reference. The processes that Cyrus has brought to the production of these fabric works introduces the history of state surveillance and repression to the folk craft of quilting.
Cyrus’s work is in dialogue with the present but also the past, and is more clearly understood when considering the sentiments painter Aaron Douglas made to poet Langston Hughes (c. 1925), “...Let's bare our arms and plunge them deep through laughter, through pain, through sorrow, through hope, through disappointment, into the very depths of the souls of our people and drag forth material crude, rough, neglected...Let's create something transcendentally material, mystically objective."