Abstract painters Keltie Ferris, Joanne Greenbaum, and Ruth Root aren’t looking to embellish the foyer or match the sofa, but rather to consistently redefine the boundaries of taste and propriety. Brenna Youngblood tackles identity by way of the everyday object, pushing tactile surfaces against familiar collaged images. And not every important moment comes at high volume, as evidenced by the eerie cast silicon works of Kaari Upson and the subtle oil paintings of Nathlie Provosty.
The figurative painters in Man Alive are leading the charge of redefining canonized subject matter. Jordan Casteel, a keen observer, tells a story of black men’s lives that is not often told in portraiture.
Marilyn Minter, once shunned by the art world for being too explicit, deals out a warrior’s critique of representation and consumption. In Mickalene Thomas’ works, black women take the place historically reserved for Western art history’s leading men.
In the crisp, cinematic, photo-based works of Julia Wachtel, appropriation is near weaponized. The bold, raucous paintings of Nina Chanel Abney approach subjects such as police brutality head-on, turning white, male-dominated art historical tropes inside out and upside down. Wendy White’s painting celebrates First Lady Michelle Obama. Rochelle Feinstein highlights the paradox between the viewer’s cognitive and visual responses, while Sue Williams uses high-key perversion to fearlessly distill the decorative and the hardcore.
The exhibition takes its title from a phrase originating in the 1800s as an expression of shock or surprise, perhaps indicating that men at sea had found a shipwreck survivor. The artists in Man Alive are drawn together not only by the politics inherent in their work, or activism in their personal life, but also by the stand-alone impact of what they choose to make. They refuse to settle, refuse to be quiet, refuse to make nice.
Man Alive will be accompanied by a hardcover catalog with an essay by Wendy White.