At this year’s massive edition of the Armory Show, numbering nearly 250 exhibitors, a moment of reflection comes courtesy of two booths in the fair’s Presents section, for galleries in business for fewer than 10 years. The works on view are by two artists—Joiri Minaya (at Calderón) and Nona Faustine (at Higher Pictures Generation)—whose practices have long explored what our relationship to the land we live on.
Minaya’s works often reflect on how white people imagine the Caribbean landscape, specifically that of the Dominican Republican, and what their misconceptions mean for those who actually inhabit it. Two untitled examples from her ongoing “Divergences” series are hung over a printed wallpaper showing impressionistic lush greenery; Minaya photographed mid-century wallpaper and then digitally altered it in Photoshop to create a non-repeating pattern that seems to glitch.
Other examples from this series went on view at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri, in 2020 as part of a commissioned installation. As with her past work, which saw Minaya in a full-cover bodysuit printed with a tropical design blending into the landscapes, these recent pieces are about “both agency and opacity” as a way to “escape notions” of tropical landscapes like those in the Caribbean simply as vacation vistas in the minds of Americans and Europeans, the artist said during the fair’s VIP preview. She added that she wants to “deconstruct that baggage of respite” as a way to think about the colonial legacies of these places.
Minaya’s Kemper installation was, in part, influenced by the local history of Quindaro Townsite, an abolitionist community in Kansas City that had a short-lived history but served as a safe site for enslaved people who had escaped from the South. Faustine’s work similarly looks at sites throughout New York that are entangled in the city’s under-known and frequently erased history with slavery in the U.S.
A small booth by Higher Pictures Generation, 20 photographs from the artist’s 40-image portfolio “White Shoes” are on view. (The portfolio was published as a monograph with essays by Pamela Sneed and Jessica Lanay last year.) Faustine has previously shown several of these images, which often show her wearing nothing but the titular white pumps at these sites, but when seen alongside the new works, these older pictures still feel as fresh and poignant as when they debuted.
Two of the works in the series deal with the historic Lefferts House in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Faustine stands in front of it, and is seen from different angles. In all of them, she stares directly at the viewer, asking them to confront this painful history alongside her.
In the monograph, footnotes by the artist provide additional context: “Lefferts House was built circa 1783 by patriarch Pieter Lefferts using African enslaved labor. Four generations of the Dutch family lived there. The Lefferts were among the largest slave-holding families in King County as well as the lagest landholders. … By various accounts Brooklyn was a slaveholding capital.”