The Los Angeles–based David Kordansky Gallery has taken on two important artists: photographer Deana Lawson, who in the past several years has established herself as one of the important artists working today, and Jason Fox, a painter whose figurations have earned attention from the New York art scene. Lawson will continue to be represented by her New York gallery Sikkema Jenkins & Co., and Fox will be co-represented with Canada gallery in New York.
Lawson, who is based in Brooklyn, New York, creates portraits of Black people who look directly and forcefully at the camera. Lawson’s sitters are people she meets while walking around the streets of the various countries she’s visited to create new work, including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Jamaica, and Ghana, as well as the United States. There’s a layer of fiction to Lawson’s images as well, as they are staged, though they offer a level of intimacy that feels more than real.
Gallerist David Kordansky said that, though he had been aware of Lawson’s work because of her shows in New York at Sikkema Jenkins, it was the artist’s 2018 exhibition at L.A.’s Underground Museum that brought to light the breadth of her photography. “Lawson constantly reorients the viewer: seemingly straightforward documentation of the Black experience gives way to constructions and abstractions—of Blackness as a global idea,” Kordansky said in an email. “It’s no surprise the brilliance and importance of her work is rapidly being recognized. Deana is depicting Black lives and Black spaces—not only domestic arrangements, but also psychology, spirituality, and the cosmos.”
Lawson is currently the subject of a major solo show that opened today at the Kunsthalle Basel in Switzerland. The exhibition was curated by the institution’s director Elena Filipovic and co-produced with with the Fundação Bienal de São Paulo as part of the 2020 Bienal de São Paulo, in which Lawson is a participant. Featuring photographs taken in Salvador, in Brazil’s Bahia state, that are part of a new commission, the exhibition was originally set to open in March and then to travel to Brazil in July, but was delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Brazilian presentation will now be incorporated into the main biennial exhibition.
Fox, who currently has a solo show of new paintings at Kordansky that runs until July 11, has been exhibiting his work for 30 years and was closely associated with the influential and now-defunct Feature, Inc. gallery in New York. Kordansky said he distinctly remembers one of Fox’s shows there in 2003 and that the work reminds him of Martin Kippenberger’s.
“I champion earnest outliers—artists’ artists,” he said. “[Fox] defies the canon by fully embracing artistic liberty. The results of this risk-taking range in prettiness—intentionally so—but are always compelling, smart, and invested with feeling.”
The gallery will offer work by both Lawson and Fox as part of the Art Basel online viewing rooms, which run from June 17–26. The online iteration of the fair is taking place in lieu of the in-person one in the Swiss city that is often considered the world’s most important art fair. Art Basel had originally postponed the 2020 edition until September but announced earlier this month that it would indeed have to cancel the fair.
“The coronavirus has forced us to rethink our business, particularly the pathways for sharing art with audiences,” Kordansky added. “However, we haven’t had to question why we show the art we love. There’s an opportunity here for growth, to lean into what we believe in, and to demonstrate faith for the future. Artists haven’t stopped making essential work, and we’re going to help it be seen, experienced, and known.”
Correction, June 10, 2020: An earlier version of this article misstated who organized Deana Lawson’s Kunsthalle Basel exhibition. It was Elena Filipovic, not the curatorial team of the Bienal de São Paulo.