New York artist Derek Fordjour unveils a new body of interdisciplinary work entitled “SCORE” at Petzel’s Chelsea store. This artistic presentation will run until December 22, 2023, and marks his second collaboration with the art space.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, to Ghanaian parents, Derek Fordjour is an artist with quite an impressive background. A graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, with an MA in Art Education from Harvard University and an MFA in Painting from Hunter College, his work has been exhibited extensively and is held in private and public collections at institutions including the Brooklyn Museum, the Perez Museum, the Whitney Museum and LACMA.
His prodigious new exhibition “SCORE” occupies three rooms in the Petzel store and simplifies several levels of meaning. First, Derek Fordjour discusses cutting and scratching – an allusion to his characteristic method of making crevices in paint. This process is the source of the insightfulness of his canvases and the colors that compose them. The contemporary artist then turns to the action of winning points in a competition, a perpetual emblematic reference in his creations. And finally, he discusses the art of composition, similar to his collaboration on a choreographic performance. With a view to adding richness to his creations, Derek Fordjour fills in the content of his most recent works, drawing on his experiences to compose a pictorial score of seminal moments. In so doing, he ingeniously exploits and nostalgically rehashes the zeitgeist of his formative years, interwoven with a bevy of sensory memories offering a more personal connotation to these creations.
Occupying the entire first floor of Petzel Gallery’s Chelsea outpost, “SCORE” bears witness to the artist’s evolving practice of exhibiting diverse modes of representation, media, formats and displays. In this exhibition, Derek Fordjour reveals to viewers a series of new paintings and sculptures presented on the south gallery level, a multi-layered interior architectural installation exhibited in the east gallery, and a custom-built performance space in the west gallery.
The southern gallery space features Derek Fordjour’s latest symbolic two-dimensional works. These creations are presented in the traditional white cube in association with a new monumental floor sculpture, Flock. Fusing two- and three-dimensionality as well as static and mobile format, the works in the exhibition integrate familiar artistic configurations with new collaborations that rest and anchor themselves faithfully to Derek Fordjour’s established practice. The work Flock features a collection of inverted legs and wheels joined together in a tight cluster, in reference to the artist’s ongoing interest in questioning action and autonomy around stagnant conditions, social or otherwise. Through its spectacle and peculiar montage, Flock evokes a profound tension, resonating with many of the smaller sculptural propositions on display in Wunderkammer, an in situ installation housed in the East Gallery.
Derek Fordjour‘s multi-level installation in the East Gallery represents the centerpiece of the “SCORE” exhibition, as it illustrates the various ways in which dissimilarities are invariably nurtured and sustained within traditional museums and art galleries. Once inside the Wunderkammer, visitors are invited to climb the stairs of an architectural structure to encounter a series of corridors wrapped in a succession of wall inserts, revealing Derek Fordjour‘s sculptures as if in a “cabinet of curiosities”. The space, bathed in mood lighting and carpeted, is reminiscent of the world of luxury retail and high-end presentation. The room below is equipped with two kinetic dioramas bordering a rotating belt and incorporating miniature murals. Painted in the artist’s signature style, the murals create a backdrop for sculptural elements designed to perform synchronized movements.
Viewers are then invited to continue their exploration of the exhibition center by descending to the basement. Like an artist’s studio or a retail warehouse, this new environment offers a striking contrast with the upstairs. More obscured or concealed, the appearance of luxury is for the most part mysteriously linked to the glaring inequalities of capitalist enterprise.
Away from the spotlights on the upper floor, in what the artist calls a theatrical fragment, two live actors perform seemingly pedestrian tasks for workers feeding the dioramas above. Through this presentation, Derek Fordjour transforms the audience into spectators and witnesses, offering them a glimpse of the realities hidden behind an opulent curtain, animating questions about notions of power and conspicuous consumption.
In his solo show “SCORE“, the New York artist will also present the fruit of his collaboration, Arena. This is an original piece of ensemble movement, composed jointly with renowned choreographer Sidra Bell, founder of Sidra Bell Dance New York. Arena will take place twice daily in Petzel’s Galerie Ouest. With live music by Hannah Mayree of the Black Banjo Reclamation Project, five dancers will animate the space, performing the original choreographic score atop a dirt floor. The session will take place in a built environment, fitted out with a sculptural seating arrangement and a customized tent. The presentation is directly inspired by the artist’s paintings, as is the original costume and lighting design, which recalls a certain theatricality found in his work. In a kaleidoscopic exploration of work, history, power and race, Arena’s choreography aesthetically addresses notions of performance and abstraction through immersive live action.