Patrice Renee Washington: Charts, Parts, and Holders

May 24, 2018 - Aug 26, 2018


For this exhibition, Washington, who trained as a sculptor, has continued to add work to a recent series of ceramic bas-reliefs. Several of these works depict recognizable food items, organic and packaged, such as yams and Southern Recipe brand fried pork rinds. Additional new works feature the human body and tools used for grooming it. These subjects have in common stereotyped associations with Black bodies and culture.

Washington uses modernist conventions, such as the grid and a monochromatic palette, visual indicators of abstraction and objectivity, to disrupt the conventional interpretation of her subjects’ racialized meaning. The works expose an inadequacy of formalism, which here fails to eliminate political meaning. Indeed, Washington adapts the grid and monochrome both to elevate the banal items she depicts and also call critical attention to them. Washington’s grids are neither pure geometric abstractions, nor reiterations of a single image; her palette is minimal, but suggestive of flesh tones; and, though wall-based, her works are subtly three-dimensional and fabricated from a medium still associated with craft. Presented together, these new works prompt questions about racial stereotypes and signifiers and the extent to which such ideas are conveyed in the marketing and circulation of consumer products.