Black Fungibility is an ideological dream model with no stable physical attributes. It's always seeking a new container to hold its ever-expansive ideas. It's a shapeshifter and an itinerant, and thus its aesthetic vernacular is subjected to continuous change."
In Gallery 1, Goldfinch is pleased to present Blue to Green, a solo exhibition of new multi-media works by Yanique Norman (b. 1981, Spanish Town, Jamaica). This is Norman's first exhibition in Chicago.
Yanique Norman's multimedia practice constructs self-devised, fantastical and intricately layered spaces that relate to the artist's ongoing exploration of the poetics of Black Fungibility: "an alternate dream model" that borrows ideas from mycology (the scientific study of fungi) to create complex and infinitely generative representations of Blackness that, in Norman's hands, may appear to be interchangeable, but are not. As the editors of Burnaway magazine note in their introduction to Norman's 2020 essay Mood Ring: Notes on Black Fungibility, "while other theorists, such as Saidiya Hartman, have conceived of Black Fungibility in terms of the commodification of Black bodies, Norman returns to the word's etymological root: fungus itself." Norman herself explains that "Black Fungibility is an umbrella term which in its basic essence is tethering Blackness to an actual fungus." The study of pathogens and fungi provide an imaginative means of looking at the ways in which "the physiognomy of the Black psychological body changes and adapts itself when placed in extreme whitened conditions."
Blue to Green is divided into three parts, or as the artist frames them, three Acts, each Act articulated through a different medium: first drawings, then collage, and finally digital images. Her three-dimensional collages take the form of a sinewy garden installation that vines its way across several gallery walls. The titles of these works, Monticello Plot (1-15), are a direct nod to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello gardens--which were (among many other things) a botanic laboratory and experimental testing ground for all sorts of flower and plant life. The lower, hidden strata are printed with a found image of an incarcerated woman which morphs into top-layer images of Norman herself. Thus Norman's re-imagined Monticello is built upon a daisy chain of copies - a process which mimics some of the replicative and disseminative behaviors of pathogens, chytrids, and nomadic fungi. Indeed, the flowing, flowery outlines of her Monticello Plots take forms reminiscent of cora lichen or the gills of a chanterelle mushroom.
The set of framed digital images included in Blue to Green explores themes of alienation and Black embodiment, while also interrogating nationalistic ideologies through Norman's alteration of the likeness of a former First Lady of the United States–a process that informs the artist's ongoing FFLOTUS (Former First Ladies of the United States) and LLOTUS (Last Ladies of the United States) bodies of work. This suite of prints appears as a set of formal portraits of Mamie Eisenhower, who served as First Lady from 1953 to 1961. Across these images, Eisenhower wears several different blue and green-hued ball gowns and assumes a variety of physical poses. On the face of it, they read as pictures of a smiling, richly garbed, middle-aged white woman who stood in proximity to immense political power for many years while never herself reaching the iconic status of an Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Kennedy, or Michelle Obama. But as only a longer scrutiny reveals, none of these images are actually Mamie; none are in fact "historical", and nothing we see and identify as "Mamie Eisenhower" is rooted in the real: not her hair, not her dresses, not her body or the poses she makes or the spaces she inhabits, not even her skin. She is a purely digital creation--a digital occupation of Mamie, if you will, by Norman herself, who melded aspects of her own hair, body, skin tone and physicality over Mamie's, with the assistance of Kaneesha Brownlee (for editing) and technicians at Digital Arts Studio in Atlanta final retouching).
"It is important to note that multiplicity here is not necessarily spelling redundancy," notes Norman. "Things appear to be the same but they truly are very different--like fingerprints...like snowflakes...like a grain of sand. They only make sense as a collective. These fungible multiplications are often illogical and make things less clear. Things are never what they seem."
Yanique Norman was born in Spanish Town, Jamaica and moved to Brooklyn, NY with her family at the age of 12. She is an Artadia Award winner (Atlanta, 2020). Norman earned a BFA at Georgia State University (2014) and an MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (2018). She is a grantee from the National Museum of Women in the Arts Georgia grant, Foundation for Contemporary Arts Emergency grant and the Susan Antinori Visual Artist grant. Her work is included in the collections of the High Museum, Hammonds House Museum and Clark Atlanta University Art Museum.
Excerpt from Yanique Norman's essay Mood Ring: Notes on Black Fungibility, published March 26, 2020 in Burnaway magazine (link below).
"Black Fungibility's unique identity politics extend beyond racist tropes, imagining new futures that can both overpower and obliterate all racist ideologies;
Black Fungibility is neither anti-Black nor anti-white;
Black Fungibility is obsessed with its own interiority and the production of interior space;
Black Fungibility strives to create symbiotic relationships between provocative ideologies and mythologies that generally don't gel well together. Such a conceptual crisis tends to create a unique visual disjointedness-a primary aesthetic feature of fungible works;
Black Fungibility is deeply vested in tethering Blackness with mycology by incorporating scientific and other technologies to make conceptual mimicry feel more naturally genuine;
Black Fungibility is extremely sensitive to its physical environments and thus architectural, linguistic, and geographical overtures are key factors in unpacking the conceptual depth of fungible works;
Black Fungibility, especially within cinematic and linguistic forms, can be rendered three-dimensionally, both sonically and physically. Fungible works are notorious for toeing and blurring the lines between simulation and reality;
Black Fungibility possesses an alchemical, transformative, and biological component because of its propensity to turn ideas into physical objects, which are often rendered in unpronounced shapes and unheard of forms;
Black Fungibility is toxically narcissistic to the extent that it feeds on its own literal and psychic selves. It is simply incapable of looking outside at another-its occupation with its own interiority is unendingly consuming;
Black Fungibility is not just a mere abstraction; it is an actual physical embodiment of space. I imagine one day that it could fossilize sound."
Read the essay "Mood Ring" in full by following the link to Burnaway magazine below.