A new exhibition at the Nasher Museum of Art showcases the work of Nina Chanel Abney in the artist's first-ever solo show.
Life in the year 2017 is complex. Chicago-born artist Nina Chanel Abney reflects this like none other through her colorful, large-scale works of art. Almost deceivingly, Abney’s use of bright, cartoonish imagery draws in viewers, only to then confront them with serious themes of race, politics, and other contested aspects of American culture.
In Royal Flush, nearly 30 of Abney’s paintings and collages are on display, as well as an installation piece made specifically for the exhibition. Covering 10 years of her career, the works in the show depict and critique contemporary society. Some paintings, such as Untitled (FUCK T*E *OP), create a feeling of sensory overload, as intended by the artist, who looks to represent popular culture and the unrelenting 24-hour news cycle.
Other works, like Abney's Parson’s MFA thesis titled Class of 2007, force onlookers to think about race relations by reversing the ethnicities of its subjects. In Class of 2007, Abney paints herself as a white prison guard and her classmates, all of whom were white, as black inmates.
Art that forces self-reflection en masse is vital in maintaining a democratic civil society. With the most fundamental American values suddenly called into question, work like Abney’s is more important today than ever.