29 May - 2 June 2015
Chris Watts + Aaron Fowler at Flanders Gallery, Raleigh NC
So Much To She is a visual conversation resulting from the merging of works by Aaron Fowler and Chris Watts. The nameless she is vital to this journey, a connection to our past and our future. She is extended to the viewer in ritualistic time-scapes, queen-sized charms, and through surface narratives of the hidden and visually available. While both artists pull from elements of hip hop, they have taken metaphysical and poetic approaches in the manipulation of image, object, surface, and sound, to heighten these intimate narratives.
Pulling from reality and imagination, Aaron Fowler's work describes certain conditions of the human experience, and memorializes individuals who are important to him. Using discarded materials from his immediate environment, Fowler communicates ideas about transformation, community, and salvation. Metaphorical imagery symbolize those who are left to navigate the world with the tools society has left for them, and those who get stuck in its constructs. Growing up in St. Louis, Fowler often references issues he has experienced from his personal history. By building on stories from his past, and using the materials and experiences in his present, Fowler's work becomes a proposition for a political and social re-imagining of not only where he comes from, but also the society where we all are.
Watts re-examines original found images and material to explore themes of cultural hierarchies, socio-political issues, and futurity. Although Watts was born and grew up in North Carolina, he spent the summers living with family in the progressive city of San Diego. His efforts to reconcile what were two worlds became critical to questions of self and transcending origin. Through painting, drawing, video, sculpture and make-shift printmaking, he reframes biographical, historic, and fictitious narratives to link mythologies that challenge conventional distinctions—between the visible and the transparent, figuration and abstraction, the heroic and the sacred—to interrogate the ways in which we choose to identify. For this exhibition, Watts debuts two video works, Nee Nee and Alady (God).
More information at Flanders Gallery.
#trashDay - Radio ROSSI
24 Jan 2015
Aritsts from coast to coast broadcast sounds curated by Kenya (Robinson) and Doreen Garner from the University of the Virgin Islands' WUVI AM 1940
Live streaming on www.wuvi.am / 4 - 6 pm AST
#trashDay elevates the vernacular of urban fiction, reality television, gossip publications, social dance, and fashion, to serve as a point of of departure for satire and social commentary. Kenya Robison and Doreen Garner essientially talk trash, share music, and clips to comedic effect creating an holistic sonic artwork.
Trash_Day_Archive 24 Jan 2015
18 Oct 2014
Live installation vidéo et sonore avec Yanis Sabir, Ismall Bensouda, et Pierre Petrescu
Le Paris Paris Club
5 Avenue de L'Opera 75001 Paris
Screening and performance begins at 20h30
This project is a ongoing collaboration between visual artists and composers, who meets and discusses, writes, composes and records original work together. This unity of time, place and action allows for the exploration of a new musical-visual idiom that blurs boundaries between the genres. The meaning of each work, lies in a meeting of minds between the artists: a shared experiences that is uniquely and intimately theirs and has the power to profoundly alter each artists approach. Co-creation is the work, the image a musical instrument.
The densely layered films provide an insight into these shared experiences – moments of travel and conjures, through the introduction of fictional characters – and by creating situations of sentimental tension. Although much of the footage is composed of images captured throughout various parts the artists life, many of these films were recorded during his ongoing residence in Paris France.
25 July 2014
Video Screening at the Atlantic Center for the Arts, New Smryna Beach
This installation will feature the premiere screening of Alady (God), which was one of two shorts that was written, filmed, and produced during the 4-week residency at the ACA. Watts will be screening work alongside Agnes Bolt.
Still from Alady (God), 2014, 2:45 min, HD video, color, sound, continuous projection
Issue 01. Winter 2013
For more information about Four Mag, visit FOUR MAGAZINE.
6 Nov - 9 Dec 12
MFA '14 Exhibition at the Yale School of Art
CHRIS WATTS: NEW WORKS
7 Dec - 26 Jan 2013
Solo Exhibition at Artspace Visual Art Center, Raleigh NC
Essay by Curator and Director of Programs, Lia Newman
Chris Watts’ mixed media works are visualizations of human interactions, captured reactions, to external events. Positioning various individuals in often ambiguous narratives — from celebrities to children, and occasionally, Watts’ own image — the artist explores an array of issues including fame, glamour, racial identity, and his native South. Of particular interest to Watts is media portrayal of such concepts.
Watts begins his large, mixed media works by first intuitively staining his substrate, typically either canvas or paper. He pours and spreads diluted acrylic paints, medium, and colored pigments on the surface. The warm, brown toned, and on occasion, metallic, backgrounds — intentionally non-descript and atmospheric — are ideal settings for Watts’ constructed tableaux. Watts then combines graphite and paint with carbon transfers of images he appropriates from popular culture magazines, including Jet, Life, Ebony, and Essence.
For many years, Watts avoided making work about his racial identity, noting that he could not initially relate to much of the work being produced about the “black experience.” Though he attempted to keep his work devoid of race, many others could not, continually looking for evidence of his biography. In 2008, Watts began inserting himself directly into his mixed media works. The artist’s representation of himself as simply the back of his head — more specifically, his afro — provoked a dialogue about race. Watts’ artistic exploration paralleled a concurrent personal consideration of self-identity. His search, evident both visually and concep- tually, is reinforced through the titles of works such as Suspicious of my blackness revisited; Soul 101 (A lesson on soul from the Godfather); and LAD, OPS-S, $, KS (Self Portrait).
In the aforementioned works, invented interactions take place between Watts and recognizable, predominantly African American icons. In works from 2008 through 2010, much of Watts’ appropriated imagery pre-dated the artist. He positioned himself with figures of historical and cultural importance, including James Brown, Red Foxx, John Lewis, and Muhammad Ali, in an effort to connect his current experience as an African American male from the Southeastern United States, with the region’s history.
In Watts’ conceived narratives, the artist is immersed in the scene, though not necessarily engaged in dialogue. He is an observer — or the one being observed perhaps. In Suspicious of my blackness revisited, for example, Watts, with his back to the viewer, sits in direct confrontation with John Lewis, Jesse Jackson, and an unidentified (as per Watts) African American man. The scene is ambiguous, as are many of Watts’ narratives. Are these men questioning Watts and his authenticity? Interrogating him? Teaching him? Or is Watts questioning himself, his own place among these men, two of which are renown for their significant contributions to equal rights?
As Watts explored his identity through his work, he gradually removed his own image. The found images also changed; Watts moved away from historic photographs, instead relying more on images of contemporary cultural icons. Recent works such as Lions and Lambs and Pedagogue of young gods, feature images primarily from the 1980s and 90s, eras during which Watts came of age. Though the imagery still feels a bit dated, it is more connected with the artist’s personal history, and thus, provides a context for his present reality. In Lions and Lambs, poet Saul Williams, artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and actor Sidney Poitier occupy the upper portion of the canvas. Watts considers the work an homage to those who have influenced him (and other young artists, poets, lyricists, and actors). He notes the presence of the three as “god-like,” hovering above the repeated image of a child playing with a toy lion.
Watts continues his exploration of the roles celebrities play in society through A real hero. This large, mixed media work features four youths, two engaged in an innocent kiss — a youthful rite of passage. Watts altered the original source material, images pulled from Life magazines circa 1960s and 70s, changing the race of the young boy to create a more racially charged scene. Michael Jackson presides over the event. Watts’ notes he included Jackson, “as a world humanitarian, and [some- one] credited with breaking down racial barriers.” Watts claims his inten- tion was to depict Jackson as a noble character, someone who perhaps aided in equality. Though he chose to portray Jackson during the peak of his career (note the white glove), it’s difficult to disassociate the King of Pop from all of the media scandals that began in the early 1990s and surrounded him until his death in 2009. Watts’ placement of Jackson, as an observer within a scene of youthful innocence, seems to only further emphasize the association of Jackson with scandal. A real hero raises questions regarding the media’s contribution to the public’s perspective on identity, race, and fame.
Watts’ most recent work, the Memento series, continues his exploration of stardom. His carbon transfer and charcoal portraits of popular cultural icons, are, according to Watts, “visual investigations on how we turn important celebrities and pop icons into deities.” To reinforce this concept, Watts elected to create his works on hand-held paper fans similar to those used in Watts’ family’s church (and most southern churches). Typically, these fans are printed with representations of Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, or black Jesus, which Watts refers to as “the Holy Trinity for the black community.” Watts’ paper fans, however, bear images of popular celebrities. Works such as Richard Pryor Memento, Wesley Snipes Memento, TLC Memento and Heavy D Memento, like much of Watts’ work, connote a critical part of the artist’s approach — humor.
By addressing challenging issues, particularly racial identity, in a light- hearted, witty way, and using recognizable cultural icons, Watts’ work is accessible, familiar, and comprehensible. Watts’ Memento series reminds us that the more we believe or worship in these figures, “the more powerful and imperishable their likenesses will become.”
Chris Watts creates mixed media meditations on human nature, by combining graphite, charcoal, and paint, with carbon transfers of individuals who have contributed to the history and cultural identity of African Americans. His approach has been a method toward understanding self, and determining his place, as an African American male, from the Southeast, currently living in the Northeast.
Director of Programs & Exhibitions
1 Sept - 4 Oct 2012
Solo Exhibition at Genome Gallery, Charlotte NC
Chris Watts debuts his first Charlotte solo exhibition, American Gods, at Genome Gallery this September. In his exhibit he uncovers, strips down, and exposes the popular icons that have influenced collective generations.
“I enjoy destroying facades…to find out what they’re made up of” says Watts whose multimedia approach incorporates vintage originals of social icons from LIFE, Ebony, and Jet Magazines on large-scale canvases. Addressing cultural and generational stereotypes, Watts revisits history’s sociopolitical issues through the revamping of expressionism and pop art genres to fit a new generation’s energy and style. Here, Chris Watts steps out to deliver not just a visual history of America, but American history interpreted using American Gods.
The exhibition opens with a reception on Saturday, September 1, 2012, from 6-10 p.m.
Genome Gallery is located at 120 Brevard Court Charlotte, NC 28202. For more information contact the Gallery at (704) 332-4322 or visit online at ohgenome.com
INTERACTIVE LANDSCAPES: NEW & COLLABORATIVE WORK
14 June - 2 Aug 2012
Exhibition with artist Issac Payne at Central Piedmont Community College's Ross Gallery, Charlotte NC
Opening reception Thursday, 12 July, 5:30 - 7:30 pm
Untitled, 2012, Carbon, ink, graphite on found paper
LOOKING FORWARD / LOOKING BACK
26 Aug – 26 Oct 2011
Dual Solo Exhibitions to Celebrate the 100th Birthday of Romare Bearden at Davidson College, Davidson NC
Exhibition Opening: Thursday, 25 Aug, at 7 - 9 pm
In honor of the community-wide celebration of Romare Bearden’s 100th birthday, the Van Every/Smith Galleries are proud to present the work of acclaimed sculptor Kendall Buster, selected artist for the major commission for Romare Bearden Park, and emerging mixed-media artist Chris Watts.
Davidson College is proud to be a collaborative partner with The Mint Museum of Art during Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections, the fall 2011 exhibition of Romare Bearden’s works. Other partners include the Romare Bearden Society, Davidson College Friends of the Arts, the Davidson College Art Department, and The Mint Museum of Art Education Department. Since July 2010, these groups have met to plan activities and programs in conjunction with the exhibition, which opens on September 2, 2011, the centennial of Bearden’s birth.
For more information visit Looking Forward / Looking Back.
DAYDREAMING WITH SWIMMER'S EAR
7 Dec 2010
2-Person Visual and Performance Exhibition at the McColl Center for Visual Art, Charlotte NC
Limited space, Performance begins at 7:30 pm
Daydreaming with Swimmer's Ear is a screening and live performance installation. The installation features 6 tracks composed by musician Will Gilreath that are paired as a sort of meditative sound-scape for the series of experimental films created by Chris Watts. The open-ended films provide insight into his studio practice, his early interest in cinema, and his momentary departure from the canvas to engage the in world around him.