Zidoun Bossuyt Gallery Paris presents YoYo Lander: A Big Romance and Nate Lewis: Still Tuning A Current, which feature the artists’ continued explorations of color, form, process and the body.
YoYo Lander has called her work a journey into the “visceral and expressive” nature of the “essence of humanity.” The richly-pigmented and densely-detailed watercolor collage works Lander created for A Big Romance seek to uncover the organic nature of simply being and the beauty that comes with self-acceptance. The title alludes to the most important relationship of all: the one we have with ourselves. With the understanding that all bodies are political, the artist’s process begins with photographing subjects who are outside of the realm of the body types reified in contemporary art history and culture. Lander’s chosen subjects exude strength and self-possession.
Nate Lewis continues his exploration with diagnostics languages, figures in motion, and music with new dimensions of textural intervention. Still Tuning A Current introduces a new embossment technique featuring a musical score of the renowned 20th century Black American composer William Grant Still. Lewis sculpts his signature cuts, folds, and picks through his paper tableaus. Like Lander, the artist’s process begins with still photographs of dancers and martial artists moving through space. In these new works, the figures seem to dance to and through Still’s musical score, freeing them from the confines of the pictorial frame and space, and time themselves.
YoYo Lander: A Big Romance
Lander’s process is one of intense looking. The women depicted in A Big Romance are inimitable, magnetic. She desires to catch them in their most natural and honest states. Each collage work is a coalescence of multiple still photographs captured by the artist. An arched back from this one. A shoulder rounded just so from that one. Every element of Lander’s collages is meticulously approached. With watercolor paint she mixes and blends countless slivers of watercolor paper to reconstruct the figures of her sitters. She seamlessly recalls and renders dozens of browns, grays, pinks, purples, and yellows in the undertones in each subject’s skin.
The colors by themselves almost feel muted. With incredible attention to detail, Lander carefully reconstructs her sitters. Despite the fact that Lander has perfected this technique over a number of years, the quality of it still manages to read as alchemical. Together the strips of watercolor paper take on a fantastically dynamic energy through their kaleidoscopic range. Though she rends paper, Lander’s gestures are a means toward a kind of radical wholeness. Her small gestures and sculptural tears make evident every sinew, the electrical impulses in every muscle, the ease and tension in the fascia cradling them. She renders their eyes expertly, gently; somehow translating what feels like all the light in the world with each piece of hand-dyed paper into the figures’ eyes.
It is particularly well-evidenced in Morgan (2023). Morgan’s eyes are piercing. In spherical arcs, shadows and shades of brown, green, and gray, Lander manages to make the subject’s eyes prismatic. They recall hyper naturalistic details of the Renaissance era seen in the work of painters like Michelangelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, Jan Van Eyck, and others. Considering that those works are almost exclusively made with oil paint, the artist achieves something with watercolor that is thoroughly uncommon and thus revelatory. Perhaps there are slight glimpses of it in British painter Elizabeth Murphy’s 19th century Romantic period watercolors, and in American painter John Singer Sergeant watercolor period at the turn of the 20th century; but nothing quite like where Lander takes her technique. Because she desires to depict her sitters’ equanimity and self-love, that sole soft focus of her tableaus allows her to get there. You cannot teach this kind of transmutation. It is found through experimentation and a quest to find the magical inside of both one’s self and the subject.
Extract from an essay written by Niama Safia Sandy, Visiting Assistant Professor at Pratt Institute.