The value of blackness resides in its metaphorical aptitude, whether literally understood as the fungibility of the commodity or understood as the imaginative surface upon which the master and the nation came to understand themselves.
—Saidiya Hartman, Scenes of Subjection
MZ.25 (My Condolences) is a question on image making. A group exhibition masquerading as a solo presentation My Condolences uses its singular subject, the artist Monsieur Zohore, to offer a constellation of responses to the impulses and executions of representing blackness. As a force within the market, an act of production, and an insistent framework by which to create, the want of the Black figure becomes performance manifest through Zohore's collective expressions. MZ.25 (My Condolences) probes this centuries-long quandary—the impact and impulses within Black portraiture—as a site onto itself by which capital, capture, and the body—Zohore's in particular— lives as an unwieldy set of responses. Here, a landscape has been provided by which we, the audience, are called upon to consider who owns the black image, or put, more precisely, how is Zohore to be consumed?
My Condolences coalesces its ideas on the market and consumption in a series of portraits of Monsieur Zohore created by seventy artists and counting. Derived from a spectrum of studies—conversation, past performances, art objects, and circulated images—each participating artist has crafted a piece vested in Zohore as representational space. Ranging in medium, material, and form, the works of My Condolences position Zohore between affect, silhouette, texture, and sensation. Cameron Patricia Downey's rendering extends on conversations with Zohore about their mother; the artist likeness manifests as a circular arrangement of black wigs, nestled and draped as a glossy mass of silky ebony. LaRissa Rogers and Noelia Towers both contend with Zohore's performance MZ.24 (In a State of Collapse), wherein Zohore appears as a bloodied version of the doll Woody from the Pixar Toy Story series. The piece relays a series of critical engagements with failure, hetero masculinity, and American idealism. Rogers situates western colonial violence via agriculture and consumption in their brown sugar woody sculpture while Towers concentrates on Zohore's mouth, gleaming with a coat of blood that drips from their lips for their painting. LaKela Brown's plaster relief harbors Zohore in its archival impressions of gold earrings, chicken heads, rope chains, and Egyptian royalty. Zohore also appears more directly as a figure in acrylic and collage renderings in the works of Angela Dufresne, Jo Messer, John Brooks, and Laurie Simmons. And as text in the works of Peishan Huang, Ian Miyamura, and Mark Verabioff. Monsieur Zohore's offering to MZ.25 (My Condolences) is a carnivalesque funeral work entitled MZ.10 (Lazarus or Kissing Cousins), 2019-2023, which will be performed throughout the exhibition. This work belongs to Zohore’s ongoing series This Is My Body That I Have Given Up For You.
The artists of My Condolences are part of Zohore's grappling with the impossibilities that hold captive the production of the Black figure and how, perhaps, a community of artists can play with the desires of the market and the impulse within themselves to bend/resist the structures that guide their work. The attempt here with My Condolences is to muddle the language of Black portraiture and the ethos of the institutional space to forward a community of artists who both acknowledge and play with the function of commodity in the telling of art histories.
— Text by Essence Harden
Participating artists include: Tunji Adeniyi-Jones · Zoe Argires · Zac Bahaj · Isabel Baptista · Cara Benedetto · Benjamin Bertocci · Thomas Blair · Daniel Boccato · John Brooks · LaKela Brown · Tyler Christopher Brown · Nick Buffon · Mars Bugatti · Juliana Bustillo · Micaela Carolan · Zoë Charlton · Caitlin Cherry · Michael Childress · Sedrick Chisom · Margaret Clisham · Kevin Cobb · Joshua Coyne · Taína Cruz · Richie Culver · David Kennedy Cutler · David Daigle · Abigail Deville · Elliot Doughtie · Zsa Zsa Douglas · Cameron Patricia Downey · Angela Dufresne · Matthew Tully Dugan · Corey Durbin · Nicholas Farhi · Alannah Farrell · Bianca Fields · Carolyn Forrester · Aaron Fowler · Alex Gibson · Erin Goldberger · Samantha Joy Groff · Finn Hanson · Mark Harris · Jeanette Hayes · Taha Heydari · Phaan Howng · Peishan Huang · Lynn Hunter · Misha Ilyin · Sam Jablon · Devin Kenny · Isabel Eatherly Legate · Rachel Libeskind · Asher Liftin · Anders Lindseth · Nandi Loaf · Suzanne Mcclelland · Jo Messer · Sam Messer · Ian Miyamura · Cole Mohr · Catherine Mulligan · Nicole Nadeau · Kayode Ojo · Louis Osmosis · Mariana Parisca · Ada Pinkston · Rodrigo Carazas Portal · Umar Rashid · Fawn Rogers · LaRissa Rogers · Andrew Ross · Loup Sarion · Emily Schubert · Bailey Scieszka · Marianna Simnett · Laurie Simmons · Joe Speier · Odessa Straub · RJ Supa · David Donald Sutherland · Max Tassev · Noelia Towers · Chloe Trigano · Josh Vasquez · Luis Vásquez La Roche · Mark Verabioff · Valeria Tizol Vivas · Claude Wampler · Leslie Weissman · Elzie Williams III · Sandy Williams IV · Malte Zenses · Ji Zhang · and Monsieur Zohore.
Monsieur Zohore (b. 1993, Potomac, MD) practices in the consumption and digestion of culture through the conflation of domestic quotidian labor and art production. Through performance, video, installation, and sculpture, his practices explore queer history alongside his Ivorian-American heritage through a multi-faceted lens of humor, economics, art history, and labor. Monsieur Zohore received an MFA from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2020 and a BFA from The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York in 2015. Zohore has exhibited his works at venues such as The Phillips Collection (D.C), Jule Collins Smith Museum (Auburn), Art021 (Shanghai), Paris Internationale (Paris), Art Athina (Athens), Sculpture Center (New York), The Clarington Art Center (Canada), Pace (New York), Spurs (Beijing), Tick Tack (Belgium), The Baker Museum (Florida), Socrates Sculpture Park (New York), The Baltimore Museum of Art (Baltimore), The Washington Project for the Arts (D.C), and The Columbus Museum (Ohio). His work is in the collections of the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD; The Bunker Collection, West Palm Beach, FL; Brookfield Collection, New York, NY; The Roux Collection Panama; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA (promised gift) and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN (promised gift). Monsieur Zohore lives and works in Richmond, VA, New York, NY, and Abidjan, CIV, and is the Assistant Professor of Painting and Printmaking at Virginia Commonwealth University. He currently lives and works in Richmond, Virginia.