Night Gallery is excited to present a solo exhibition by Kandis Williams. The exhibition is devoted to her performance and video work Eurydice, made and presented in site-responsive iterations from 2018 to 2020 and completed in 2021 as a two-channel video installation. The exhibition is concurrent with two other major presentations of Williams’ work currently on view in Los Angeles: a presentation of her collage work in the Made in L.A. Biennial at the Hammer Museum and Huntington Libraries, and an exhibition devoted to her publishing company Cassandra Press at LAXART. Night Gallery’s exhibition highlights the place of video and performance in Williams’ practice, adding to the current citywide celebration of one of contemporary art’s great voices of inquiry and dissent.
Williams’ Eurydice is an immersive two-channel video installation which includes footage of performances by the same name. These performances take the Greek myth of Eurydice as their starting point: Eurydice, daughter of the god Apollo, is sent to the underworld but offered rescue by her lover, Orpheus, under the condition that he not look at her until they have left. Despite his great journey to save Eurydice, Orpheus is unable to resist looking back at her, and she is immediately condemned back to eternity in Hell, lost in the act of being seen. Williams’ project revisits the myth’s dynamics of spectatorship and agency to explore the status of the Black figure as a symbol, co-opted in an immediate cycle of fetishization and erasure. Drawing from psychoanalyst Bracha Ettinger’s structure of the “matrixial gaze,” the system of discontinuous influences from which we develop senses of identity, Williams surrounds the viewer with layered and contrasting images, challenging intuitive processes of reconciliation by embracing or rejecting a logic of coherence. Within these schema of representation and rupture, the viewer is left to their own devices, asked at once to draw from and discard the frameworks by which we make meaning of what we see. The footage included in Eurydice is taken from performances at Gesu Cathedral, Montreal, Canada; Blum and Poe, Los Angeles; Navel, Los Angeles; FRAGILE, Berlin, Germany; and the Counterpublic Triennial in St. Louis, MO.
Through photographic, theatrical, and filmic juxtapositions, Williams' practice exposes the oppressive logics and conceptual ruptures latent within perceptual experience. Employing quotation to achieve both resonance and dissonance, her work lays bare the violent mechanisms through which the Black body becomes a racial apparatus. Responding to disparate discourses including psychoanalysis, critical race theory, semiotics, and social psychology, Williams’ work at once incorporates and disassembles divergent schools of thought in a broader project of unfounding the intuitive associations from which we construct our notions of history, society, and identity.
Kandis Williams (b. 1985, Baltimore, Maryland) has recently exhibited at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin; Simon Lee, New York, NY; the Underground Museum, Los Angeles, CA; the Frye Art Museum, Seattle, WA, and Ficken 3000, Berlin, Germany, among others, as well as recent exhibitions devoted to her publishing company Cassandra Press at Luma Westbau, Zurich, and LAXART, Los Angeles. In Fall 2020, the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University opened Kandis Williams: A Field, a multi-stage solo exhibition curated by Amber Esseiva, which will run through Fall 2021 as part of the museum’s Provocations commission series. Williams is featured in the 2020/2021 edition of the Made in LA Biennial at the Hammer Museum and Huntington Libraries, Los Angeles, CA. Her work is included in the permanent collection of the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, CA and the Julia Stoschek Collection, Berlin, Germany. In addition to her visual arts practice, Williams' performances have been mounted in institutions across the world. She is the recipient of the 2021 Grants to Artists award, presented by the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, New York. Also in Los Angeles, her work is currently on view in I Like LA and LA Likes Me: Joseph Beuys at 100 at Track 16 Gallery. In Fall 2021, Williams will present the inaugural presentation at the new David Zwirner exhibition space 52 Walker programmed and led by Director Ebony L. Haynes.