Night Gallery is delighted to present Feel Me?, an exhibition of new work by Khari Johnson-Ricks. This is the artist’s first solo presentation at Night Gallery, following his inclusion in 2020’s group exhibition Majeure Force.
Khari Johnson-Ricks creates intricate, exuberant scenes from paper constructions painted in shellac ink and watercolor. Exploring the illusory potential of paper, the works make use of the medium’s graphic flatness to create two forms of depth: one in real space, as cut-out shapes are layered with sculptural dimensionality, and one in the fictive pictorial space conjured from these assemblages. In situ, his tableaux appear like portals to dreamlike realms, while blank passages of paper bring the viewer back into the material plane of the work.
Johnson-Ricks’ new work explores fellowship, engaging acts of fiction and poetry to capture moments with kith and kin that feel loving. He asks himself what it means to make a family, community, friendship, when the world is so precarious, when the water rises, when death comes, and when all that is visible is capital. While his older work had been in conversation with vernacular movement traditions and martial arts practices like Shotokan Karate and Jersey Club dancing, which act as covert languages for those most targeted for capital extraction, he now explicitly centers the fantastical and poetic nature of an uninterrupted mundane. The works find their dramatic tension in the context of fragility, addressing his subjects’ deep alienation from, and even guilt in the face of, extended moments of peace. In this light, Johnson-Ricks’ compositions become testaments to the irrepressible urge of the imagination to metabolize, to reinvent, and to transcend.
The last time I went to Elsewhere I saw my ex. I walked past him like he wasn’t there. They had really good DJs that night. I had taken off my sweater. I had been hitting the gym all year long; curling and twisting and strengthening my little body. I like to look strong, it's very important to me. I like how the gazes feel on my soft round nipples under the colored lights. I like to be desired.
This tall light skin man had been among the gazes that night and had smiled in my approximate direction a few times while swaying and bouncing to the beat.
Like a series of waves, the sweaty crowd had been pushing me to his shore like Reiss beach tide, shelly and hard but undeniably gay. He looked over my head before he bent down to kiss my mouth. Our tongues and teeth collided in a soft choreography designed by our lips. The ginger of midnight had found its way into the air between us and we reveled in it for what felt like an eternity.
I felt my body dissolve into the liquid on the ground; a slurry of liquor sweat and dirt. My hands cut lemons and water, my body piss. My skin spreading all over the floor between the toes of tabi shoes and heels. I could no longer muster the magic of presence and he no longer could feel my lips...
I watched as he lapped the air like a begging dog. My feet running out the door against my will. My mouth drinking dry gin from the tap trying to regain its form.
I wonder how my body could be this fragile how I could be turned to water so easily. What was all the training for?
Guidelines for New Friends
Lay your expectations on the ground and step firmly on them.
Crunch them slowly with your bare feet until they are a fine and soft powder.
go to the sink and wash your feet with warm water and oil them.
then go back to the powder and sweep it up with a firm broom.
Wash the spot on the ground with Dr. Bronners.
Look over at your friend.
Are they there?
if they are, smile
if they aren’t, smile
what about them is good? are they soft? are they present? are they funny?
What about them is bad? are they impatience? are they snarky? are they mean?
Take those things and step softly on them.
good good that’s good
What behavior will you tolerate? what behavior will you not?
What are your boundaries?
Ask yourself: Am I at ease? Do I feel good?
Is this fun?
Does discovering who they are excite you? Do they inspire you?
Do you Excite them? are you generous? Are you inspiring?
Good good Good.
Khari Johnson-Ricks (b. 1994) is a multimedia artist whose practice extends across media, including painting, performance, murals, zines, and nightlife spaces. In addition to Night Gallery, his work has been included in group exhibitions at Catinca Tabacaru Gallery, New York; Jefrey Deitch, Los Angeles; Special Special, New York; and the Elizabeth Foundation, New York, among others. He has created public murals for the city of Newark as part of Mayor Ras Baraka’s “Model Neighborhood Initiative” and “Gateways to Newark” Projects. His zines are featured in the library collections of the MET Library, the Whitney Library, and The MOMA Library. He lives and works in New Jersey.