The exhibition project Todd Gray: Euclidean Gris Gris activates the Pomona College Museum of Art’s largest gallery throughout the 2019/2020 academic year and consists of a site-specific wall drawing and an evolving selection of photographs from Gray’s ongoing artistic examination of the legacies of colonialism in Africa and Europe. A series of monthly programs, Longing on a Large Scale, and a publication accompany the exhibition.
Los Angeles-based artist Gray is known primarily for photography, performance, and sculptural works that explore contemporary and historical examinations of power in relationship to the African Diaspora. His work consists primarily of photographs from his own archive juxtaposed with one another, then mounted within found frames as a structuring device. In recent installations, he pairs images of Michael Jackson (Gray was Jackson’s photographer in the 1980s) with photographs of rural scenes in Ghana (where Gray maintains a studio) and formal gardens in Europe.
In his work, Gray explores the historical constructs of the “logical” and geometrical gardens of Europe—an aesthetic manifestation of the idea of disembodied reason—with the “sublime” nature found in African landscapes. The exhibition title Euclidean Gris Gris combines contrasting language to frame the work within a broader cultural critique. Gray’s project pushes beyond these binaries, referencing the Euclidean—Western influences—and Gris Gris—African animism and poetics.
Serving as a year-long, artist residency, Gray’s project expands the space of his exhibition to introduce other artistic and creative voices. Inspired by Gray’s work, visiting professor in art history of the African Diaspora at Cooper Union, New York, Dr. Nana Adusei-Poku is curating the “Longing on a Large Scale” programming. The nine monthly events originate from Gray’s techniques of deconstructing images, rupturing the body/mind and nature/culture binaries, and examining the intimacies of Black sociality. Gray’s work provides the catalyst for the program series by exploring the web of connections between his project and contemporary creative, social, and artistic issues, such as the possibilities of Black Liberation, the relationship between institutional politics and systemic exclusion, the tension between performativity and performance in relationship to race and gender. Longing on a Large Scale invites artists, poets, activists, and thinkers to unpack colonial paradigms and explore strategies of resistance.