Lovie Olivia’s New Show Is Abstract, Provocative — and Out of this World
THE FIRST THING you see upon entry through the glass doors of ART IS BOND gallery is Houston artist Lovie Olivia’s 9-by-7-foot painting “Portrait of a MOTHERSHIPS INTERIOR.” It’s hung so that the top of the canvas leans forward, about three feet off the wall. This monumental painting is the first stop in Olivia’s show interiority complex, on view through May 20. Look longer and more deeply into this universe so skillfully realized by Olivia in multiple perspectives, and you feel as if you could literally step into the work and travel across time into another dimension.
Within this sunlit, inviting gallery space, Olivia has created what is described as “a site of engagement,” where the viewer is invited to navigate a body of work inspired by dreams and memories of modern Black cultural artifacts, and consider how the creativity of Queer women of color aligns with a more expansive, more humanist interpretation of art and art history. It’s a heady, beautiful show, and another welcome reminder that Houston is home to some of truly amazing artists.
Remember those episodes of the original Star Trek when a crew member of the Enterprise would suddenly vanish and reappear in a lavishly decorated interior of a castle in an unknown alien world? Olivia’s recess may be one such space, with the legs and bare feet of two female figures in repose, one on a couch, the other on the floor, and another mohawked youngster kneeling as if in prayer, elbows touching the ground and hands covering their eyes. On a screen (or is it painting?) hung over a labyrinthian pattern of flesh- and blood-orange-colored lines is Nichelle Nichols, just as she appeared as Enterprise communications officer Uhura — one of television’s first non-menial roles for a Black actor.
Many of the paintings in interiority complex feature chairs, bedspreads, plants, bodies (and the shadows of bodies), and other objects placed like clues inside a virtual environment, including books (Pleasure Activism; Black Feminist Thought) and in the still-life “Rest Assured,” a handgun on top of a pink pillow, and tucked under a denim jacket with a button that reads “Say Her Name.”
The final station in interiority complex is a vertical six-by-two-and-a-half-foot abstract painting titled “Draped.” It’s hung so it tilts to the right, and seems to be float before you. Mirroring “Portrait of a MOTHERSHIPS INTERIOR,” the layers of purple, black, and deep blue pigments and sgrafitto marks in “Draped” compel the viewer to exit this site, and step into yet another sensual interior space, be it Olivia’s or their own.
On May 17, the public is invited to ART IS BOND for an artist talk with Olivia, moderated by her good friend, Houston-based journalist, cultural critic, and educator Josie Pickens. Following a brief Q&A, Olivia will make frottage rubbings of two text-based works in the show, “I AM” and “AIN’T I.” The limited-edition, accessibly priced prints will be available for purchase, and will include the artist’s seal and signature.
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