David Nolan Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of new and recent works by Mel Kendrick, David Hartt and Wardell Milan. The presentation augments and creates a dialogue between current and forthcoming institutional exhibitions by the artists: a career-spanning traveling survey of Mel Kendrick’s work is currently on view at the Addison Museum of American Art in Andover, MA; Hartt’s work is included in the landmark exhibition Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America at the Museum of Modern Art, NY, and is the subject of a solo exhibition at the Glass House, New Canaan, CT; and Wardell Milan will be the subject of his first museum solo exhibition at the Bronx Museum, opening in June 2021.
Mel Kendrick’s presentation includes recent free-standing and wall-based sculptures made primarily of wood. Kendrick’s continued material ingenuity and formal inventiveness is highlighted in works that celebrate and complicate their own construction and geometric order. Rather than erasing or obscuring the inherent qualities of the medium, Kendrick transforms singular blocks of wood by emphasizing their essence and potential through mark-making, cutting and staining. These dynamic gestures are self-evident and distinctly man-made, provoking one’s investigation into each object’s own construction. These meditations on form, texture, composition and objecthood have guided the artist through his celebrated and distinguished practice. The works on view at the gallery likewise highlight themes and interests the artist has explored throughout his career, which will be explored in greater depth at the Addison Gallery of American Art at the Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.
Presentations of works by David Hartt and Wardell Milan in the North Gallery highlight the artists’ shared interests in mediated imagery and the construction and evolution of social and cultural narratives. David Hartt is represented by a large-scale Jacquard-woven tapestry and two photogravures. The tapestry, The Histories (after Heade) (2020), reproduces Hartt’s photograph of an orchid to enormous scale, referencing both the art historical textile tradition and transportive grandeur of landscape painting. Martin Johnson Heade, who the title alludes to, was an American painter of the 19th century, an avid traveler and noted abolitionist, whose lush landscapes and still lives often depicted scenes of the tropics, including hummingbirds and orchids, allegorical emblems of freedom due to their migratory paths and environmental acclimatization. The orchid’s inverted horizontal position and monumental proportion inspires objective and scientific-like inquiry, but likewise highlights this flower as a diasporic plant with an unconventional origin and nomadic existence.
Hartt’s photogravures also reference a distinct colonial moment. In the two black and white works on view the layers of appropriation are even more complex, where Hartt has photographed the sites of two 19th century paintings, and then via the photo negative that has been transferred to a metal etching plate, produced the photogravure print. The paintings are by Robert Duncanson, the celebrated black Hudson school painter and Michel Jean Cazabon, a painter of Trinidadian origin who trained in Paris and is associated with the Barbizon School. Hartt believes that by returning to this particular time in history where specific diasporas were forming through distinct mobilization patterns, usually by force, we can begin to understand their long-term effects on post-colonial identity.
Wardell Milan is similarly occupied with examining layered, problematic histories, focusing primarily on 20th century and distinctly North American politics, albeit with a greater emphasis on the figurative tradition. Sourcing imagery from a variety of sources with a focus on vernacular and fine art photography (Mapplethorpe, Arbus, et al.), Milan appropriates the bodies depicted into a wholly contemporary and unique vision that establishes an allegorical connection between historical and contemporary events. His The Timmerman’s Kitchen, New Canaan, CT (2020), depicts a family gathered in a typical domestic interior, a Rockwellian motif turned sinister by the presence of the white Klan hoods. In choosing to depict the banal daily rituals of Klansmen, Milan turns his voyeurism toward the everyday grotesque just beneath the protective white sheath. In The Edge of Town: Hollywood Hills (2021), Milan foregrounds younger figures clad in Nike Jordan’s, a shoe popularized by black athletes, in an ironic juxtaposition with the racially charged white hood. Milan suggests identities are fluid and more complex than meets the eye, constructed through clothes and a sense of belonging as much as political ideologies.
Milan’s use of flora, like Hartt’s “bucolic” landscapes, likewise alludes to cultural identities and social structures. The camelia flower, as depicted in Knight of the White Camelia no. 3 (2020), references the antebellum white terrorist organization known as The Knights of the White Camelia.
Compositionally cropped and detached from external stimuli, the flower becomes an isolated and elegiac emblem, a kind of odalisque figure trapped in its own languor and repose. Milan’s representation of history through the use of flora allegory is reminiscent of the artist’s initial interest in the tulip flower, which began as an investigation of financial speculation and the economic crash of 2008 and remains a consistent element in his practice. Like the orchid in Hartt’s tapestry, Milan’s camelia is part of a larger historical narrative imbued with a complex cultural legacy.
Mel Kendrick (b. 1949, Boston, MA) is currently the subject of a major retrospective at the Addison Gallery of American Art in Andover, MA, traveling to the Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, NY. He has been included in numerous significant solo and group exhibitions internationally, beginning with his solo debut at Artist’s Space, New York, in 1974. In 1984, his work was included in the “The International Survey of Painting and Sculpture” at the Museum of Modern Art and the following year in the Whitney Biennial. In 2009 Kendrick was commissioned to create five monumental cement sculptures for Madison Square Park.
Kendrick’s work is included in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Dallas Museum of Art; Brooklyn Museum; Philadelphia Museum of Art; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Saint Louis Art Museum; Minneapolis Institute of Art; The Baltimore Museum of Art; Toledo Museum of Art; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven; among many others. Kendrick lives and works in New York.
David Hartt (b. 1967, Montréal, Canada) has been the subject of numerous solo exhibitions, including the Art Institute of Chicago; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; Graham Foundation, Chicago; and LAXART, Los Angeles, among others. Recent group exhibitions include the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver; Contemporary Art Museum, St. Louis; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; and Art Gallery of Ontario, among others. Hartt is currently the subject of a solo exhibition at The Glass House, New Canaan, CT. Two new commissions are now included in Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America at MoMA, New York, and New Grit: Art & Philly Now at The Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia (opening May 7th).
Hartt’s work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; the Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, NC; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, among others. Hartt lives and works in Philadelphia where he is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Fine Arts at the University of Pennsylvania.
Wardell Milan (b. 1977, Knoxville, TN) has been included in numerous significant solo and group exhibitions including Greater New York, MoMA PS1, New York (2015 and 2005); The Art Institute of Chicago; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia; Crystal Bridges Museum of Contemporary Art, Bentonville, AK; Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco; Queens Museum of Art, New York; Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; Camden Arts Center, London; National Gallery of Art, Warsaw, Poland; and White Columns, New York, among others. He is the subject of a forthcoming survey of new and recent work at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York.
Milan’s work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; The Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; The Morgan Library & Museum, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Denver Art Museum; Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago; and Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, among others. Milan lives and works in New York.