A Subtle Likeness

Opening reception: Saturday, September 3, 2016, 6-9pm

Related exhibition: Memoirs of a Watermelon Woman, also on view at ONE Archives

A Subtle Likeness explores notions of biomythography and non-traditional archiving through performance, photography, collage, video, and sound installation. Inspired by Cheryl Dunye’s seminal film The Watermelon Woman and held in conjunction with the twentieth anniversary of the film’s release, the exhibition looks to collectively merge personal histories and recontextualized narratives to hold space for a queer, Black radical tradition. A Subtle Likeness features work by four contemporary artists—Ayanah Moor, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Anna Martine Whitehead, and Kandis Williams—whose diverse artistic practices resonate with the film’s themes.

A Subtle Likeness includes a performance by Chicago-based movement artist Anna Martine Whitehead. Using sound, text, costume, and “dance,” Whitehead will conjure her own mythology as a time-traveling forest-and-sea-dwelling shapeshifter touching down on planet Earth in 2016. Presented at the exhibition’s opening, the performance’s traces will remain on view through the run of the show.

Los Angeles-based photographer Paul Mpagi Sepuya will present photographic prints inspired by Richard Bruce Nugent’s short story Smoke, Lilies, and Jade published in 1926. Nugent was a Harlem Renaissance writer and painter who is largely considered one of the first openly gay Black authors. Sepuya’s photographs capture fractured self-portraits in his studio space as the body intersects with the camera, redirecting the traditional gaze of the photographer.

Collages by Berlin-based artist Kandis Williams will be accompanied by a commissioned reader based on sourced material found at ONE Archives around the cinematic history of hysterical women archetypes in examining the philosophies and implementation first-wave feminism.

Chicago-based multidisciplinary artist Ayanah Moor will be represented by the sound installation All My Girlfriends and video I Need Love. In All My Girlfriends, Moor lovely reads twenty-five years of entries to Jet magazine’s “Beauty of the Week.” Since 1952 the African American weekly has published full-page photographs depicting women of color in either bikinis or one-piece swimsuits accompanied by their name, city of residence, occupation, hobbies, and, often, physical measurements. Through Moor’s recitation she performatively transforms the assumed male viewership of the entries. In I Need Love, Moor sings LL Cool J’s song of the same title, subverting the largely male-dominated world of Hip Hop through her embodiment of the lyrics.

A Subtle Likeness is accompanied by the exhibition Memoirs of a Watermelon Woman, also on view at ONE Archives, presenting archival ephemera from the production of The Watermelon Woman.
A Subtle Likeness is curated by Erin Christovale. Support is provided by the ONE Archives Foundation.
A Subtle Likeness and Memoirs of a Watermelon Woman are presented concurrently with the film program How to Love a Watermelon Woman on view at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles from November 22 – December 31, 2016.


Erin Christovale is the curator of the Los Angeles Municipal Art Gallery and the film programmer of Black Radical Imagination.

Cheryl Dunye is a native of Liberia, and holds an MFA from Rutgers University. She has made over 15 films including Mommy is ComingThe Owls, Miramax’s My Baby’s Daddy, and HBO’s Stranger Inside which garnered her an Independent Spirit award nomination for best director. Dunye’s debut film, The Watermelon Woman, was awarded the Teddy at the Berlinale in 1996 and was recently restored by Outfest’s UCLA Legacy Project for the films’ 20th anniversary celebration in 2016. Her other works have premiered at film festivals and museums worldwide. Dunye has received numerous awards and honors for her work. Presently based in Oakland, Dunye is an Assistant Professor in the School of Cinema at San Francisco State University and is at work on her next feature film Black is Blue with 13th Gen Films.

Ayanah Moor, BFA, 1995, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond; MFA, 1998, Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia. Exhibitions: The Studio Museum, NY; Welch Galleries, Atlanta; Andy Warhol Museum; 707 Penn Gallery, Pittsburgh; Te Tuhi Centre for the Arts, New Zealand; Subliminal Projects, Echo Park, CA. Publications: Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism. Bibliography: Carnegie International; ArtsATL; Afterimage; ARTFORUM.com; Art Papers Magazine; Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality and Blackness, the University of Chicago Press; What Is Contemporary Art?, University of Chicago Press. Collections: Milton and Nancy Washington, Pittsburgh, PA; Proyecto ‘ace, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Agency of Unrealized Projects e-flux and Serpentine Gallery, London. Awards: Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh Award; Sabbatical, Carnegie Mellon University; STUDIO for Creative Inquiry Fellow, Carnegie Mellon University.

Paul Mpagi Sepuya currently lives and works in Los Angeles, where he is a M.F.A. candidate in photography at the University of California, Los Angeles. A resident of New York for fourteen years, Sepuya participated in artist-in-residence programs at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (2000–2010), Center for Photography at Woodstock (2010), and Studio Museum in Harlem (2010– 2011). His work has been exhibited at the Studio Museum in Harlem; Center for Photography at Woodstock; Franklin Art Works, Minneapolis; Artspeak, Vancouver, Canada; and Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York. Sepuya’s work is in several New York collections, including those of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Studio Museum in Harlem, as well as the Center for Photography at Woodstock. His print-zine series SHOOT (2005–2008) is in the permanent collections of the Brooklyn Museum Library, New York; The Museum of Modern Art Library, New York; and Fotomuseum Winterthur, Switzerland.

Kandis Williams, was born in 1985 in Baltimore, Maryland, now lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Williams produces large-scale black and white collages that track a deeply personal on-going exploration of the philosophical constructs of difference as it manifests in structural racism, nationalism,authority and governance, eroticism, and violence. Using the mechanics of collage as a deliberate metaphor for violence, Williams makes repetitive and idiosyncratic forms, fitted from content around specific incidents of sociological chaos. Her works are often set against monochromatic gradients,suggestive of deep space and the occurrence of these incidents over time, compounding the horror and fascination with both physical and ideological difference. Williams implicates both herself and the audience in the intoxication of commodity-fetishism, dramatizing the mind’s struggle for truth in moral judgment.

Since emerging from the woods of Virginia, Anna Martine Whitehead (MFA, California College of the Arts) has been calling down the ghosts of memory. As a choreographer, performer, sound and video-maker, writer, and curator, she has presented work across North America and Europe. These include exhibits at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, CounterPULSE, LA Contemporary Exhibits, Watts Towers Art Center, The Bronx Museum, and the Chicago Cultural Center. She has collaborated on or contributed significantly to projects led by Jefferson Pinder, Violeta Luna and Guillermo Gomez-Pena, taisha paggett, and Keith Hennessy. Anna Martine is a proud recipient of a 2015 Critical Fierceness Grant from Chances Dances, as well as recent residencies with Showbox LA, Djerassi, Art Farm, and AUNTS. She continues to write regularly for Art Practical and SFAQ and will have work published winter 2016 through Oxford University and Thread Makes Blanket Presses. Anna Martine lives in Chicago, where she regularly experiments with quantum free fall and Black folk dances of death.


Image: (Top) Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Figure with Poppies, after R.B.N. (2604), 2015. Pigment print, 34 x 44 inches. Edition 1/5. Courtesy of the artist


Sat, Sep 3 - Thu, Dec 22 2016

ONE Archives at the USC Libraries
909 West Adams Boulevard
Los Angeles , CA 90007
United States