UTA Artist Space is pleased to present “The Wayward Passage,” the first exhibition for artist Antonio Scott Nichols in his hometown of Atlanta. On view from October 27 to November 25, the nine large-scale paintings and three smaller still life paintings comprising “The Wayward Passage” reimagine the Great Migration era in 1920s Atlanta and transport viewers on an Afro-Futuristic journey to Saturn. Layering references from the 1920s–a pinnacle era of Black American artistry–and contemporary references 100 years into the future, Nichols envisions Black Americans escaping to Saturn. The paintings, when viewed in chronological order, capture fragmented moments in this imagined future, juxtaposing the experience of those who went to Saturn with those who stayed on Earth. Inspired by imaginative authors like Octavia Butler, Nichols utilizes fragmented visual storytelling and time as tools, layering historical references, contemporary subjects, and fantastical elements to construct images of Black liberation. Nichols’ “what if” scenario also sets up a critique of mainstream historians’ focus on those who migrated to the North and the current overemphasis on modern technology. Nichols incorporates specific elements from the 1920s, including period interior decoration, fashion, Jazz music, and literary and artistic references to work by Jacob Lawrence, James Van Der Zee and W.E.B. DuBois, among others, in great detail. In “Rumors of Ascent,” for example, Nichols references a similar composition, “And people all over the South began to discuss this great movement,” from Jacob Lawrence’s “The Migration Series” (1940-41). Nichols reimagines Southerners discussing migration to the North as an interplanetary conversation. Four original “newspapers” featured throughout the works further develop the fictional dimension Nichols has created. The newspaper, which pays tribute to the Atlanta Daily World, the oldest continually operating Black newspaper in Atlanta founded in 1928, references achievements on Earth. In collaboration with friend and writer Summer-Grace Flemister, physical copies featuring original poems and fictive essays on agricultural colonization and the formation of the fictional Mothership spaceline, for example, are available. For Nichols, the newspaper headlines also represent the media’s role in shaping the collective consciousness. The concept of imagining liberating spaces fuels the series. As Nichols states, “For me, this show at its core represents imagining Black people in spaces that they don’t have access to or can’t imagine… I feel like that is something that is inherently human.” “It’s an honor to present Antonio’s first solo exhibition, particularly a homecoming exhibition celebrating Atlanta’s history and vibrant Black culture. Antonio has architected an entire universe in this new series, demonstrating his deep scholarship of art history, music, and literature” said Bridgette Baldo, Director of UTA Artist Space Atlanta.
ABOUT ANTONIO SCOTT NICHOLS
Antonio Scott Nichols was born in 1997 in Atlanta, Georgia, and currently lives and works in Philadelphia, PA. Nichols earned his Bachelor of Art from Bard College. Antonio an African American and Afro-Futurist painter who explores Black bodies as vessels of “time.” Understanding that “time” operates as the sequence of all existence and events in past, present, and future simultaneously, Nichols uses it as a layering tool that informs the framework of each painting (in terms of subjects, color, the photo, culture, fashion, and setting). Nichols explores the past as it latently informs the present and blatantly informs the physicality of the subjects depicted in the paintings. Currently, he is focusing on the 1920s because it was an important past era for Black art and culture. He utilizes the present by embracing the now in each painting, using it as the platform of the project by including contemporary elements that clash with the 1920s themes. Simultaneously, Nichols uses visionary fiction to explore the future in asking these questions: What do my subjects have to offer? What could they obtain? And what could they represent? He depicts imagery of the projected future as propaganda for Black people. Nichols sources W.E.B DuBois’s “Criteria of Negro Art” as a foundational goal for each painting: “Black art will always have to be propaganda for the Black agenda.” He is also a self-proclaimed disciple of Octavia Butler and is heavily influenced by her literature.
ABOUT SUMMER-GRACE FLEMISTER
Summer-Grace Flemister is a New York City native and a History and Language Arts teacher with a deep appreciation for Black women’s literature and poetry. As an aspiring writer, she channels her appreciation for these literary forms into her own creative endeavors. She pursued her education at Bard College, focusing on teaching, Human Rights, and Written Arts. Summer-Grace firmly believes that reading and literature can be powerful tools of revolution and liberation and enjoys sharing this passion with her students.
ABOUT UTA ARTIST SPACE
Since the establishment of its flagship Beverly Hills location in 2018, UTA Artist Space has been committed to showcasing art by globally recognized talent. With the opening of a new Atlanta office and gallery in spring 2023, UTA Artist Space has expanded its impressive vision and reach across the United States. Over the past few years, the gallery’s original location has presented notable exhibitions with interdisciplinary artists and creatives, including The Estate of Ernie Barnes, Enrique Martínez Celaya, Mandy El-Sayegh, Nicholas Kontaxis, Arcmanoro Niles, Ferrari Sheppard, and more. UTA presented a series of pop-up exhibitions at Atlanta’s historic Pullman Yards before inaugurating its permanent gallery space in March 2023 with a solo exhibition by Lonnie Holley. UTA Artist Space, Beverly Hills is located at 403 Foothill Road and is open from 10am-5pm Tuesday through Friday and 11am-4pm on Saturday. UTA Artist Space, Atlanta is located at 1401 Peachtree Street and is open from 10am-5pm Tuesday through Friday and 11am-4pm on Saturday.
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