Opening Reception: January 27, 2023, 6-8PM
Atlanta, GA – UTA Artist Space is pleased to present its final pop-up exhibition before opening its permanent Atlanta gallery in March: To the Last Page, the first solo presentation of paintings by artist and filmmaker Thelonious Stokes. Stokes is a classically trained oil painter and one of the first African Americans to graduate from the prestigious Florence Academy of Art in Italy.
Deeply inspired by the Old Masters encountered in his adopted hometown of Florence, Italy, Stokes is best known for paintings depicting Biblical and historical scenes with symbolic and contemporary references. Growing up on the Southside of Chicago, Stokes mobilizes his multidisciplinary practice of painting, performance art, and filmmaking to examine Black identity and include themes and depictions that have been omitted from the traditionally eurocentric legacy of figurative and religious painting.
To the Last Page reconceptualizes his personal experience abroad and addresses the complexities of Judeo-Christian themes prevalent in Western art history. New paintings such as My God (2022) and Fallen Angel (2022), a portrait of Stokes’ cousin, depict figures in moments of solitude, vulnerability, and martyrdom. These are juxtaposed with familiar scenes from Christian iconography of redemption and transcendence in works such as Ezekiel’s Vision (2022) and 3 Kings, 1 Chain (2022).
Friend and American singer-songwriter Chancelor Johnathan Bennett, known professionally as Chance the Rapper, says of Stokes’s work: “He is trying to tell stories of ours that haven’t been told, but at such a magnificent scale and with such beautiful artistry that you’re arrested when you see his pieces.”
Bridgette Baldo, Gallery Director, UTA Artist Space Atlanta says: “Inspired by different cultures and religions, Thelonious thoughtfully reimagines popular renaissance narratives and icons to reflect on his own personal journey as an artist working to challenge the western canon.”
ABOUT THELONIOUS STOKES
Thelonious Stokes (b.1995, Chicago) is a classically trained oil painter and one of the first African Americans to graduate from the prestigious Florence Academy of Art in Italy. Shaped by his Baptist culture and upbringing around jazz music on the Southside of Chicago, Stokes gravitated towards art at an early age as a means to express himself. Stokes’ work interrogates Western art history and Judeo-Christian themes – challenging and recontextualizing the canon to include themes and depictions of Black figuration that have been historically omitted. Writer and curator Antoine J. Girard says of Stokes’ practice: “[his] work anchors itself in the figurative movement as an attempt to compensate for the centuries of missing Black representations in the arts.” Thelonious currently works and lives in Florence, Italy, and serves as a Drawing Professor at Polimoda Fashion School.
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 announcement of a second Atlanta location, to open in 2023, UTA Artist Space will bring its impressive vision and reach across the United States. The original location has presented notable exhibitions with interdisciplinary artists and creatives, including Enrique Martinez Celaya, Mandy El-Sayegh, Conrad Egyir, The Estate of Ernie Barnes, Essence Harden, Ferrari Sheppard, and Ai Weiwei, among others.
ABOUT PULLMAN YARDS
This historic, 27-acre Atlanta property has been at the forefront of technology and innovation since it was originally built by Pratt Engineering in 1904 and remains true to its roots by serving as the backdrop of major motion pictures, television shows and renowned art exhibitions today. Initially used for the production of ffertilizer bombs during WWI, and then to develop and patent liquid carbonated gasses, it was partly owned by The Coca-Cola Company before The Pullman Company purchased the property in 1926, expanded it, and used it to repair passenger and cargo cars. The Pullman company was one of the largest employers of African American men during segregation, and “The Pullman Porters” formed the nation’s first African American labor union affiliated with the American Federation of Labor: Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and Maids, founded by civil rights activist A. Phillip Randolph. As rail travel died down, the abandoned site became a popular destination among local street artists and as a filming location. In 2017, the site was purchased by Atomic Entertainment, who redeveloped the site as an entertainment destination of the south, with rotating exhibitions, two on-site restaurants, and Emory’s Science Gallery.
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