05 Apr                     10 May 2014

A Job Ain’t Nothin’ But Work

Kevin Jerome Everson
Justin Randolph Thompson

curated by Andrew Smaldone

Justin Randolph Thompson, Performance, 5.4.2014

Justin Randolph Thompson, Performance, 5.4.2014

Justin Randolph Thompson, Labor Vincit Omnia (detail), 2014

Kevin Jerome Everson, Sound That, 2014

The gesture of labor as performative act has long been at the heart of Kevin Jerome Everson and Justin Randolph Thompson’s work alike. The shattering of hierarchical expectations and associations that create high low divisions is carried through the elevation of manual tasks to the elitist sector of individual artistic productivity. Through a combination of sculptural props, film, sound and performance, gestures of work will be shown in the exhibition at Villa Romana with laboring stage setters of spiritual and political ascension and the use of real time as a formal device.

In Everson’s two short films titled Fe26 and Sound That (2014), we see varying interpretations of what the idea of work constitutes in Cleveland, Ohio. In the former film, two men make their living hustling metal, while in the later, we see workers listening for underground water leaks. In each film one sees cultural fragments of working class African Americans making a living. Thompson’s installation Labor Vincit Omnia, on the other hand, examines gestures of work that are more often associated with upper class entertainment and decor: performances involving classical music and elaborate floral arrangements with actual musicians and florists. While In his flagship piece in the center of the room, he erects a skeletal-looking triumphal arch with scaffolding, sculptural props and various sound instruments as a means to confound the idea that work is a smoothly operating social construct involving all on equal terms.

Kevin Jerome Everson (1965, USA) has made numerous short films and features about the working class culture of black Americans and other people of African descent. His artworks and films have been exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Armand Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, Whitechapel Gallery in London and the American Academy of Rome in Italy. His films have been shown at the Sundance Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival and many other film festivals nationally and internationally.

Justin Randolph Thompson, a Florence based sculptor and new media artist born in Peekskill, NY in 1979, has lived in Italy since 2001. Thompson has exhibited internationally and participated in numerous residencies in the United States and in Europe. He is Professor of Fine Art at The Lorenzo de Medici School of Art in Florence and has written several articles about African American artists in Europe.