Andrae Green Biography
Andrae Green paintings are bold and determinant, self reflexively translating content through the specificity of the surface and color, reconstituting their own context and subjectivity. Questions of race, national/ self-identity, and bodily migration permeate through the surface of a painting tradition, entering into an intricate dance in which Green insists on taking lead. The paintings then step into an act of performance, refusing to sit still long enough to be condemned to the tropes of a passive Western gaze. This brings forth their ability to peer directly back with a look of intense inquisition.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1978, Andrae Green held no reservations in fully addressing his role as not just a Jamaican artist, but as an artist of color, a painter at that, invoking a history that in tradition was not his to have. And he has carved out his space. Andrae Green having received his MFA in painting at the New York Academy of Art, was selected for the Vermont Studio Center Residence, taken stay at the Contemporary Artist Center in Troy, New York while showing in numerous selected exhibitions across Jamaica and the United States. This then should be of little surprise that Green represented Jamaica in the 2012 Beijing Biennale. His practice envelops his work as he transmigrates the global plane, keeping anchored in his body and histories. And it is within, through and outside of his body that he so lucidly transforms historical hegemonies while moving through the contemporary art discourse, refiguring the color placed upon him, this mark of color is a permanent one, unwavering, un-washable, and unapologetic. It kept the slave ships afloat across the trans-Atlantic voyage and has framed the west through a process of negation. This intense racializing, born from the middle passage, is at the forefront in building the context of Green’s work. As an artist of the Caribbean, history has inundated the contemporary issues of identity, post-coloniality, primitivism, and the tropes of western novelty.
While these social issues have built a frame of reference, Green asks the question of which side of the frame one chooses to stand on, and what they compose within it. This frame is likened to that employed through the photographic process. Walter Benjamin comes across this in his essay ” The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction in noting that “the camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses.” The camera, rich in the history of colonialism, propagated as a device of division, becomes an important way in which Green negotiates his world through the painting pictorial space
This is a decisive and savvy act that cannot be understated. In the mere shifting of his gaze through the lens, instead of at it, he reattribute’s control over how the black body navigates issues of misconception and stereotyping. This is to say, he reclaims his own body, its signifiers, and the context in which it exists, allowing an optical slippage in which the role of “the other” is no longer clearly defined. The trace of photographic influence can be seen in both the content and formal structure of Green’s work. His figures pull reference from self-portraiture and figurative photography while privileging the unconscious optics Benjamin speaks on through their doubling, shifts in opacity, and changing space. This unconscious impulse is then brought to our attention through Greens handling of paint.
Disseminating these photographic processes through the medium of paint, a loaded platform of art already embedded with issues of racial superiority and colonial impositions, coupled with its aging seat in contemporary art, brings about an even sharper tooth to the voice in Green’s work. Through the use of traditional painting codes of the west, historically a white man’s art, Andrae Green unwinds and re-structures these embedded traditions.
In looking at Thomas Lawson’s essay Last Exit: Painting, Green talks about how painting becomes an “even greater subversion to that of video performance, and new media,” forcing yourself into the formally rigid weave of the canvas, the matrix which carries much of western history. This is not to call into peril new media’s place within a slippery contemporary discourse but harkens upon an age-old tactic of subversive action through integration and reattribution. That is to say, turning the means of subjugation back upon the master who originally implores it.
Green then works through the medium of paint as a tool of power shifts, for as Lawson states, “It is painting itself, the last refuge of the mythology of individuality, which can be seized to deconstruct the illusions of the present. For since painting is intimately concerned with illusion, what better vehicle for subversion.” What Lawson is formulating here, in which Green’s work incites, is that painting has the ability to combat the institution from within its own structures. This is opposed to that of new media, the avant-garde, of which attacks from the outside but is often subsumed into the Institution within the act. By plundering and looting paintings rich, yet exclusive history, Green is able to use mechanics such as color in critiquing the very thing they belong too.
This context of color in painting becomes of structural importance in the further denotation of the subversive gaze in Green’s work. A color of which only painting could afford. This will become a binding visual nexus. This refraction of light and color becomes important in structuring while revealing the self-reflexivity of this gaze. In speaking towards artist Hans Hoffman and Caravaggio, Andrae Green incites the “old masters,” and let that term be noted, use of light and color as a directional tool towards approaching the modernist use of line. Color specificity, chroma, luminosity, and relations become important when orchestrating this reciprocal gaze.
Words: Blake Daniels
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