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Light Work Launches 2021 With Aaron Turner Solo Exhibition
Light Work will exhibit more than 20 works by Arkansas-based photographer Aaron Turner in its first main gallery show of 2021. “Aaron Turner: Black Alchemy, Backwards/Forwards” will be on view in the Kathleen O. Ellis Gallery through March 4, 2021. Mary Lee Hodgens, associate director of Light Work, will moderate a virtual conversation and Q&A with Turner on Thursday, Feb. 18, from 6-7 p.m. ET.
In the solitude of the studio, the artist is never alone. Quite the contrary for Aaron Turner. Sidney Poitier, Martin Luther King Jr., Marvin Gay, Frederick Douglas and others all move up and through the layers of cut paper and projections. The artist handles, arranges, touches both objects and beloved figures, seeking, listening, directing and responding. Some of these juxtapositions seem random, fluid, almost falling through space, but this is precisely the process Turner invites us to witness.
“We are excited to have Aaron Turner back at Light Work with an exhibition of selections from his ongoing Black Alchemy series,” says Hodgens. “When he was here as an Artist in Residence in 2018, he intrigued us with his studio practice and his process of building a photograph, often combining methods of collage and abstraction. He is also a painter and sculptor and his ease with multiple media creates great energy and cross-pollination of ideas. Turner’s work is elegant and formally striking, deeply conversant in the work of both predecessors and contemporary colleagues, and he tells important stories about people of color from the Arkansas and Mississippi Deltas.”
In addition to installation views on Light Work’s website, we invite you to bring Turner’s exhibition to your doorstep. Copies of the “Black Alchemy, Backwards/Forwards” exhibition catalog, Contact Sheet 210, are available in the Light Work shop.
Please note: Light Work’s galleries are currently closed to the general public as part of our ongoing effort to stop the spread of COVID-19. We encourage patrons to visit our exhibitions and events online and to check out our catalog of artist videos, including an interview with exhibiting artist Aaron Turner.
About the Exhibition
Aaron Turner’s Arkansas Delta community and family taught him to know and understand African American history, honor its heroes and respect his elders. The simple and profound gift of this upbringing has allowed him to pursue the role of Black artist and activist in our culture with unapologetic, single-minded intensity. Turner is in many ways acknowledging, standing on and building from this foundation in his work. With deep affinity for the formal qualities of black-and-white photography, Aaron Turner uses his large format camera and the alchemical darkroom process to move back and forth between abstraction, still life, collage and appropriated archival images to literally take apart and then reconstruct his photographic images. The color black itself has a presence in this work—infinite, elegant, unknowable. Turner is also a painter; his use of large swaths of black is both a metaphor for race and related to abstraction and its emphasis on process, materials and color itself as subject.
About Artist Aaron Turner
Besides his studio practice, Aaron Turner is a teacher, curator, writer, founder of the Center for Photographers of Color (CPoC) at the University of Arkansas and host of the CPoC podcast. Active in the photo and contemporary art community, he often uses these platforms to discuss his primary muses: other Black artists and activists. Bring a pen and notebook, because Turner is a name dropper in the best sense and you will want to look up these painters, sculptors, photographers, athletes and activists whom he reveres, some hallowed and some obscure (for now). His generosity reminds one of artists like Deborah Willis, Carrie Mae Weems and Zanele Muholi, who all—understanding art and power—have made it their business to bring a community of artists along with them through the doorway and into the spotlight. He too arrives en masse: perhaps his greatest tribute to his elders in the Arkansas Delta.
Find Light Work’s galleries in the Robert B. Menschel Media Center, 316 Waverly Ave., Syracuse. Follow Light Work on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For general information, please visit lightwork.org, call 315.443.1300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.