Art that makes you think | The living

Kahlil Robert Irving, a multimedia artist who creates dense assemblages of images and sculptural replicas of everyday objects, is currently presenting his exhibition “Projects: Kahlil Robert Irving” at the Museum of Modern Art.

His work will be presented in the galleries on the ground floor of the museum from December 18, 2021 to May 1, 2022.

A press release describes the exhibition as a collection of works created between 2018 and 2021, with its inspiration being the internet functioning as a living archive of black life, death, remembrance, celebration and survival. He also points to the images centered on a larger-than-life site-specific wallpaper where street-level space and digital scrolling join in what he calls “an eternal feedback loop of my experience.” .

“Some aspects of my exhibit are autobiographical, while others are part of my larger experience in communities across the United States,” he said.

“There are works for the wall that use technology as a starting point, related to social media, photographs that I have taken and current events. The sculptures in the middle of the space relate to historical decorative objects that tell a contemporary story. The sculptures use very dynamic processes to create them, some sculptures have been adjusted and have more than ten layers. Really, the show is about speed and reflection.

He said his merging of materials and references for the work was intentionally done with the refusal to make everything explicitly readable in mind.

“Work makes room for black lifestyles. . . for more of the complicated nature of our existence in places and spaces,” he said.

The exhibition is curated by Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, and Legacy Russell, Executive Director and Chief Curator of The Kitchen.






Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem




“Like the Internet, a boundless and dynamic space that fuels the imagination of Kahlil Robert Irving, the artist’s new installation is fascinating and multi-layered, and opens path after path for the viewer,” said Golden. “The Studio Museum of Harlem is proud to continue its collaboration with MoMA by presenting this extraordinary exhibition, which is as historically probing as it is timely and groundbreaking.”

She said that after people see her exhibit, she hopes people will recognize and appreciate Irving’s spirit of discovery and his in-depth research into contemporary imagery.

“As deeply as he reflects on the weight of black history through digital imagery, including the burdens and challenges that are still so present and so public, Kahlil’s work remains beautifully open to the world and its endless possibilities,” she said.

He said it was surreal to see his work featured at MoMa.

“Exhibiting at MoMA is scary, in part, because the pandemic has so severed and I greatly appreciate the chance that my work is still being shown and shown around the world,” he said. “I feel privileged and excited to have met everyone I have.”






Kahlil Robert Irving

Kahlil Robert Irving showing his work




Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art, St. Louis, had the pleasure of co-curating Irving’s “At Dusk” exhibition alongside Misa Jeffereis, Assistant Curator, at CAM STL for account of the Biennale des Grands Fleuves, a program funded by the Gateway Foundation which is committed to supporting the works of local artists.

Al-Khudhari said she and Jeffereis assembled a national jury that helped select three winners to receive $20,000 and a solo exhibition at the museum. In 2020, Irving was one of three winners to receive a grand prize. Her work was exhibited from September 2020 to February 2021.

She said she had a great experience working with him and was thrilled to have his work featured at MoMa.

“I hope everyone who sees his current exhibition can find something to relate to in his work,” she said. “I think his work attracts people to connect with it, and it attracts them to know more, understand more, and challenge notions.”

He said the message he wants people to take away from his works is that tough times may be upon us, but that will only change if we are willing to grow and change.

“The track we are on is stable. How do we change direction? It is up to us collectively to make the difference,” he said. “My installation replaces many moving parts rendered still like a puzzle and now we really have to put the pieces together.”

Learn more about Irving’s exhibit here: https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/5396.

Christopher S. Washington