Skinflower is an exhibition of works by Philadelphia-based artist Marcellus Armstrong and Atlanta-based artist Caleb Jamel Brown. Incorporating elements of sculpture, installation, and collage, Armstrong and Brown pursue subtle yet potent engagements with material and texture to evoke Black resilience and raise questions about representations of masculinity, sensuality, and memory.
The title of the exhibition is a play on the English translation of A Flor de Piel, the title of a 2011-12 work by Colombian artist Doris Salcedo in which she sewed together hundreds of rose petals to create a “shroud” large enough to fill a gallery. Marcellus and Caleb take cues from this approach of poetically employing commonplace materials in sculptures and installations while considering issues such as the legacies of Black working-class women’s labor, family history, and experiences of queer love.
In several recent works, Caleb has experimented with stitching and quilting as a means of exploring his interests in collage techniques and forms of craft historically associated with Black women in the South. In one work on view, a deconstructed shopping bag has been fashioned into a flag-like memorial to the family matriarch.
Marcellus’s recent research has concerned both art historical and popular contemporary representations of Black men with flowers, particularly in light of widely circulated images of the murder of Black men by police. Drawing on photographs by Rotimi Fani-Kayode and paintings by Kehinde Wiley, Marcellus has begun creating sculptures based on the form of the bouquet as a way of suggesting floral associations of beauty, mourning, and tender affection.
Marcellus Armstrong is an artist invested in the intersection of archives, Blackness, and representation. Across disciplines, Marcellus’s work is inspired by the poetics of hard and soft material. Drawing from personal, fictional, and historical ephemera, his projects explore the dialectics of narrative and identity through material and form. Marcellus was born in Baltimore and is a graduate of the Cranbrook Academy of Art with an MFA in Fiber and Material Studies. He lives in Philadelphia.
Caleb Jamel Brown is an artist living and working in Atlanta. His work examines the history of Black labor in the South, craft traditions, and overlapping psychological states. His Leap Year Fellowship exhibition Praying for a Brick, Praying for Financial Stability, Praying for Diamonds, I’ll Take the Rain was on view at MINT, Atlanta, from October to November 2020. He holds a BFA from Valdosta State University.
Logan Lockner is a writer in Atlanta. His essays and criticism have appeared or are forthcoming in publications such as 032c, Art in America, ART PAPERS, frieze, and GAYLETTER. Previously, he was editor of Burnaway.