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Somewhere in Between
2022
Matthew Brown Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Somewhere in Between
Somewhere in Between
Somewhere in Between
Somewhere in Between
Somewhere in Between
Somewhere in Between
Somewhere in Between
Somewhere in Between
Somewhere in Between
Somewhere in Between

Somewhere in Between

April 2–May 7, 2022

Tajh Rust’s new solo exhibition Somewhere in Between revels in interstices. Inspired by thresholds and liminal spaces, the exhibition bridges vast physical, temporal, and conceptual expanses to forge new ground rife with possibility.
The exhibition is predominantly populated by children and teenagers. For Rust, childhood and adolescence are precipices, always implying something more to follow. As such, these periods are rife with both potential and precariousness. As Rust’s subjects navigate this precursory or intermediate time, they express both vulnerability and possibility.
Four new paintings from the artist’s ongoing Subject series, which depicts young Black figures against a ground matching their individual skin tones, explore the threshold between visibility and invisibility. Rendered in rich neutral tones of brown and ochre against broad swaths of monochrome negative space, Rust’s subjects are all depicted in the midst of turning away. Their faces partially obscured, they refuse to meet the viewer’s gaze. This refusal creates an opportunity for engagement and reflection. By highlighting the voyeuristic gaze, the Subject paintings implicate the viewer in the supposedly neutral act of looking.
Preserved from the Flood I-III (2020--2022), a trio of paintings inspired by Rust’s time in the coastal city of Dakar, depict different states of immersion in the ocean. Two young men convene on a jetty and gaze into the sunset. A girl sits on a lone rock and submerges her calves in the surrounding waves. A mother wades into the surf, her eyes trained lovingly upon the baby she holds on her hip. For Rust, water is a force that binds everything organic in the material world, forming a connective framework between remote geographies. It also serves as a metaphor for the African diaspora, recalling the transatlantic slave trade and the fluidity of the subsequent global migration across vast expanses.
A third series of large format paintings offers a tender portrayal of intimate relationships amongst friends and family members. The six new paintings on view were created in response to a heightened sense of nostalgia triggered by the intense periods of time spent in isolation during the pandemic. Home-bound by stay at home orders, Rust sentimentally turned to old family photos as well as television and media from his childhood for inspiration. What results are reminiscences: wistful and exceedingly intimate, these personal recollections possess a universal poignancy.
Drawing from his own family history, Rust collapses past, present, and future. In Something to Hold on to (2021), a young woman on the brink of adulthood clutches a doll. In Half Full (2021), a disaffected young man slouches over a card table, his world-weariness in stark contrast with the optimistic, grinning child in the old family photo situated on a table behind him. This synthesis of past and present is not only achieved through content, but through Rust’s own painterly interventions. By revisiting, revising, and reimagining his own past, Rust reaches through time to probe the chasm between history and memory.

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Open Call
2021
The Shed, New York, NY
Open Call
Open Call
Open Call
Open Call

Tajh Rust, "Passages", 2021. Mixed media on tempered glass, steel armature. 84 x 60 inches (each glass panel). Commissioned by The Shed. Photo: Ronald Amstutz. Courtesy The Shed.

Animating a fragment of text from Martinican poet and philosopher Édouard Glissant through its play of mirror reflections, the space created by Tajh Rust’s installation Passages is simultaneously dense and light, opaque and transparent. On one of the glass panels, Rust repeats the phrase “I made an attempt to communicate with this absence” from Glissant’s Poetics of Relation, a meditation on self-definition, history, the postcolonial body, and the possibilities for relation between different cultures. The human figures that cover the second panel facing the words are ghost-like in the same way the malleable human figure in the "Black Beach" section of Glissant’s text is: this bather adjusts to the chaos of the ocean current's ebb and flow, which echoes the flowing histories of the Caribbean and its diaspora. As viewers move around the panels, their reflections appear and disappear, drawing them into the space of the installation, as well. At moments, the mirrors seem to fade into the background, leaving the words and figures floating in space. This optical effect proposes a metaphorical half-space of migrant experience, alluding to the transitory experience of the Middle Passage and, in a more modern context, of migration to New York City.

-Adeze Wilford

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Where We Meet
2020
Matthew Brown Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
Where We Meet
Where We Meet
Where We Meet
Where We Meet
Where We Meet
Where We Meet
Where We Meet
Where We Meet

Where We Meet is a meditation on the intersection of geographies. Tajh Rust’s new solo exhibition was inspired by recent travels, which have taken him across the United States, the island of Cuba, and the coastal city of Dakar. The vast physical distances between these places are dissolved within this new body of paintings.

Water is the binding force that marries everything organic on our planet, and symbolically asserts as a significant, personal presence for Rust. Water can exist in three states, transcending the typical parameters ascribed to substances in the observable, material world—here it serves as the connective tissue between geographical locations and a metaphor for the notion of fluidity.

Rust’s compositions break down the traditional barriers between interiors and exteriors, conveying the threshold of liminal space. The works weave in and out of figuration and abstraction to emanate psychological space. Elements are pulled from the everyday world to flip our expectations, engaging a state between realism and surrealism.

In a brand new format for Rust, Where We Meet presents three paintings with reflective mirrored surfaces, which were born of recent experiments with mirroring. Suspended from the ceiling and situated within door and window frames, areas of the glass surfaces are left untouched allowing for the viewer to simultaneously experience each painting, see their own reflection, and through to the other side simultaneously.

In a conversation with Greg Tate at the Hammer, Arthur Jafa spoke of the seemingly disparate images he juxtaposed in his books and how people often question how these images relate to one another. Jafa concluded, “Where they meet is in you." Where We Meet utilizes reflection and fractals of reality to implicate the viewer in a way that pulls them into the compositions and empathize with their subjects.