Jeffrey Gibson: It Can Be Said of Them @ Roberts Projects, Los Angeles
Roberts Projects is pleased to announce It Can Be Said of Them, Jeffrey Gibsonâs solo exhibition featuring new work exploring themes of identityâas it relates to diversity and inclusivityâto uplift the unique experiences, struggles and personal victories shaping the current fight for LGBTQIA visibility. It Can Be Said of Them takes its title from a print produced by Sister Corita Kent in 1969. Kentâs print was part of her âHeroes and Sheroesâ series, undertaken after she formally left the church as a serving nun, and depicts images of Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert Kennedy. The men are surrounded by a quote by author E.B. White that reads, âIt can be said of him, as of few men in like position, that he did not fear the weather and did not turn his sails, but instead, challenged the wind itself to improve its direction and to cause it to blow more softly and more kindly over the world and its people.â A strong supporter of the Civil Rights Movement, Kent viewed these four figures, among many others, as modern day martyrs, especially during a time of aggressive political and social unrest.
Gibson was inspired not only by Kentâs radical activism during this historical period, but by her choice to change the more commonly used pronoun âhimâ to a more inclusive âthemâ. The singular âthem/theyâ can be indicative of oneâs choice to self-identify as non-binary or gender-fluid, as well as signifying the linguistic expansion of how gender and its influence on both diversity and inclusivity have evolved.
Gibson recognizes how the fight towards total gender equality remains inextricable from the struggle to attain universal civil rights, and continues to be advanced by the sustained, common efforts of many. In recontextualizing the words of activists and artists alike who have fought for, campaigned and promoted human rights, he highlights and unifies separate voices and experiences advocating for parallel goals.
All the works on view feature the bold geometric patterning, hand-stitching and intricate beading details defining Gibsonâs recognizable aesthetic, echoing the rhythmic flow and verses of the displayed language. Gibsonâs punching bags transcend their original form and purpose to become phenomenal visual experience. Fully beaded with the slogan of a popular chant, CAN THEY SHE HE DO IT? YES WE CAN! reflects on the loud and joyful inclusion of all by speaking to the they(s), the she(s) and the he(s), in that order. Collectively each become the âwe!â of the rallying cry.
Accompanying beaded wall works and figures continue to further develop Gibsonâs hybrid influences, pairing Modernist forms and techniques with his narrative deconstructions of languageâs intrinsic properties. Text pulled from songs by Tracy Chapman, BjÃ¶rk, and Terry Callier, among others, highlight charged cultural messages still relevant today. In Gibsonâs hands, the oratory power of music is a tool to understand an ever-shifting present and the dynamic presence of history.
SHE WAS A BEAUTIFUL BOY uses excerpted lyrics from British electronic group Underworldâs hit song âBorn Slippyâ. The use of pronouns changes throughout the songâs duration, capturing the literal and, at times, metaphorical shift of (re)constructed and (re-)affirmed identity. In direct contrast, I COULD BE SOMEONE, inspired by Tracy Chapmanâs 1988 song âFast Carâ, consistently uses the pronoun âI.â Yet the intimacy and immediacy of Chapmanâs first-person narrative expands the song to embody all-comprehensive themes of survival and control, elevating what could be a more narrow subject to a broader universal singularity. YOUâLL BE GIVEN LOVE also touches on this concept of the infinite, where all are parts of a greater whole, and applies it to the innermost dynamics of love inherent to all human bonds.
It is in these works and others on view, that Gibson expands on how gender, as identity, is a liminal space; one that occupies and explores the in-between, the threshold, the reconfigured and the temporal. As a transitory space or state, it is characterized by ambiguity, hybridity and fluidity, with the great potential for subversion and radical transformation. Writing about anti-structure, cultural anthropologist Victor Turner argues that this liminal state is âa conceptual space where the ordinary world falls away, and the hierarchies of everyday life are no longer applicable.â It is in this sublimination of surrender where joy can be found; where one re-articulates a new identity beyond the restricted spheres tied to tradition, geography, or social construct, and lives openly after abandoning the constraints of the everyday. Gibsonâs most recent work is a reaffirmation of this profound and total freedom.
It Can Be Said of Them marks Gibsonâs second solo show with the gallery. A catalogue will be published to accompany the exhibition.
 Malcolm, David, Donald Malcolm, and E.B. White. âAfter the Assassination of J.F.K. A reflection on the death of the President.â The New Yorker November 30, 1963 Issue, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1963/11/30/comment-after-the-assassination-of-jfk
 Turner, Victor. The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. Chicago: Aldine Press, 1969.