"B is For": Shaina McCoy @ Stems Gallery, Brussels
Funny enough that just as I was closing my computer on another day of NFTs just bombarding my every webpage and IG profile I had opened, I saw a post about Shaina McCoy's new works. The exhibition, B is For, on view at Stems Gallery in Brussels, is the Minneapolis' artist's European debut, and what felt rather soothing was the texture. There is something about McCoy's work that makes you want to touch, feel, smell, immerse in. This wasn't me having some sort of reaction to digital, more of a reaction to the physicality of paint, the idea of memory, and perhaps in contrast, the beauty and confusion of what we lose in memory.
Danny Koppel, in a wonderful essay on the works, notes, "The kind of representation McCoy is after, though, exceeds this personal scale. What is really represented in these portraits of Mae Mae, Sophia, Ash, and others is not selfhood but Black girlhood in America. ‘B is For’ bobbles, barrettes, and bows, the hair accouterment of her subjects, and some of the most salient features in these otherwise understated portraits. Here is a celebration of these enduring artifacts and icons of Black childhood. Bobbles, barrettes, and bows evoke not only the grooming rituals associated and with them but the participants in those rituals."
Again, these ideas of touch and history are so important, and what I love is his use of the description "understated." Because they are so understated and yet you can see how each brushstroke is so meticulous and purposeful it almost, in a flash, feels like intense realism. My initial reaction to B Is For was less about the news of the day but more about what I miss in seeing art. Sometimes that jolt realigns your thinking. —Evan Pricco