Thursday, March 4, 2010

Out Today: Q&A with Denyse Thomasos in the National Post

In December, well-known abstract painter Denyse Thomasos opened her first New York solo show in 10 years at Lennon, Weinberg. Now, a Toronto solo is also featuring her work at Olga Korper Gallery. Today, the National Post published my interview with the Trinidad-born, Mississauga-raised, New York–based artist. Here's an excerpt:

Q Where did this show of paintings come from?

A I've always worked with structures that have been used to confine people of colour. Slave boats, prisons and burial sites are three structures I've expanded on for a long time.

My last show was based on superjails, including a superjail I'd visited in Maryland. To me, the paintings were a way to bring the invisibility of these prisons, which are often in rural areas, into urban settings for people to see.

My intention with this show was to continue on prisons, but they kind of turned into bird machines or winged objects. There's freedom to them, but if you look closely, they're still made of small prison forms and containers.

Q What was it like visiting a superjail?

A A lot of the cage forms in my work are based on what I saw there. The courtyard was a heavily wired box on all sides. The prisoners are mandated to go to school, and the classroom is a phone booth-sized cage that four or five people are tied to.

All these people are considered the worst of the worst. They'll never get out. The best they can do is get to a better prison.

What was very moving was when we were up in the surveillance tower and guides said "OK, a new batch of prisoners is coming in." We were expecting these horrendous creatures to come out ...and they were just kids. They were young, black kids.

It was a madhouse, the closest thing I've ever seen to an insane asylum. It really kind of breaks your heart. Just one visit left me deeply depressed for a week. But that's why these things are left invisible. We can't deal with the reality of what we're doing.

Image of Thomasos' Maiden Flight 2010 from Olga Korper Gallery

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