I have decided upon a second artist whose work I can compare with Bill Viola’s. Initially I had thought to choose someone whose work is primarily made for online, using the language of the internet, but my personal interest in Kahlil Joseph and the relevance of where his work lies in relation to my own seemed more useful. Also, though it means there is less reference material to draw from, I thought it interesting to look to a relatively new artist whose was, until very recently, not as instantly recognised as an artist in the way Viola or other artists may have been, in that his entrance into the art world was through a side door of sorts.
Kahlil Joseph: Shadow Play at New Museum
“In his absorbing short films Los Angeles-based artist and filmmaker Kahil Joseph (b. 1981 Seattle, WA) conjures the lush and impressionistic quality of dreams with particular reverence for quotidian moments and intimate scenes. Music always figures centrally in Joseph’s works, and sounds reverberate as vital powerful analogies for the play of images through which he chronicles the stores and rhythms of his subjects. As much as they plumb the history of cinema and moving images, Joseph’s films also find a parallel in the lyricism, complexity, and affective power of black musical traditions.
“In Kahlil Joseph: Shadow Play, his first solo presentation in New York, Joseph debuts Fly Paper (2017), a new film installation that departs from his admiration of the work of Roy DeCarava (1919 – 2009), a photographer and artist known for his images of celebrated jass musicians and everyday life in Harlem. With Fly Paper, Joseph extends DeCarava’s virtuosity with chiaroscuro effects to the moving image and brings together a range of film and digital footage to contemplate the dimensions of past, present and future in Harlem and New York City. Joseph’s new film also touches on themes of filiation, influence, and legacy, marking a personal reckoning that intuitively calls upon his connections to the city through his family – and in particular, his late father, whom he cared for in Harlem at the end of hs life. Fly Paper’s dynamic yet contemplative mood also builds on Joseph’s sense that layers of lived experience – and stories – are sedimented in the places that have played host to the aspirations and daily lives of countless individuals as much as it engages Joseph’s relationship to an accomplished community of black artists, writers, actors, and musicians who call New York home. Through various references to literature and narration, Fly Paper also probes the ways in which the literary imagination parallels that of film and how the ordinary act of storytelling shapes larger histories and enduring myths.
“With its dexterous ambiguities in narrative and its heterogenous depictions of Harlem, Joseph’s film takes measure of depths and nuances that are often invisible or oversimplified. Fly Paper also moves beyond the visible by expanding Joseph’s practice into sound, unfolding a complex acoustic environment in which sonic textures and original compositions resonate throughout the exhibition space. As a rich and polyphonic portrait of black art and culture in New York City, Fly Paper invites meditation on the slippery nature of memory, reverie and the photographic image.”
Kahlil Joseph: Shadow Play is curated by Natalie Bell, [New Museum] Assistant Curator, and Massimiliano Gioni, Edlis Neeson Artistic Director. Fly Paper is produced in collaboration with the Vinyl Factory.
Like Viola’s work, Joseph’s taps into the viewers emotion in an almost primal way.
The organ music applied by Joseph throughout is reminiscentof religious ritual worship.
Where Viola uses mythic figures or those that seem without character, Joseph uses faces of the everyday, anonymous but witha ense of familiarity, bodies the viewer is invites to project themselves onto. Joseph’s work also embody a sense of place, here New York City, where Viola’s almost always appear in a contextless, black infinity.
Rather than interesting into space, Joseph’s installation is immersive. Viewers sit on the floor or stand leaning against pillars, enveloped by nothing but darkness and the occasional flicker of light on the face of another viewer.