Briana McLaurin: Round a Melody

August 5 - September 2, 2021

Thierry Goldberg is pleased to present Round a Melody, an online exhibition of works by Briana McLaurin. The exhibition runs from August 5th through September 2nd, 2021.

Briana McLaurin paints vivid portraits of her family members as a way to celebrate African American presence through the lens of her own personal relationships and experiences. The majority of the artist’s subjects look directly back at the viewer, asserting bravery and strength through their unwavering gaze. Their skin, the contours of their faces and clothing, and their surroundings are all illuminated by rhythmic hues of orange, purple, yellow, red, and green.

McLaurin begins her process with a set of reference photos, which she gradually embellishes with objects that provide insight into the subjects’ personalities and lives. Founded partly in reality and partly in the artist’s imagination, these settings do not adhere to the pristine interiors that are often displayed in historical portraiture. Instead, McLaurin offers a more candid view of home life. In Round a Memory (The Artists) (2021),Round a Melody (2021), and Round a Harmony (2021), a circular table is cluttered with shampoo, hair growth oil, makeup, and paper towels, while board games, like LIFE and Monopoly, are piled atop a first aid kit in the background. The paintings provide an intimate snapshot of a DIY photo shoot that McLaurin’s sisters conducted in the family’s unfinished basement. They capture the earnest joy and experimentation of youthful dreams in the making; the hopeful, early days of a burgeoning career in the beauty industry, when your basement is transformed into a salon and your first clients are your family and friends.

Similarly, From Outside (2020), From Inside (2020), and From both Outside and Inside (2020) depict one scene from three different angles. McLaurin’s mother sits at a dining room table and watches the artist’s twin sister from inside, with a stern look on her face. McLaurin’s twin sister, in turn, sits outside on a patio, ornamented by vibrant swaths of foliage. From the mother’s point of view, McLaurin’s sister appears small and childlike, her feet barely touching the floor beneath her chair; while a closer look at the artist’s sister reveals a young woman who demands her own agency, as well as our attention. The distance and tension between the two subjects is unexplained, as McLaurin challenges the notion of linearity as it relates to time and perspective.

Standing apart from the rest of McLaurin’s work is Presidential Election (2019), an allegorical depiction of a black woman being sworn in as president. In the surrounding audience, we recognize the faces of historical figures, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks, alongside a man with a bullet wound, a central figure wearing a hat that reads, “Make America Great 4 Once”, and a man in a hoodie with a single tear streaming down his face. The painting is both mournful and triumphant. It pays homage to the trials and tribulations of the past, while underscoring the hope, joy, and resilience that continue to combat the violence of systemic racism, police brutality, and inequality in the United States and beyond.

Briana McLaurin (b. 1998, New Jersey) lives and works in New York, NY. She holds a BA in Fine Arts from Mason Gross School of Art and Design at Rutgers University. McLaurin has participated in group exhibitions at Mason Gross Gallery, New Brunswick, NJ, and Brick and Mortar Gallery, Easton, PA.

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