Visiting artists join for Anderson Ranch lecture
With overlapping residencies, artists Meleko Mokgosi and Diedrick Brackens will give joint talk Tuesday
Diedrick Brackens and Meleko Mokgosi have overlapping residencies at Anderson Ranch Arts Center this month, so this pair of leading contemporary artists are joining together for a free public dialogue on Tuesday.
Mokgosi has been on the Snowmass Village campus since May 24, while Brackens arrived on Sunday.
Known primarily as a large-scale painter, Mokgosi — like many artists visiting the Ranch — is trying something new while he is here and devoting his time to printmaking with the Ranch’s Brian Shure.
“For me to get to one painting, it takes about eight months,” Mokgosi explained in the printmaking studio last week. “But with these, it’s a lot more furious, a lot more experimental.”
A professor at the Yale School of Art as well as a practicing artist, Mokgosi was last week beginning the process of making a six-panel photolithograph.
“I came to learn,” Mokgosi said. “I don’t know anything about printmaking. It’s being open to experimentation, being open to ignorance, not knowing something and then not having power trips.”
Brackens likewise arrived on campus aiming to experiment. He is planning to spend his time here making drawings and developing ideas for new work.
“I’m in this place right now where I’m kind of questing towards that next thing,” Brackens said. “I have some inklings of what that might be, but I’ve really been trying to be open to whatever the work might be.”
Brackens, based in Los Angeles, is best known for his weavings and textiles, often depicting Black figures or silhouettes. Brackens’ recent work also includes his poetry and weavings that use the reoccurring symbol of a catfish, elevating the bottom-feeder in spiritual and societal status as in his recently closed solo exhibition “heaven is a muddy riverbed” at Craft Contemporary.
Son of a U.S. Army serviceman, Brackens spent three years as a teenager living in Colorado Springs and spent much of those formative years in the mountains. Experiencing the forest in Snowmass Village and Aspen, he said, is among his priorities while he is here.
“I feel like I’m kind of just looking for inspiration,” he said. “I’ll spend a lot of time between the studio and just taking walks.”
Brackens said he was also excited about the public dialogue with Mokgosi and with an Anderson Ranch audience and its potential to generate new ideas.
“I truly get a better sense of what it is that I’m doing from what people are asking,” he said. “The things that people see in the work or, in this case, whatever Meleko will be saying about it, I think it always ends up sharpening how I how I think about my practice.”
He also relishes the opportunity to talk about his work and not through it.
“I love getting to share because there’s so much that gets left out of building the narrative for an exhibition that is so important to the work,” Brackens said. “I think it’s that one chance to really talk to people seriously about what I care about.”
The artists don’t know each other personally, though both are represented by the influential Jack Shaiman Gallery in New York, and both in recent years have become art world stars.
“My assumption is that there might be a dialogue around what it means to be a practitioner who is interpolated as Black,” Mokgosi said. “I assume he is interpolated as a Black subject, as I am myself, which I don’t believe in.”
Mokgosi noted how figurative works with Black subjects have become widely sought by art collectors in the past two years, heating up commercial interest in his and Brackens’ artwork. Mokgosi, who said he identifies primarily as an educator, was excited about the prospect of exploring with Brackens and the Ranch audience how these art market trends intersect with issues of class, race, education, accessibility and systemic problems in the U.S.
“It has a lot to do with America’s trying to come to terms with its history,” Mokgosi said, “and the violence against the Black body, and how the institutions are trying to reconcile this while also while also keeping to the privilege that they have.”