Jun 4th 2022

Michi Meko: Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground

@ Kavi Gupta Gallery

835 W. Washington Blvd. Floor 1, Chicago, IL 60607

Opening Saturday, June 4th, from 5 PM - 7 PM

On view through Saturday, July 30th

Kavi Gupta presents “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground,” a solo exhibition and catalogue of new work by Michi Meko, Joan Mitchell Foundation Grantee and Artadia Award winner. Featuring works created entirely during the COVID-19 pandemic, the exhibition reflects on Meko’s ideas and experiences during isolation.

Solitude is a strange currency—enriching to those who can mobilize its potential; a liability to those who cannot. For many of us, the forced isolation imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing feelings of loneliness. When Meko saw the world going into quarantine back in 2020, he decided to embrace the inevitable. Packing a go bag and heading by himself deep into the north Georgia woods, he instigated an isolation within an isolation, and found visibility within invisibility.

“Being Black in the wilderness is an idea I’ve been trying to chase down or play with for a long time,” Meko says. “2020 gave me a green light to just take off and see what that’s like. I wrote a book of field notes and took photographs and made drawings. A lot of it was trying to hear my voice and understand what that meant—to hear one’s own voice in wild spaces. What does a Black man sound like in a wilderness, versus the voice of John Muir or Ernest Hemingway or somebody like that?”

Exhibited within a sound and lighting world evocative of a lonesome campfire in the mountains, “Dark Was The Night, Cold Was The Ground” symbolically and abstractly depicts both the geographical and psychological wildernesses through which Meko has traveled. Some works are painted from the perspective of being inside the thicket. Some are exhibited high up, so the viewer must crane their head. Several are painted from an elevated, expansive vantage point, what Meko describes as a fugitive view, echoing poet Fred Moten’s description of fugitivity as an aspirational striving for a transformative escape from the bondage of the commonplace.

“That’s what this work is about,” Meko says. “Exploring inwardly. Getting into a space of leisure, then once you’re in there, trying to find the calm or transcendent moment where one can hear their voice.”

Recent exhibitions of Meko’s work include “Realms of Refuge,” Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL; “Michi Meko: Black and Blur,” Clark Atlanta University Art Museum, Atlanta GA; “Michi Meko: It Doesn’t Prepare You for Arrival,” Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA), Atlanta, GA; “Michi Meko: Before We Blast off: The Journey of Divine Forces,” Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta, GA; and Abstraction Today, MOCA GA, Atlanta, GA. His work is held in the collections of the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; King & Spalding, Atlanta, GA; Scion (Toyota Motor Corporation), Los Angeles, CA; MetroPark USA Inc., Atlanta, GA; and CW Network, Atlanta, GA, among others. Meko is the recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant and the Atlanta Artadia Award, and was a finalist for the 2019 Hudgens Prize.

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