Opening Saturday, July 16th, from 3PM - 4PM
On view through Saturday, July 30th
In celebration of the success of Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground, Kavi Gupta’s ongoing solo exhibition with Joan Mitchell Foundation Grantee, Artadia Award winner, and Hudgens Prize finalist Michi Meko, we invite you to join us in the gallery for a special discussion between the artist and Key Jo Lee, Director of Academic Affairs and Associate Curator of Special Projects at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
Revolving around the extraordinary processes and foundational concepts underlying the works Meko created for Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground, the conversation will reflect on Meko’s ideas about isolation, while illuminating his use of abstraction as an avenue through which, as he says, to “paint what that energy of a Black soul looks like.”
Michi Meko is a multidisciplinary artist whose works engage metaphorically and abstractly with the paradoxes and contradictions that have shaped his personal history and the shared history of Black Americans, particularly in the American South. Recent exhibitions of Meko’s work include The Dirty South, Virginia Museum of Fine Art, Richmond, VA; 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.
Key Jo Lee is a Cleveland-based curator, art historian, and museum educator. She is currently the Associate Curator of American Art at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Lee recently curated her first exhibition at the museum, Currents and Constellations: Black Art in Focus (February 20–June 26, 2022), which presented twenty-five artists in nine thematic groupings, as well as introduced a series of permanent gallery interventions meant to broaden visitors’ notions of the relevance and impact of Black art. Her publication, Perceptual Drift: Black Art and an Ethics of Looking, with contributions from Erica Moiah James, Robin Coste Lewis, and Christina Sharpe, will be published through Yale University Press in fall/winter 2022. Lee is a doctoral candidate in history of art and African American studies at Yale University completing a dissertation entitled Melancholic Matter(s): Blackness, Photography, and Physics.
About the Exhibition
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.