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Introduction

Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art (Tephra ICA) presents What Makes the Earth Shake featuring work by figurative painter Dominic Chambers.

Chambers (b. 1993 St. Louis, MO; lives and works in New Haven, CT) creates vibrant paintings that simultaneously engage art historical models, such as color field theory and gestural abstraction, along with contemporary concerns around race, identity, and the necessity for leisure. This is the first solo exhibition of the artist’s work in the Washington, DC metropolitan region.

Installation Views

Installation Views Thumbnails
Dominic Chambers
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Dominic Chambers

Dominic Chambers is interested in how art can function as a mode for understanding, recontextualizing, or renegotiating one’s relationship to the world, and views painting as a critical and intellectual endeavor, as much as it is aesthetic.

Dominic Chambers - Exhibitions - Tephra ICA

Dark Skin of a Summer Shade, 2019
Oil on canvas
63.3 x 72 inches
Courtesy of the Scantland Collection

The exhibition takes its title from James Baldwin’s 1962 Letter to My Nephew, where Baldwin describes black life as being a reality constructed and sustained by the white imagination. The text suggests that, consequently, black people have had to traverse a haunting social and psychological landscape in the pursuit of freedom, equality, and self-actualization. The works by Dominic Chambers in What Makes the Earth Shake highlight the surreal conditions pervading black life. Surrealism manifests on the periphery of a seemingly ordinary experience, where racial undertones are the shadows of conversation.

Dominic Chambers - Exhibitions - Tephra ICA

Send it On (A Love Letter to Love), 2019
Oil on canvas
72 x 60 inches
Courtesy of the Weissman Collection

“Too often, the black body has been located in our imaginations as one incapable of rest,” Chambers explains. “Often when we imagine what the black body is doing, it is usually an act of labor, rebellion, or resistance.”


- Dominic Chambers

The paintings in the exhibition insist on destabilizing the laborer, rebel, and insurgent roles for black people and assert the importance of authorship over one’s own reality. Forging images of the black body, undisturbed, in radiant fields of color, Chambers foregrounds the black subject and color-field painting as harmonious companions. He proposes crucial spaces for contemplation within which his subjects can forge and reforge relationships with their minds, bodies, and souls.

Dominic Chambers - Exhibitions - Tephra ICA

Window Gaze (Ghost Hand), 2021
Oil on linen
72 x 60 inches
Courtesy of the Chambers Collection

“Try to imagine how you would feel if you woke up one morning to find the sun shivering and all the stars aflame. You would be frightened because it is out of the order of nature. Any upheaval in the universe is terrifying because it so profoundly attacks one's sense of one's own reality. Well, the black man has functioned in the white man's world as a fixed star, as an immovable pillar, and as he moves out of his place, heaven and earth are shaken to their foundations.”

– James Baldwin, A Letter to My Nephew

With literature being an important touchstone in his work, Chambers marries written with visual recontextualizing cultural narratives through the profound use of color, layers, and imagined space. By presenting the opportunity to witness a self-determined black body in a moment of leisure, Chambers work makes a profound declaration on the American consciousness and provides an important reminder – to make the earth shake.

 

Exhibition Catalogue with Checklist

Dominic Chambers - Exhibitions - Tephra ICA

Image courtesy of Dominic Chambers

Biography

Chambers received a BFA from Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Milwaukee, WI in 2016, and an MFA from Yale University School of Art, New Haven, CT in 2019.

Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized at The August Wilson African American Cultural Center, Pittsburgh, PA (2020); Luce Gallery, Turin, Italy (2020); The Millitzer Studio and Gallery, St. Louis, MO (2017); and the Residential Gallery, Des Moines, IA (2017). Select group exhibitions featuring his work include Black Bodies, White Spaces: Invisibility & Hypervisibility, Green Family Foundation, Dallas, TX (2021); Realms of Refuge, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL (2021); Art Finds a Way, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL (2020); Synchronicity, Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, CA (2020); and Abstractions of Black Citizenship: African American Art from Saint Louis, Hedreen Gallery, Seattle University, Seattle, WA (2020).

Chambers’ work can be found in a number of private and public collections, including the Green Family Foundation, Dallas, TX; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, CA; and Pérez Art Museum Miami, Miami, FL. Chambers is the recipient of the Robert Reed Drawing Scholarship, Yale University (2018); Ellen Battell Stoeckel Fellowship, Yale Norfolk School of Art (awarded through Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design) (2015); and the Varsity Art XVIII Award, St. Louis Community College – Florissant Valley, St. Louis, MO (2014). He has completed residences at the New York Studio Residency Program, Brooklyn, NY (2015), and the Yale Norfolk School of Art (2015).

Selected Works

Selected Works Thumbnails
Image of artwork

Dark Skin of a Summer Shade, 2019
Oil on canvas
63.3 x 72 inches
Courtesy of the Scantland Collection

Image of artwork

Send it On (A Love Letter to Love), 2019
Oil on canvas
72 x 60 inches
Courtesy of the Weissman Collection

Image of artwork

Well, Well, Well (Chiffon in Green), 2019
Oil and spray paint on linen
72 x 60 inches
Courtesy of the Atwell Collection

Image of artwork

Born at Night (Africanus in Black), 2020
Oil and spray paint on canvas
72 x 60 inches
Courtesy of the Johnson Collection

Image of artwork

Step into the Shade, 2020
Oil on Linen
70 x 77 inches
Courtesy of the Chambers Collection

Image of artwork

Remembrance Veil, 2021
Oil on linen
77 x 70 inches
Courtesy of ther Miller Collection

Image of artwork

Window Gaze (Ghost Hand), 2021
Oil on linen
72 x 60 inches
Courtesy of the Chambers Collection

Image of artwork

Dark Skin of a Summer Shade, 2019
Oil on canvas
63.3 x 72 inches
Courtesy of the Scantland Collection

Image of artwork

Send it On (A Love Letter to Love), 2019
Oil on canvas
72 x 60 inches
Courtesy of the Weissman Collection

Image of artwork

Well, Well, Well (Chiffon in Green), 2019
Oil and spray paint on linen
72 x 60 inches
Courtesy of the Atwell Collection

Image of artwork

Born at Night (Africanus in Black), 2020
Oil and spray paint on canvas
72 x 60 inches
Courtesy of the Johnson Collection

Image of artwork

Step into the Shade, 2020
Oil on Linen
70 x 77 inches
Courtesy of the Chambers Collection

Image of artwork

Remembrance Veil, 2021
Oil on linen
77 x 70 inches
Courtesy of ther Miller Collection

Image of artwork

Window Gaze (Ghost Hand), 2021
Oil on linen
72 x 60 inches
Courtesy of the Chambers Collection

Videos

Virtual Tour: Dominic Chambers

Virtual Tour: Dominic Chambers

Video

Artist Talk: Dominic Chambers

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