Black Diamonds: New Works by Francis Acea
Thursday, September 18, 2014 from 6:00 -9:00pm
Through October 31st
Merton D. Simpson Gallery is pleased to present Black Diamonds: New Works by Francis Acea, a unique series of paintings and drawings by New York-based contemporary artist Francis Acea placed alongside unique objects from indigenous cultures within the African Diaspora.
It is said that diamonds and gold, as both natural elements and precious artifacts, cannot be made, that they must be found. The discovery and refinement of these elements has directly and indirectly caused drastic economic, cultural, and political conflict for over six centuries. With the commodification of visual art (manifested in the extreme during the late 1990′s art boom), how do we posit value on the intangible passions of artists at the current moment? Acea’s works comment on the shifting values and valuations of contemporary art by employing images and samples of precious metals in the compositions, themselves, while a curated selection of tribal objects return each consideration back to the primary source of civilization
Acea ups the ante on the dialogue of commodifying art by rendering human organs using golden, metallic acrylic paint. To what do we assign greater importance? What will we trade, who will we hurt to acquire what we believe we desire? These paintings are less a conversation between human being and inanimate object, but more importantly are representative of how we respond to the physicality of material things. Gold is glimmering, seductive, elegant and is further crafted into luxury goods; organs are more frequently traded on the black market, and left ravaged by destructive physiological behaviors.
In the style of a gemologist’s diagram of a diamond’s cut, carat, and color, Acea precisely executes a small set of paintings in black-on-black in varying shapes. Black diamonds, properly referred to as Carbonado, are the toughest natural diamonds in existence. It is also believed that they possess extraterrestrial origins. Acea’s “Black Diamond Drawings” are appropriately interspersed with objects from the Malian Dogon culture, which were among the first peoples to observe celestial bodies. If the carbon compounds (black diamonds) are truly “gifted” to Earth in this fashion, it is reasonable to consider the inquisitions of a culture that existed long before the refined diamond had already known that the value of life and living exceeded that which was not theirs, to begin with. In this sense, Acea connects his own enquiry to who and what determines how art and other luxury goods are valued against the mind, body, and soul.
Francis Acea was born in Havana in 1967. He attended the Havana Superior Institute of Design in 1991 before he decided to pursue an active career as an artist. Acea has participated in group exhibitions at venues in New York, Miami, London, Toronto, Havana, and Cologne. His work has appeared at public institutions and international festivals including the Ludwig Forum für Internationale Kunst (Aachen, Germany), the Barbican Centre (London), Centre PasquArt (Switzerland), the 3rd and 4th editions of the Havana Biennial, and the Helsinki City Art Museum (Tennis Palace). He was the recipient of the 1997 Banff Centre for the Arts Fellowship (Alberta, Canada), the 1998 Fellowship recipient from the Ludwig Stiftung für Kunst und Internationale Verständigung (Aachen, Germany), and a resident at the 01.3 ArtPace International Artist-In-Residency Program at ArtPace (San Antonio, Texas). He has delivered public lectures at Havana University, the Royal College of Art, the University of British Columbia, Cornell University, and the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo y Diseño (San Jose, Costa Rica). Acea and his work have been featured in press outlets including Art News, ArtNexus Magazine, El Nuevo Herald, FlashArt International, ArtMonthly Magazine, and The London Evening Standard). Acea lives and works in New York.
About Merton D. Simpson Gallery
With a renowned eye and more than fifty years in business, Merton D. Simpson was one of the most respected African and tribal art dealers in the world. He opened the gallery in 1954, and became instrumental in helping individuals and institutions build comprehensive, culturally significant collections across the globe. Simpson passed away in the spring of 2013, leaving behind a trove of museum-quality art (kept at his eponymous gallery in New York City) and a legacy that speaks volumes to his remarkable vision.
“Over the course of the ’60s and ’70s, Simpson became the most important dealer in the U.S. in this field.”
Heinrich C. Schweizer, Head of African & Oceanic Department, Sotheby’s
The New York Times (quoted by Bruce Weber), March 14, 2013
Contact: Alaina Simone, Director
Merton D. Simpson Gallery
38 W 28th Street
New York, NY 10001