Richard-Jonathan Nelson: A Pallet of Blackberry and Feverfew at CUBE SPACE

Review

Richard-Jonathan Nelson: A Pallet of Blackberry and Feverfew at CUBE SPACE

By Maddie Klett December 18, 2019

The glass walls of CUBE SPACE, a storefront operated by the City of Berkeley, allow art installations to be on view 24/7. Richard-Jonathan Nelson’s installation, A Pallet of Blackberry and Feverfew (2019), engages the space’s car-showroom-feel. Its brightly colored textiles and video employ the high-saturated neon palette often found in consumer products or signs to catch the eyes of passersby.

Nelson has stitched together fabric printed with digitally rendered plants and bodies, which become quilts that he has unfolded on the space’s walls and floor. The works’ palette subverts conventional presentations of plants in subdued “natural” tones, where muted color is often positioned as weightier, or more realistic and intellectually rigorous. Nelson’s images interrogate notions of what is natural, as any assumption of artificiality in these colors concludes that they don’t exist in nature. In truth, the artist culls his colors from the hues of real plants—the yellow of feverfew flowers or the dark purple/red of blackberries, for example.

Richard-Jonathan Nelson. Digital construction for Dayclean come and these bones are still weary., 2019. Dye sublimation print on satin, 162 x 108 in. Courtesy the artist. 

Nelson’s work questions views of the world as, in his words, “a tasteful sea of brown and green, a one tone body” that filters out complications and contradictions in people, ecosystems, and places.1 The largest image at CUBE SPACE is that of a face, which Nelson designates “a default rendering of a black male.” The artist positions that body within a technicolor realm that, as the wall text describes, is “a hoodoo prescription for protection,” a place with one foot in the forests and herbalist traditions of the artist’s childhood in rural Georgia, another in the urban grid of downtown Berkeley, and perhaps another somewhere else. With A Pallet Nelson depicts the figure in a place where the mythology of blackness is not placed upon them, but where the complexities of identification are able to exist.

Richard-Jonathan Nelson: A Pallet of Blackberry and Feverfew was on view at CUBE SPACE in Berkeley, CA through December 7, 2019.

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Notes

  1. Interview with the artist, November 2018

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