Jacolby Satterwhite: We Are In Hell When We Hurt Each Other
Thursday, February 2, 2023
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
About the Exhibition
For over a decade, Jacolby Satterwhite has used 3D animation, sculpture, performance, painting, and photography to create fantastical, labyrinthine universes. Exploring the themes of public space, the body, ritual, and community, Satterwhite draws from an extensive set of references guided by queer theory, Modernist tropes, and video game languages to challenge conventions of Western art through a personal and political lens. An equally significant influence is his late mother, Patricia Satterwhite, who lived with schizophrenia and made ethereal vocal recordings as well as drawings and diagrams for visionary household products throughout Satterwhite’s childhood. His mother’s work often serves as the source material within a decidedly complex structure of memory and mythology.
Created in 2020, We Are in Hell When We Hurt Each Other is a monumental video that translates the artist’s dance movements through digital bodysuits into animated Black fembot forms and other various creatures/humanoid elements. Bringing together disparate practices of vogueing, 3D animation, and drawing, Satterwhite’s eye-popping digital meditation explores the movement of his own queer body while also evoking ballroom culture, popular culture, and sociopolitical tenets. In the elaborately conceived video, after which the exhibition takes its title, the current events of our present reality permeate Satterwhite’s quasi-utopic universe, which seems to exist in a digital realm that is both familiar and joltingly bizarre. The visual dialogue/lyrics seen in the video read like an extraterrestrial journal entry or poetic contemplation that contains little context, no sense of physical place, and no relationship to time. Simultaneously, we see robots and avatars of Satterwhite himself dancing to the pulsing electronic beat of PAT (the musical project of Satterwhite and Teengirl Fantasy frontman Nick Weiss that remixes songs written, sung, and recorded by Satterwhite’s mother). Along with the artist’s own likeness, a few familiar figures inhabit Satterwhite’s animations, such as the regal Black supermodel Bethann Hardison in a rich red garment that appears as a sovereign-like grounding figure throughout the video’s 24 minutes. The end of the work features a cadre of fierce femme warriors gathering around a tribute to Breonna Taylor, the twenty-six-year-old ER technician murdered by Louisville Police in March 2020. In this sense, too, as we traverse the often joyful, meandering, puzzling world created by the artist, we are simultaneously invited to remember the work’s title, which poignantly suggests that inflicting pain on others only deepens one’s own.
About the Artist
Jacolby Satterwhite was born in 1986 in Columbia, South Carolina. He received his BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Arts and a MFA from the University of Pennsylvania. Satterwhite’s work has been presented in numerous exhibitions and festivals internationally, including most recently at the FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH (2022); Miller Institute for Contemporary Art, PA (2021); Haus der Kunst, Munich (2021); Gwangju Biennale, Gwangju (2021); Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, OH (2021); Fabric Workshop & Museum, Philadelphia (2019); Pioneer Works, New York (2019); Whitechapel Gallery, London (2019); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2019); Minneapolis Institute of Art (2019); Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2018); Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris (2018); New Museum, New York (2017); Public Art Fund, New York (2017); San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco (2017); and Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2017). He was awarded the United States Artist Francie Bishop Good & David Horvitz Fellowship in 2016. His work is included in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others.
Satterwhite has collaborated with several musicians, including Solange Knowles in 2019 on her visual album When I Get Home and Perfume Genius in 2022 on his album Ugly Season. He was awarded a public art commission in collaboration with the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Public Art Fund to inaugurate Lincoln Center’s new David Geffen Hall, which debuted in New York in October 2022.
This exhibition is organized by Tyler Blackwell, Curator of Contemporary Art at the Speed Art Museum and former Cynthia Woods Mitchell Associate Curator at Blaffer Art Museum.