Robyn Gibson is an emerging artist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of Louisville in 2014, earning a BFA in Painting and a BSBA in Marketing. Since receiving her MFA in 2018 from the New York Academy of Art, Gibson has been developing her multidimensional art practice. She has recently finished a seven-month residency at the Armory Art Center in West Palm Beach, Florida.
After she started boxing in 2016, Gibson began incorporating it into her art practice. Larger-than-life-sized bold, gestural charcoal figures on canvas, a lyrical writing style meant to pack a punch, and voluptuous vessels inspired by her own curves all convey the movement and force important to her work and inspired by her boxing practice. The act of taking up space and claiming ownership of it is important to her work. As a black artist focused on self-portraiture and the exploration of her own trauma, Gibson grapples with black identity, the depiction, perception and value of black bodies, and what it means to be authentic.
Lives and works in Brooklyn, NY
1989 Born in West Palm Beach, FL
2018 MFA Painting, New York Academy of Art, New York, NY
2014 BFA 2D Studio areas of concentration: Drawing and Painting,
BSBA Marketing; Minor: Entrepreneurship University of Louisville, Louisville,
2019 – 2020 Armory Art Center, West Palm Beach, FL
2020 Young Blood, Space St Barth SOHO Contemporary art Gallery, New York, NY
Armory Art Center Artists in Residence Show, Armory Art Center East
Gallery, West Palm Beach, FL
2019 New and Now, Armory Art Center East Gallery, West Palm Beach, FL
Dinner Party, Quinn Hotel, New York, NY
2018 Rema Hort Mann Foundation Buy What You Love, Galerie Richard, New
New York Academy of Art 2018 MFA Thesis Exhibition, Wilkinson Gallery,
New York Academy of Art, New York, NY
2017 Deck the Walls, Wilkinson Gallery, New York Academy of Art, New York, NY
2016 #BLACKARTMATTERS, Juried Group Show, The Carnegie Center for Art and
History, New Albany, IN
2015 Open Studio Weekend Group Show, Cressman Gallery, Louisville, KY
Our Voices Our Stories, Juried Group Show, Gallery K, Louisville, KY
2014 University of Louisville Fall 2014 BFA Thesis Exhibition, Covi Gallery,
University of Louisville, Louisville, KY
2020 Heavy, Armory Art Center, West Palm Beach, FL
2015 Pfalzgraf, Daniel. “It’s in the Details,” ArteBella Daily, May 12, 2015. Web.
2019 (t)here Magazine, Volume 19, December 2019
2020 Drawing and Painting for Beginners Instructor, Urban Youth Impact, West
Palm Beach, FL
2019 – 2020 Artist in Residence, Armory Art Center, West Palm Beach, FL
2018 – 2019 Teaching Assistant, New York Academy of Art, New York, NY
Awards and Achievements
2013 – 2014 Hite Art Institute Scholarship, University of Louisville
African American Alumni Council Scholarship, University of Louisville
2010 – 2014 National Society of Collegiate Scholars
2008 – 2013 Cardinal Covenant Scholarship, University of Louisville
2008 – 2012 Woodford R. Porter Scholarship, University of Louisville
Parallels & Peripheries: Curator Larry Ossei-Mensah on his Exhibition at the New York Academy of Art - in Conversation with Noah Becker
By NOAH BECKER February, 2021
This is a conversation is between myself and the important New York based curator Larry Ossei-Mensah. I was fortunate enough to have Larry join me to discuss his career and his current curatorial project co-curated by Robyn Gibson called Parallels & Peripheries at the New York Academy of Art until March 7th, 2021. He comes from the Bronx and he uses contemporary art as a vehicle to redefine how we see ourselves and the world around us. He comes from Ghana, and he's a cultural critic that has organized exhibitions and programs at commercial and non-profit spaces around the globe, from New York to Rome.
He runs a global collective called Art Noir that I asked him about, which is a global collective of culturalists who designed multimodal experiences aimed to engage this generation's dynamic and diverse creative class. Art Noir endeavors to celebrate the artistry and creativity by black and brown artists around the world via virtual and in-person experiences.
I hope you enjoy the following conversation for Whitehot Magazine.
Noah Becker: I wanted to ask you about the show that you co-curated called Parallels & Peripheries at the New York Academy of Art.
Larry Ossei-Mensah: Okay. So it's an exhibition that I was invited by the Academy to organize, and part of it started with a text that my co-curator Robyn wrote. Robyn is an alum of the Academy - Robyn Gibson. And she just wrote reflecting on her experience as an African-American woman at the Academy, the challenges of that and I think a lot of that really was inspired by the events that happened last summer, the murder of George Floyd and the reinvigoration of the Black Lives Matter Movement. I think also it's just a reckoning across industries... I think it's a reevaluation, I hope, across industries, particularly in the art world where institutions really have to look at themselves in the mirror.
Becker: Explain more about how you curated the exhibition...
Ossei-Mensah: Well, the institutions really need to kind of evaluate or begin to evaluate how complicit they've been in a lot of this systematic oppression, systematic racism, even down to things like microaggression - which I think we don't talk about a lot. You know, how challenging is it to be a student of color in an environment where there may not be many students who look like you, professors that look like you - how do you develop the tools to kind of navigate these spaces? And so Robyn Gibson wrote this text and the NY Academy invited me to collaborate with the organizing of this exhibition, meditating on the BIPOC community at the New York Academy of Art. So thinking about alums, thinking about current students, faculty, visiting lecturers - I started there.
So for me, that was an exciting opportunity. You know, one being cognizant that this is an academy's history. Having had friends who've worked there, knowing artists like Arcmanoro Niles, Naudline Pierre and others who are graduates from there in addition to Robin Gibson. And for me, this is an opportunity to ask a question, right? And so Parallels and Peripheries is a series that's been narrative. I launched it in 2018 after seeing, Take Me I'm Yours in Rome. I curated an exhibition and group show in Rome and I was at Villa Medici. You know, I was just reading about that show and I'm like, wow, it's interrogating these same set of ideas, obviously changing the artists who were part of the conversation for like 15 years.
Becker: Are the artists alumni of the New York Academy, or are most of them artists from outside the Academy?
Ossei-Mensah: The majority are artists who have an affiliation with the Academy. So, either they're teaching there currently, either they've graduated, or they're current students. And then we have a couple who are not alum, but were visiting lecturers at the Academy...
Becker: Right, because I was looking at some of the work and it's fairly representational, although maybe I missed some of it, is there some abstraction in the show or is it mainly representational?
Ossei-Mensah: No, it's not really about abstraction because I think the impetus, the subtext is practice and presence and really thinking about this notion of a certain presence in a space where you might not feel like you're seen. Right? And so, for me, as we were going through the process and it was something that we have reflected on. People want to feel seen...
Becker: So you were thinking about the NY Academy in a way?
Ossei-Mensah: Yes, and I think it was also an opportunity for the institution to kind of re-engage those folks - and so it's something I thought about. So it's not something that I glossed over, but I think when Robyn and I were talking about the show, (she has two ceramic pieces in the show), and I think Jean Shin has a sculpture in the show, so we were thinking about where are the opportunities to include other modes of making? David Antonio Cruz has a video piece in the show - so we thought about that. But in my gut, I was like, this, this just makes more sense knowing who the audience is going to be. And knowing that the Academy, that's what they're known for, whether it's sculpture or painting - it's knid of a representational history.
Becker: I've been to a number of the NY Academy galas and have been to the studios with the artists. It's definitely an interesting place and a much needed place for that kind of approach to figuration and that kind of thing. I'm not sure what New York would be like without it actually, it's launched a lot of really interesting artists.
Ossei-Mensah: Yeah and I think it's like, I think about the Academy, I think about the artistry. There's so many artists that I know who have made a career, some I would consider masters, who didn't go to these lauded MFA programs. But went to the NY Academy or went to the Art Students League or other kinds of programs that exist to really kind of just refine their craft and master their craft and I think that's one thing that the Academy definitely has offered to students.
Becker: And the other institutions?
Ossei-Mensah: I think many higher-ed institutions, there's still a lot of work to be done towards equity, creating an environment where you feel seen, and that's just kind of a natural human inclination - and it's been really great. The feedback that I've been getting from all the artists that have been participating, just being thankful, because the reality is that just because you get an MFA does not guarantee you're going to have this like hot shot career, right?
Becker: That's true and I agree...
Ossei Mensah: For some artists, they've been blessed and they're working, and they have things going on, and then others not, and that's just kind of the reality of how MFA's work. There were a couple of dealers that I know who went and they were asking questions about particular artists. And so my hope is that they engage those artists in a conversation and then hopefully that manifests into some type of working relationship or even just inclusion and future profit. WM
Tassy Payne, Staff Reporter
March 22, 2017
Life stories and experiences aren’t always easily shared with others through word of mouth alone.
Although some people share their experiences through writing, others share it through art.
With the stroke of their paintbrushes, the sensitive touch of the oil pastel against the canvas or a flash from one’s camera becomes various pieces from different artists who represent black lives through black art.
The #BlackArtMatters, is an exhibit that opened Friday, Feb. 3 at the Carnegie Art and History Center in downtown New Albany.
Dan Pfalzgraf, the curator of the Carnegie Art and History Center, said this exhibit stemmed from the Black Lives Matter movement.
Pfalzgraf said the goal of the exhibit was to bring forward thoughts and feelings many share with the artists and to develop a sense of empathy with those unfamiliar with these experiences.
He said this show took a few years to pull together and that this was his first full exhibit he curated for the space. He said this was a time for him and the center to assemble putting together space for the community to see the stories of the culture the artists were trying to tell.
There are a mix of national and young local artists featured in the exhibit.
Delesha Thomas, public relations associate at the Carnegie Art and History Center, said she has seen many new faces at this exhibit.
She said the momentum has been good and the center has been receiving a lot of positive feedback. Thomas said she hopes the exhibit smooths out the misconceptions of what Black Lives Matters is.
One of the many experiences shared in this exhibit is self-love.
Lania Roberts, a junior in painting at Syracuse University, Louisville native and one of the artists in the exhibit, said expressing her journey of self-love was a huge part of her art.
Roberts said as a black woman and as a big girl, she is at the bottom of the social hierarchy. But with her art, she said she has broken down barriers of self-hatred and advertisements’ definition of beauty.
She said she found a way to be successful, love herself and share with other people.
In terms of other people’s artwork in this exhibit, Roberts said she hopes others will be open to new perspectives and to see what the world really looks like.
“The American dream is seen through ads [and] power structures but they don’t include blacks inside galleries,” Roberts said. “This [exhibit] shows the negative remnants of effects living inside a dream instead of reality. Take a taste of the reality we are in and realize we’re not in a dream.”
One of the negative remnants of the American Dream is the issue of police brutality.
In an article from the International Business Times, reporter Janice Williams said in Sept. 2016 that 173 blacks were killed by police.
Roberts said this past semester she was distraught and angered by the news of police brutality in the U.S.
She said she went to her mentor and asked what she could do with her art about this.
“I said to her, ‘I don’t think a self-portrait will be good enough,’” Roberts said. “But she told me that something like this is what we need right now.”
Roberts said Pfalzgraf had seen her videos and knew about her being a part of the Louisville Visual Art Associations. In the summer of 2016, Pfalzgraf emailed her that he’d be starting this show and he wanted her to be a part of it. When Pfalzgraf told her what the exhibit was about and that he wanted her to create something, she sent her artwork to him so it could be put in the show.
Roberts is currently studying abroad in Florence, Italy, but she said she hopes those who look at her work will take in her art however they please and take their thoughts home with them. She said if someone looks at her work and says it’s overly confident and shallow, too much self love, she has done her job.
“My expression gives you the chance to react and you get to take that home with you,” Roberts said. “Take it however you want.”
Robyn Gibson, a Louisville native and first year graduate student in painting at the New York Academy of Art, said she wanted to create something that would combat silenced voices in a positive way during a time when many people feel they don’t have a voice.
In the corner of the Carnegie Art and History Center, to the right of Shawn Michael Warren’s “The Promised Land,” are nine 5×5 panels of oil paintings of Gibson’s family and friends from Louisville.
Gibson also interviewed and recorded the nine people she painted to develop an opportunity for others to learn about their lives and stories, and for others to develop an understanding on who they are. The recording of the interviews are on an iPad, which is on the left of the nine portraits.
Gibson said as far as scale, detail, presentation and interview questions, she wanted to entice the viewer to get close, interact, listen to understand, and really respect each individual she’s painted.
“I believe my work is important not because it gives a voice to those who feel they don’t have one but because it’s a platform,” Gibson said.
Gibson said she just wanted to create a space for each person to be true to who they are and paint them in a way that’s consistent with who they are and draws people in.
With this piece, Gibson wants audience members to be patient and take the time to interact with her work. She said the interviews are important and she wants people to listen to them.
“I want them to get close to the portraits and see the details,” Gibson said. “I also hope that they can kind of see a bit of each person’s personality in the paintings as they listen to their stories. Each person is important, and their stories deserve to be listened to.”
In terms of other artists’ work in this exhibit, Gibson said she hopes the audience will take in the work and appreciate it from an aesthetic point of view, as well as come out of it thinking in a way they may not have before viewing the show.
“The work is both visually appealing and thought provoking,” Gibson said. “I also hope it gets people talking and inspired to create something or participate in the movement through their own form of activism, whatever that looks like to them.”
Gibson said she feels like she is part of something bigger than herself, and contributing to a movement that is both controversial and necessary.
“Through these works the viewer can partake in a movement and each artist has contributed to that movement in their own relevant way,” Gibson said.
Pfalzgraf said this was not an anti-white exhibit, but is an exhibit that takes the time to celebrate black lives.
He said compassion and fellowship are keys to overcoming the issues that have given rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Celebrating the African American experience hasn’t had enough due shared in the art world,” Pfalzgraf said.
Pfalzgraf said by using the power of art, he hoped this exhibit would become a part of a greater movement to promote growth, love and healing within society.
“Until people see eye to eye with respect. Until we see ourselves in each other, there will be a need for the #BlackLivesMatter call,” Pfalzgraf said.
On March 31 the center will be hosting a panel discussion from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. with Fahamu Pecou, Stephen Flemister and Scherazade Tillet, artists whose work is in the exhibit. The program will explore artists’ histories, ideas of public and private identities, and how current events relate and inform each other’s work. The discussion will be moderated by Kaila Story and Jaison Gardner, WFPL’s “Strange Fruit” podcast team.
This exhibit ends April 8, 2017.