Jacolby Satterwhite’s exhibition You’re at home is an immersive environment revolving around the artist’s digitally-animated series Birds in Paradise, which constructs mythological, queer universes derived from American consumerism, pop culture, African folklore, ritual, and personal narratives.
Inspired by early 90s digital media like Final Fantasy and Daft Punk’s 2003 animated album-length film Interstella 5555, Birds in Paradise is set—in large part—within a giant coliseum, a recurring architectural motif that Satterwhite likens to the archetypal 360° viewing experience of ancient Rome. Satterwhite himself becomes a repetitive presence, dancing alongside multitudes of digital avatars, mythological creatures-turned-machines, geometric architectures that swell and shift, and leather-clad performers and muses—all of which move ritualistically to Satterwhite’s choreography; its machine-like movement is equally influenced by voguing and Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s pared down, repetitive gestures, reflecting a kind of banal labor performed by citizens of a theoretical society with no social classes. Alongside these animations, real-life drone footage of forest fires, glacial melt, and other related imagery nod to impending climate catastrophe, while scenes in which Satterwhite is hung upside-down and whipped with drop cloths or baptized in a river nod to African rituals of regeneration and rebirth, over which the artist’s mother, Patricia Satterwhite, sings the lyrics “born to be free.”
Suffering from schizophrenia for much of her lifetime, Patricia sought refuge in creative practices, taking up singing and drawing. She longed to be a pop star, leaving behind cassette tapes of a capella recordings, the lyrics of which are derived from folk music, gospel, and spirituals. Satterwhite and Nick Weiss, together forming the band PAT, overlay Patricia’s voice onto propulsive dance tracks that are featured in Birds in Paradise as well as collected into a double LP album, Love Will Find A Way Home, which is stocked on shelves in a gift store replete with VR “listening stations” that conjure 90s music stores, such as Tower Records. The album’s track listing has been turned into neon, which animates the exhibition.
Patricia also created hundreds of drawings that portray humdrum objects of domestic material culture, lines of consumer goods she longed to be on the QVC shopping network where she sent them to, as well as patent offices—an avenue for potential fame and fortune that never came to be. The drawings became increasingly abstract and provisional as her condition worsened. Satterwhite has translated them into the digital architectures and environments featured in Birds in Paradise. They have also become 3D printed objects that are displayed in four large shelving units. One, You’re a Winner, features footballs and picture frames. Another, Drugs, contains pill bottles and tabloid magazines touting celebrity scandals. Two more units, Money and The American Dream, contain curios of collective, consumer desire. The raw materials of Patricia’s legacy, meanwhile, stand alone as an adjacent presentation within You’re at home. These drawings and songs were all made inside Patricia’ own home, a place she rarely left for almost 20 years. While Patricia’s work in Birds in Paradise is so altered as to be nearly unidentifiable, her disembodied presence nonetheless creates a thread of continuity, one in which authorship between mother and son is intentionally blurred.
Jacolby Satterwhite: You’re at home is made possible with support from Ultimaker. This exhibition is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Image courtesy the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York.
Please note that this exhibition contains nudity and adult content. The films projected on center stage within the exhibition contain flashing and strobe lights.
About the Artist
Jacolby Satterwhite was born in 1986 in Columbia, South Carolina. He received his BFA from the Maryland Institute College of Arts, Baltimore and his MFA from the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. Satterwhite’s work has been presented in numerous exhibitions both in the United States and in Europe, including most recently at Whitechapel Gallery, London (2019); the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2019); the Minneapolis Insititute of Art (2019); the 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 Art, San Francisco (2017); and the 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 Contemporary Art Kiasma, Helsinki; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, among others. In 2019, Satterwhite collaborated with Solange Knowles on her visual album, When I Get Home. Upcoming solo shows will be presented in the fall of 2019 at Fabric Workshop & Museum, Philadelphia and Pioneer Works, New York.