12 January – 17 February 2024
Sydney G. James
Girl Raised In Detroit
Presented by Janel Ombard Gallery
Sydney G. James
Jane Lombard Gallery is pleased to present Girl Raised in Detroit, a solo exhibition by Detroit-based artist Sydney G. James. Following her recent exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Girl Raised in Detroit will feature new and existing large-scale sculptural paintings and installations. Inspired by her multifaceted career as a muralist, clothing designer, and cultural organizer, the works continue James’ exploration into themes of community, connectivity, and identity.
Known for taking on the walls of buildings as her substrate of choice, James pares down her portraits for Girl Raised in Detroit by a magnitude that delicately balances intimacy with monumentality. On canvas, James delineates members of her immediate circle on a larger-than-life scale using striking, vivid colors that evoke joy, pain, strength, and resilience. Orchestrating an artist-muse relationship that speaks to her subjects’ lived experiences and personal histories, James fosters an environment wherein both parties can engage in reciprocal emotional support. In her series Bereavement?, James depicts her subjects respectively shedding masks made from repurposed clothing items that carry personal traumas, acknowledging the freighted history of sequestering racial struggles behind a façade. The artist seeks to establish spaces of freedom and security that mirror the creative sanctuaries of the city that raised her. In The Westside Johnsons, James recreates her uncle Maurice’s 70s-era living room in the downstairs gallery. Decor, furniture, and avocado green walls provide a sense of familial security that invites visitors to a place and time that served as a sanctuary for James.
The focus of the installation, a large-scale family portrait inspired by a photograph taken on July 4, 1978, depicts a cheerful and welcoming Maurice surrounded by his eleven siblings. With a posture or gaze, The Westside Johnsons communicates the strength offered by a unified and loving family structure, their expressive faces brimming with humor and pride. The installation immerses viewers in the hospitality of James’ extended family as they are invited to sit and contemplate the bounds of and criteria for safety and freedom.