4 January – 3 February 2024
Leave Room For The Wind
Presented by Lehmann Maupin
Born in St. Louis, MO (1993) and currently based in New Haven, CT, Chambers creates vibrant paintings that frequently portray scenes of leisure, joy, and quiet contemplation. In his newest body of work, Chambers continues his examination of the contemporary role of leisure—focusing on its relationship to nature—and explores how art can function as a mode for understanding, recontextualizing, or renegotiating one’s relationship to the world. Leave Room for the Wind coincides with the artist’s debut solo museum exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (on view through February 15, 2024) and marks the artist’s first major solo exhibition in New York.
Chambers is often inspired by literature and has cited Magical Realism, alongside writings by W.E.B. Du Bois, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin, as significantly influential to his practice. For Leave Room for the Wind, Chambers turned to poetry, engaging with the writing of Tracy K. Smith, Ocean Vuong, and Mary Oliver. The artist took particular inspiration from Oliver’s book-length poem The leaf and the Cloud, in which the author states “I will leave room for the wind combing the grass, / for the feather falling out of the grouse’s fan-tail, / and fluttering down, like a song.” Drawing simultaneously from the art historical cannon and combining fundamental tenets from formal models like color field painting and gestural abstraction, in this body of work Chambers explores the recreational activity of kite flying, considering what it might mean to “leave room for the wind” as Oliver suggests.
Across the exhibition Chambers situates his subjects in vibrant landscapes that evoke both the sublime and the surreal. The richly-hued paintings depict open fields saturated in primary hues of red, yellow, and blue, many of which are populated by figures flying kites. The pastime traces its origins to military use (kites were originally tools for signaling, observation, and even the delivery of ammunition), but today is profoundly associated with recreation and the outdoors. A deeply domestic activity pursued solely for its own sake, kite flying is unconnected with external recognition or reward—an enjoyable way to spend time doing nothing.
Chambers’ omission of any buildings or landmarks in this series creates a sense of privacy, and none of his figures engage the viewer. In the titular painting Leave Room for the Wind, a pair of children race across a blue-green field trailed by a set of translucent kites, while in another work two young boys stand still, flying blue, yellow, and purple kites across a pink-red sky. The children appear fully removed from the rhythms of daily life, unbound by time or expectations, completely immersed in their activities. In these scenes and throughout the exhibition, Chambers proposes that enjoyment, stillness, or wonder can act as a gateway to private life, and that leisure and recreation are critical to replenishing one’s interiority. Leave Room for the Wind calls us to remember our capacity for stillness, and reminds us of what we might find when we allow ourselves to venture there.