Smithsonian American Art Museum - Contemporary Artist Series

Requiem for Charleston is currently on view in the Lincoln Gallery at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM). I was invited to speak about Requiem for Charleston for SAAM's Contemporary Artist Series. I'm looking forward to sharing the interview with you when it becomes available. 

Joanna Marsh, Senior Curator of Contemporary Interpretation, writes:

Requiem for Charleston honors the nine men and women who died in a shooting on June 17, 2015, inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Tambourines with black lambskin heads are inscribed with the victims' names, while the drums of others are made of polished black acrylic that reflect the faces of viewers, suggesting the collective tragedy of the attack. Artist Lava Thomas chose to memorialize the dead with tambourines because of their cultural and historical significance, particularly their role in African American musical traditions--including protest songs of the civil rights era. In the days following the Charleston massacre, tambourines, cymbals, and bells rang throughout the community as a call for unity and support. Here the instruments hang motionless, in silent tribute to the lives lost. 
Joanna Marsh, Senior Curator of Contemporary Interpretation, Anne Showalter, Education Research Specialist, yours truly, and Sarah Newman, Dicke Curator of Contemporary Art.

Joanna Marsh, Senior Curator of Contemporary Interpretation, Anne Showalter, Education Research Specialist, yours truly, and Sarah Newman, Dicke Curator of Contemporary Art.

"With Liberty and Justice for Some," at Walter Maciel Gallery

I was one of several artists invited to participate in the group exhibition "With Liberty and Justice for Some," co-curated by Monica Lundy on view at Walter Maciel Gallery. The exhibition includes over 100 portraits of immigrants: artists, friends, relatives, historical figures, politicians and celebrities. A portion of proceeds from the exhibition go to organizations that provide support to marginalized communities, including: ACLU, Trevor Project , Center for Reproductive Rights , Planned Parenthood , LA LGBT Center and The SF LGBT Center

The exhibition received a wonderful review in the Huffington Post and a video and write up on KQED!

Exhibition Dates: January 7 - March 4
Walter Maciel Gallery
2642 S. La Cienega Blvd.
Culver City, CA 

The Human Spirit: Contemporary Figuration as an Expression of Humanism at Richmond Art Center

Lava Thomas                        "Mildred"   Graphite on paper panel  2015

Lava Thomas                      


Graphite on paper panel


Opening Reception

Saturday March 19th 5:30 to 7:30 pm

2540 Barrett Avenue
Richmond, California 94804


Bridging the Art Center’s historical role in presenting formative exhibitions of the Bay Area Figurative artists in the 1950s, The Human Spirit: Contemporary Figuration as an Expression of Humanism will extend our consideration of this legacy to the work of over 20 contemporary Bay Area artists who have continued and expanded the figurative art tradition through paintings, sculpture, photography, video, and performance. This survey will include the work of Elmer Bischoff, Joan Brown, Terry St. John, Christopher Brown, Charles Garabedian, and Enrique Chagoya. Following a highly personal path with exuberant use of materials and iconography, these artists have forged visual language built on vocabularies including folk, medieval, aboriginal, and outsider art. The work has engaged popular culture, autobiography, inner landscape and dream to produce unusual palettes, inflected mark making, and often dizzying perspectives.

Pursuing other modes of autobiography, social commentary, and cultural reflection, the sculpture, film, video, and performance of Lava Thomas, Kota Ezawa, Farley Gwazda, and Allan deSouza draw the painted dialogue into other media. From the intimacy of the photography of Judy Dater, Katy Grannan, and Richard Misrach, to the beading and capturing of images in the memorial hangings of Taraneh Hemami, the myriad manifestations of the human visage and the human spirit for survival extend this exhibition beyond the personal or the domestic. In a time of social, economic, and environmental instability, the art employing the human figure to illuminate the struggles and spirit of contemporary life is of greater power and significance than it has been in nearly a century.

You are welcome to attend our free opening reception on March 19. Click here for more details.

Grand opening of Minnesota Street Project with "These American Lives" at Rena Bransten Gallery

Opening reception Friday, March 18

6- 10 pm

San Francisco, CA 94107

Lava Thomas                                                                                                                      Requiem for Charleston (detail) 2016

Lava Thomas                                                                                                                      Requiem for Charleston (detail) 2016

MAR 18–MAY 14, 2016

Rena Bransten Gallery is pleased to present the opening exhibition at 1275 Minnesota, These American Lives, exploring the collision of past and present, humor and horror, beauty and tragedy.  Themes that are simultaneously part of the human experience and uniquely American: the vanishing west, urbanization, surveillance, displacement, insurrection, and the increasingly unattainable American Dream, are explored by artists John Baldessari, Dawoud Bey, Lee Friedlander, Rupert Garcia, Doug Hall, Lewis Hine, Hung Liu, Chip Lord, Vik Muniz, Tameka Norris, Aaron Siskin, Lava Thomas, John Waters, and Henry Wessel, among others.  This exhibition presents a multiplicity of voices, narratives and subjects, sometimes reframing and sometimes affirming the American experience.

Dawoud Bey, Hung Liu, and John Waters address events from America’s history.  Bey’s portraits from The Birmingham Project mark the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church. Hung Liu contemporizes Russell Lee’s FSA image of a migrant family, and John Waters, ever one to revel in the ride from the sacred to the profane, corrupts stock images of the Kennedys as they deplane Air Force One in Dallas, and an iconic image of a segregated drinking fountain.  

Rupert Garcia and Lava Thomas respond to unconscionable events and circumstance with a beauty that both abates and enhances the reference.  Thomas addresses the recent Charleston shooting using a silent chorus of black tambourines; Rupert Garcia’s politically charged silkscreens from the late sixties and early seventies use intense color and pop culture imagery to decry social and racial injustice.

Through photography, performance, and painting, Tameka Norris claims the right to her body and image as she explores issues of race, gender, and politics.  Drawing on her experiences Norris assumes a range of identities:  a black woman, a sexy woman, an educated elite, a hip hop star, and an artist with roots in the deep American South.

Doug Hall’s Neighborhood Watch considers advances in camera technologies as tools of surveillance, demonstrating the anxiety that accompanies these innovations. Using a central image taken from a bird’s eye view, Hall extracts and enlarges details exposing people at work or children at play – unaware of being caught on camera.  Similarly anxiety invoking, Henry Wessel’s photographs reveal hidden domestic life, as with the ironically titled Pink Cup, a black and white image of a cup balanced precariously on a countertop.  

Vik Muniz and Chip Lord pay homage to American car culture and comment on the automobile as a manifestation of financial success and the promise of the open road.  Vik Muniz, cutting and collaging personal, vintage, black and white photographs and their inscriptions to create Album, New Car, 2014, presents an image that recalls all our family albums – a man proudly posing in front of his house with his foot on the fender.  Chip Lord has partnered with Hayden Pedigo, a 21 year old musician and native of Amarillo, TX, to produce a single channel time based video, Greetings from Amarillo.