Black Femme: Sovereign of WAP and the Virtual Realm
"WAP," here, refers, perhaps cheekily, to "Wireless Application Protocol," a technical mechanism to access data over a wireless mobile network. "Black Femme: Sovereign of WAP and the Virtual Realm"—a group show at Canada displaying works by artists Caitlin Cherry, Delphine Desane, Emily Manwaring, Kenya (Robinson), Sydney Vernon, and Qualeasha Wood—dissolves the restrictions on both the real and virtual Black femme body, as it exists in online and in-person spaces alike.
Black femmes, in all forms and media—stiff, red-browed, and regal in Desane's acrylic canvases, as twirling ballerinas in Manwaring's mixed media works, naturalistic in sketchy and forced perspective in Vernon's collages—pervade this show. The line between digital and analogue finds ecstatic expression in Cherry's Her Burnout Tesseract (2021) [pictured], a nine-foot canvas in which dancers and women teem in a wavering technicolor and black-and-white grid—and continues through Wood's fore the day you die, you gon' touch the sky (2021), in which a figure's eyes turned prayerfully upward, stigmata in her palms. Made on a Jacquard loom, which one could think of as an analog precursor to software programming, it includes both classical and contemporary subjects, from angels to cursors found in graphical user interfaces. Midway through the exhibition, a virtual performance will take place via live broadcast. But (Robinson)'s video work, Patriot Games (2021), which is up for the entire span of the show and splices footage of Whitney Houston with an awestruck audience, also explores the space between live performance and the inevitable mediation of it through digital and interpersonal means.
Caitlin Cherry, Her Burnout Tesseract, 2021. Oil on canvas, 58 x 104 1/2 inches.