“Howardena Pindell: Rope/ Fire/Water” is a show about return: returning to the space of the art institution, revisiting abandoned forms of media, and reexamining events in history that seem to echo present crises. For its inaugural show following its closure due to COVID-19, The Shed commissioned Howardena Pindell to complete an unrealized project a half-century in the making, her first video work in 25 years.
A master at stitching together the personal and the political—and even revealing the seamlessness of the two—Pindell is known for multiple strains of work: dense, painstakingly textured abstract canvases of overlaid circles of punched out paper; canvases of collaged photographs and text which criticize racism, sexism, and xenophobia; and television drawings, where arrows and numbers trace political and emotional sweeps of force over a television screen.
This solo show unveils a pair of large-scale mixed-media paintings as well as a number of abstract paintings. The titular video work meditates on the continuing violence against Black people in the United States. Sparked by an image of a lynched Black man which has haunted the 77-year-old artist since childhood, the video is bookended by the names of those who have been lynched and by those who have died at the hands of police.
Howardena Pindell, Slavery Memorial: Lash 1998 – 99, Mixed media on canvas. 55 1/2 x 136 inches. Courtesy the artist, Garth Greenan Gallery, and Victoria Miro Gallery.