It’s no surprise the talented artist Shantell Martin has another solo show. Recently she’s been collaborating with everyone, from Refinery29 to Kendrick Lamar. Martin has been drawing her simple black and white linework since she was a little girl in London. Growing up, she felt out of place as the only mixed-race child in her neighborhood. Today, she uses her past experiences to enrich her whimsical visual storytelling. For instance, Who are you? is a question that often shows up in her work and it’s a question she’s been reflecting upon since childhood. “I’m obsessed with this question of ‘who are you,’ because it’s about figuring out my way in life,” Shantell Martin explains in an interview with Vouge by Antwaun Sargent.
In her new exhibition, Someday We Can, she completely transformed the space with her trademark linework. This exhibit was the first time an artist simultaneously installs work at the museum and in the community while working with the Albright-Knox’s Public Art Initiative. Being in the space feels as though you’ve stepped into Martin’s subconscious. From toys to walls to people, nothing is off limits with her classic black marker. In an initial glance, her work may seem like simple doodles. But once you start delving deeper and reading her work, you realize how provocative her work can be. For example, one phrase found in the mural on the wall of the exhibit was:
You watch too much
You read too much
You bye too much
The visual language feels like her subconscious because often times her phrases don’t completely make sense. But she gives you just enough content to consume so that you can formulate your own thoughts and make your own meaning of her work. Her voice is present, but it’s not overwhelming. In one part of the mural, she simply wrote “now” in the place of the mouth of her signature face. These seemingly disparate statements make you reflect on your own life. It’s human nature to make meaning out of everything.
If you’re in the area or have a free weekend, I recommend you check out her show which will be on until the beginning of summer.
Showing: March 11, 2017 – June 25, 2017
Location: Albright-Knox Art Gallery
1285 Elmwood Ave. Buffalo, New York 14222
Hours: Tu-Sun 10am-5pm, Closed on Monday
All photography belongs to Connie Tsang and Shantell Martin.1