Nikita Gale: DESCENT
Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles, United States22 Sep 2018 - 03 Nov 2018
Commonwealth and Council presents DESCENT, an exhibition of new work by Nikita Gale [name redacted]. The sights and sounds of dissent manifested in the streets represent for Gale a problematic inheritance—rearticulating existing public structures while at the same time developing new sites for political action and expression.
Gale’s installation work interrogates this complicated intersection, drawing on postwar industrial architecture and design—particularly, from the mid-century economic boom and the emergence of counterculture movements in the 1960s. Capitalism and mass-market aesthetics, cars and rock ‘n’ roll: public scaffolding for our shared political and social discourse—and potential resistance.
An open steel framework bisects the gallery. Like an entry colonnade, it designates a boundary between the space on either side; navigating this divide mediates one’s experience of the video and sculptural elements within. Whereas Gale’s previous work explored the domain of public expression, DESCENT goes in deep, turning to silence and the refusal to speak—what theorist Édouard Glissant calls opacity: absolute privacy, illegible from without, posited as a bulwark of dissent and a strategy of resistance for the oppressed.
For Gale, opaque refusal represents a parallel inheritance, passed down from protest movements and uprisings throughout history. In 1992, the Los Angeles uprising opened up a chasm amid the breakdown of civic discourse, public language and conversation—allowing a truer expression, consisting of action and destruction of property and bodies, to fill the streets: NO LANGUAGE, NO DISCOURSE. A generation before, the citizen insurgents of France took personal belongings from their homes and put them in the streets, blocking traffic, encrypting the city and rendering it unnavigable. This is how oppressed groups assert opacity and refusal.
I’m a descendant of systems of understanding the environment and systems in which the most valuable thing you have is your name.
The artist was named Nikita by her parents upon birth. She inherited a surname, which was not Gale. (“Gale” is a middle name several female members of her family on the maternal side share). The legal name which Gale refuses is the one by which she is identified by the government, by the system—capitalism and law. Gale’s disavowal calls out that name as a marker of state surveillance, exploitation, and oppression.
Nikita Gale (b. 1983, Anchorage, Alaska) grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and currently lives and works in Inglewood, California. She received her BA from Yale University in 2006 and MFA from UCLA in 2016. Gale has had solo shows at 56 Henry in New York, The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, and Artist Curated Projects in Los Angeles. Recent group exhibitions include Made in L.A. 2018 at the Hammer and shows at anonymous gallery, Mexico City; Ceysson & Bénétière, Paris; Reyes Projects, Detroit; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Rodeo, London; LAXART, Los Angeles; and the Samuel Dorksy Museum, New Paltz. Gale has been featured in The New York Times, Artforum, Art21, and Art Papers, and is the recipient of the Rema Hort Mann Emerging Artist Grant, 2017; the Toby Devan Lewis Fellowship Award, UCLA, 2016; the National Endowment for the Arts Southern Constellations Fellowship, 2013; and residencies at the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (2011-14) and the Center for Photography at Woodstock (2011).