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Rafael Sánchez and Kathleen White

Earth Work

February 1st – March 19th, 2022

Earth Work

Rafael Sánchez, Earth Work, Install View 2022

Rafael Sánchez (b. 1960, Havana, Cuba) and Kathleen White (1960, Fall River, MA – 2014, New York) began to collaborate alongside their romantic partnership in Downtown New York in the mid-2000’s. Meeting one another amidst the ongoing AIDS crisis and post–9/11 New York, each artist found their practice touching on themes of grief, mortality, and caregiving, yet their most common point of intersection was an ability to glean raw material from New York City, down to its most urban and manmade details such as concrete and nightlife. Throughout the 1990s, White created the series Spirits of Manhattan, a multimedia installation integrating human hair into drawings and sculptures. The ostensibly organic matter around which the series was created was made from the discarded wigs of drag queens who had died of HIV and AIDS, marginalized figures with no one to claim their belongings. Meanwhile, Sánchez, a performance artist with a cross-gendered persona, would paint with what they termed “conductive” materials—medicine, makeup, asphalt sealant—materially connecting their delicately rendered, celestial and elusive imagery to the city streets and club scenes. One of the pair's central, ongoing collaborations was a book table stationed on Hudson Street, in front of Sánchez’s apartment, from which the artists would sell used books, found objects, and at times, selections from their own libraries. Establishing a locus of intellectual exchange, on a busy street named for a historical site of trade and commerce, the artists—approaching the project as an ongoing performance—set up camp at the book table on a daily basis, their project refracting the city’s rhythms and traffic through the prism of its ecological footprint. Sánchez maintains the book stand to this day.

Upon White’s death from cancer in 2014, Sánchez became both the executor of her estate and the keeper of the Sánchez-White Archive, which preserves both artists’ work, collaborations, ephemera, and legacies. The exhibition surveys each artist’s practice individually, while highlighting the points of intersection between their practices—both intentional and serendipitous, at times several decades apart, one artist unknowingly, perhaps unconsciously, predating the other. This exhibition is the artists' first two-person exhibition in New York, and will coincide with the first museum presentation by the artists, Kathleen White & Rafael Sánchez: Messages to the Future, at the Fall River Museum of Contemporary Art, in White’s hometown (on view through April 14th).

—Katherine Siboni

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