Exhibitions

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Stephen Towns - The Night Light Fell from the Sky

De Buck Gallery, New York
09/26/2019 - 10/26/2019

De Buck Gallery is delighted to announce the representation of Stephen Towns, with an upcoming solo exhibition titled ‘The Night Light Fell from the Sky.’ This will be Towns’ first solo exhibition with the gallery and his first solo exhibition in New York. The exhibition will be on view from Thursday, September 26th, through Saturday, October 26th. An opening reception will be held at the gallery, 507 W 27th Street, New York, on Thursday, October 3rd, from 6-8 PM.

Stephen Towns is a painter and a fiber artist working primarily in oil, acrylic, and quilting, exploring how American history influences contemporary society. His paintings look at the African Diaspora and draw visual inspiration from Medieval altarpieces, impressionist paintings, and wax cloth prints. The work he creates is deeply rooted in the constructs of race and its effects on society. It is developed in direct response to issues that have affected African-American culture– issues such as loss of ancestral roots, slavery, class, education, skin tone, and religion. The subjects in Towns’ paintings are not only glimpses of the sitters; they are also a reflection of himself and mirror his struggle to attain a sense of self-knowledge, self-worth, and spirituality. His practice provides an avenue for him to process all that he has learned about the violence of American history and imparted a framework on how to navigate and articulate the current anger and frustration that exists throughout the world today.

His on-going quilt series celebrates the aesthetic traditions of African American women while exploring America’s history of slavery and labor. Towns is a self-taught quilter, and began the series in 2014 with the piece, Birth of a Nation, which was created to amplify the idea that “black women have in many ways fed a nation.” The quilts explore how fabric preserves memory, not only through the historical narratives Towns depicts of African Americans, including references to Nat Turner and most recently, Harriet Tubman, but also in his deeply personal connection to his materials. Towns weaves his connection to women’s history into the work by hand-stitching pieces of fabric worn by his mother and late sister, Mabel. Ten of Town’s quilts were featured in an exhibition in the American wing of the Baltimore Museum of Art in 2018.

On November 12, 1833, the Leonid meteor shower rained a dazzling array of light all over the night sky. Occurring 28 years before the American Civil War, this scene was so spectacular that it incited both fear and wonder all over the world. By showing the meteor shower through the experience of enslaved people at the time, the paintings and quilts in ‘The Night Light Fell from the Sky’ use this pivotal celestial event as a collective moment of freedom and revelation.

The exhibition is comprised of two series of works, “An Affirmation” and “A Declaration.” “An Affirmation” is a series of mixed-media works incorporating paint, metal leaf and fabric. Each work features a figure wading in water encompassed by the meteor shower. References for figures were borrowed from archival images of American Civil War contraband camps. Each image and title in the Affirmation series draws upon the ability of the individual to develop a powerful sense of self-awareness to declare their freedom. The works in “A Declaration” are a series of quilts revolving around collective thinking. Each quilt features a series of figures observing the meteor shower. The titles and images in each work allude to collective thinking and obstacles a group of people may endure in reaching a goal.

Stephen Towns was born in 1980 in Lincolnville, South Carolina, and received a Bachelor of Fine Art in painting from the University of South Carolina. His work has been exhibited nationally, including solo exhibitions at the Baltimore Museum of Art, York College, Goucher College, as well as group exhibitions at Jack Shainman Gallery: The School, August Wilson Cultural Center, Arlington Art Center, Montpelier Arts Center, Star-Spangled Banner Flag House and Museum. His work has been featured in publications such as the New York Times, American Craft Council Magazine, and The Baltimore Sun. Towns was honored as the inaugural recipient of the 2016 Municipal Art Society of Baltimore Travel Prize and received a Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance Rubys Artist Grant in 2015. In 2018, Towns was a semi-finalist for Sondheim Artscape Prize and awarded an MD State Arts Council’s Individual Artist Award. Towns’ work is in private collections nationally and abroad, including the private collection of Art + Practice, artist Mark Bradford’s nonprofit based in Leimert Park, Los Angeles, National Museum of African American History and Culture, The Baltimore Museum of Art, the Nelson Atkins Museum, the City of Charleston, South Carolina, and the Petrucci Family Foundation.

Visit www.debuckgallery.com and join in the conversation on Instagram @debuckgallery #TheNightLightFellFromTheSky #stephentowns #debuckgallery

For more information and to receive a preview of the exhibition, please contact De Buck Gallery at collect@debuckgallery.com / +1 212 255 5735.

Image: We shall reap a great harvest, 2019, natural and synthetic fabric, nylon tulle, polyester and cotton thread, cotton/polyester blend batting, crystal glass beads, resin buttons, 44.75 x 34.75 in, 113.67 x 88.27 cm. Courtesy of the artist and De Buck Gallery.