ABOUT THE SHOW
Abigail DeVille: Bronx Heavens examines the myths and realities of local, familial and ancestral histories and the convoluted notion of freedom in a country fraught with oppression and racism. In particular, The Bronx has served as a sanctuary for immigrant and migrant communities over the last 120 years, including for Abigail DeVille and several generations of her family who have lived in the area and were part of the Great Migration. With a humanizing lens, DeVille’s work utilizes found materials and detritus to unearth forgotten narratives of communities of color. When these communities seek to reach another realm in pursuit of happiness, what does freedom mean? DeVille describes freedom as “amorphous, shapeshifting, and elusive” as her work further explores issues of identity, culture, and class.
The North gallery is transformed into a large-scale installation that includes a living room space housing paintings and sculptures related to familial histories and history of the Bronx. DeVille investigates how history is understood through family members and their belongings, drawing connections between people. Situated throughout the space are several “Libertas” sculptures inspired by the Roman Goddess of liberty who became the patron of freed enslaved people in Roman society. Juxtaposing materials that represent contradictory symbols of freedom, the pieces evoke complex narratives. A floor-to-ceiling monument of mannequin parts that are shrouded with a dark, punctured covering serves as an homage to the unknown inhabitants of the Bronx, referencing their invisible labor and layers of history that have been erased.
In the lobby is a space capsule, in which visitors are invited to enter, share their stories as if in a confessional booth, and be transported. With the sculpture comprising elements of an ancient temple, DeVille’s work creates a sense of time travel. On select days prior to the opening and during the course of the show, the space capsule travels to outdoor cultural festivals, schools, and senior centers in the Bronx to collect stories. Employing remnants entwined with their own pasts along with visitors’ participation and perspectives, DeVille constructs archives and memories of personal and collective stories.
Visitors can listen to the recordings in a large monolithic sculpture, which is a nod to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and a reminder of the past as we move forward. An installation comprising vintage television monitors examines different aspects of The Bronx’s history over the last 100 years. Overhead is a phoenix-like UFO sculpture, a spiritual and allegorical creature that symbolizes renewal and eternity.
DeVille’s exhibition reminds us that history is incomplete and provides a way for all to contribute their counter narratives and participate in space travel. Investigating the slippage of time, Bronx Heavens explores how humans and the land are part of the same cosmos—interconnected and entwined—-where past, present, and future collide. The exhibition invites visitors to imagine and experience alternative narratives, providing a portal to the future and hope through a critical lens.
Abigail DeVille: Bronx Heavens is curated by Eileen Jeng Lynch, Curator of Visual Arts, Wave Hill.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Abigail DeVille’s most recent solo exhibition was Light of Freedom, organized by Madison Square Park Conservancy (2020-21), and traveled to the Momentary at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR (2021) and the Hirshhorn Museum Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (2021-22). Other commissions and solo museum shows include The American Future, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, Portland (2018-19); Lift Every Voice and Sing (amerikanskie gorki) at Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (2017-2018); Empire State Works in Progress (2017) at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; No Space Hidden (Shelter) at Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2017-2018), and Only When It’s Dark Enough Can You See The Stars at The Contemporary, Baltimore (2016).
Recent group shows have been held at the Swiss Institute, New York (2022); Pioneer Works, Brooklyn (2021); Wave Hill, Bronx (2019); National Museum of Women in Arts, Washington, DC (2018); Socrates Sculpture Park, Queens (2016), Sculpture Center, Queens (2014), El Museo del Barrio, New York (2011, 2014), CAMH, Houston (2014); the Bronx Museum of the Arts; (2013), The 55th Venice Biennale (2013), The Studio Museum in Harlem (2012, 2014); ICA, Philadelphia (2012); New Museum (2012); and the Stedelijk Museum (2011). DeVille was a 2018 United States Artists Fellow, 2017-2018 Rome Prize fellow at the American Academy in Rome, 2015 Creative Capital grantee, 2014-15 fellow at The Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, and 2012 Joan Mitchell Foundation grant recipient. DeVille teaches in the Interdisciplinary Sculpture Department at the Maryland Institute College of Art in Baltimore and at Yale School of Art.
DeVille's work is in prominent collections, including The Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx; Centre National des Arts Plastiques (Cnap), Paris; Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco; Kaviar Factory, Henningsvaer; Memphis Brooks Museum of Art (MBMA), Memphis; Pinault Collection; and The Studio Museum in Harlem (New York).DeVille received her MFA from Yale University and her BFA from the Fashion Institute of Technology. DeVille was born in New York and works in the Bronx.
ABOUT THE CURATOR
Eileen Jeng Lynch is the Curator of Visual Arts at Wave Hill, where she creates exhibitions and programming that explore the intersections of nature, culture, and place, including commissioning artists on site-specific projects. She is committed to broadening access to the arts through her artist-centered and values-driven approach. Jeng Lynch organizes the Sunroom Project Space solo exhibitions for emerging artists, thematic shows in Glyndor Gallery, and the Winter Workspace program. She has served as a guest curator of exhibitions at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz, The Yard: City Hall Park, Trestle Gallery, Sperone Westwater, Lesley Heller Workspace, Dorsky Gallery Curatorial Programs, Garis & Hahn, and Radiator Gallery, among others. As the founder of Neumeraki, Jeng Lynch has also launched national and global community-based curatorial initiatives and consulted for artists, organizations, and a production company. Recent collaborations include programs with The Bronx Museum of the Arts; The Rivers Institute for Contemporary Art & Thought, New Orleans; Smack Mellon, Brooklyn; and Preservation Long Island, Cold Spring Harbor, among others. Previously, Jeng Lynch worked at RxArt, Sperone Westwater, and the Art Institute of Chicago in the Department of Contemporary Art. She received her MA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and BA from Syracuse University.
This exhibition is part of Our Stories, Our Voices––a year-long series of exhibitions and public programs celebrating the 50th Anniversary of The Bronx Museum of the Arts. To mark this milestone we are celebrating the cultural wealth of our communities and bringing to light the stories, voices, and visions of artists seeking a more just and equitable world.
Thank you to our generous supporters without whom our 50th Anniversary programming would not be possible.
Anonymous; Lily Auchincloss Foundation; Bloomberg Philanthropies; Anne Delaney; Agnes Gund; William Talbott Hillman Foundation; Donald A. Pels Charitable Trust; Sciame Construction, LLC; May & Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, Inc.; and, the Bronx Museum’s Board of Trustees. List in formation.