Kenya (Robinson)

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What is my work about?

I carry a #WHITEMANINMYPOCKET. I have often appeared in public with a box on my head and consider myself an artist, socialite, and philanthropist. Others have called me a mischief-maker and shit-starter. I cop to all of these. Mostly though, I am an international southerner, using privilege as plastic material, to get into grown folks’ business.

 

Artist Statement

I am not a nice girl. I resist the performed ignorance of whiteness and reject blackness-as-victimhood; y’all know what you’re doing and we are strong as hell. My practice is suit of armor, a purple velvet cocktail dress, a Tyvek paint suit and a pair of Hanes Her Way period panties, all rolled into one.  There was time where I longed for the conventional, happily applying a packaged set of expectations to my life. But I kept “accidentally” missing the turn at the next light, or oversleeping, overstepping and dining on my own foot.  For sure I wanted to do the “right” thing, because I was raised “right” – all southern fried and sanctified – groomed to be a college educated professional.  But then I dropped out of college and moved to Los Angeles, imagining that I might be a fashion designer, or something more interesting than Gainesville Florida.  At Los Angeles Trade Technical College, I did in fact become a fashion designer. A “nice” one – lots of big & tall menswear, swimsuit cover-ups for elderly ladies, American Apparel skivvies and bedazzled Marc Ecko polo shirts.  I was working for mass-market manufacturers, whose ultimate goal was a Wal-Mart account, while my ultimate goal was to live a chocolate version of Sex In The City.
I am not a nice girl, nor am I chocolate (obvs), but I am the type that will apply to an MFA program without an undergraduate degree.  And, for my first grad school critique, I’ll re-fashion a scrub brush with synthetic blonde hair, and wash the floor with it muttering, “all them fairytale broads had to work!”  Or I’ll couch surf for 13 weeks; call it Art, and then dare you dismiss the performances of domesticity executed by my hosts.  I’ll then make a wearable framework of PVC piping, shroud it in black glitter spandex, give it a drag name and convince friends and strangers to step in inside the box (the booth?) and become CHEEKY LaSHAE: Karaoke Universal.  I’ll even claim a 3½-inch plastic figure, an executive with a briefcase, as my personal totem, using its assumed white male privilege as a reminder of my own. I’ll join an old-made-made-new obsession with booty shaking (via YouTube vortex) and reframe it from an ass-eye perspective. On my birthday.  Uncle Luke would be proud. And of course, urban fiction is art material – Jesus Be A Lacefront and Baby Daddy Knows Best 3.
Nice girls don’t fart in office chairs.  They don’t critique large-scale sculptures covered in sugar or question online petitions against critic Ken Johnson.  Nice girls aren’t studio squatters or YMCA shower-ers.  They don’t write muthafucka in artist statements.  Nice girls don’t realize that a booking number is mostly an intended consequence of economic circumstance and skin color, not criminality.  Nice girls don’t resist categorization, nor do they vocalize that the notion of competition between artists is hooey – like comparing apples to orangutans.  But the woman I am is nothing nice.  I actually believe I have an important job to do while on this planet.  Living a willful life, doing what I most want to do, per Zora, Ida, Audre and Rita and Lindsey.  It feels like a hero’s journey and heroes aren’t nice. They are valiant, truthful, tenacious, teachable, collaborative and resourceful.  Slaying the Minotaur by following a singular thread.  All of my makings and markings and fartings are in fact a string pulled real tight.  On a bow, for the arrow.

EDUCATION
Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Madison (ME)
Yale University, New Haven (CT), US 2011 – 2013 (MFA, Sculpture)
Los Angeles Trade Technical College, Los Angeles (CA), US 2001- 2003 (AA, Apparel Design and Production)

SELECT EXHIBITIONS + PERFORMANCES
2015
Cindy Rucker Gallery, New York (NY), ‘Pussy Don’t Fail Me Now, Curated by Cindy Rucker (July – August)
Clocktower Productions, Red Hook (NY), #trashDAY, Live Radio Streamcast w/ Doreen Garner (onging)
Triangle Arts Open Studios, DUMBO, (NY), ‘CHEEKY LaSHAE: True or Falsetto’ (May 1, 2015)
University of the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas (USVI), ‘#TRASHDAY’, Live Radio Broadcast w/ Doreen Garner (Jan. 24, 2015

2014
RUSH Arts Gallery, New York (NY), ‘GIRL BYE!’, Curated by Rashaad Newsome
Cindy Rucker Gallery, New York (NY), ‘we seemed to be unanimously elected…’, Curated by Cindy Rucker
Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, Madison (ME), ‘CHEEKY LaSHAE at The Upper Field’ (performance)
Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, Madison (ME), ‘twerkTRON 062014 (or Kenya’s 37th Birthday)’ (performance)
Poets House, New York (NY), CHEEKY LaSHAE Presents KEVINYOUNGMONEY (performance)
Mike Shultis Studio, Brooklyn (NY), CHEEKY LaSHAE + The Red Bath Mat (performance)

2013
Instagram @kenya9 (online), ‘#WHITEMANINMYPOCKET’ (performance)
Brown Studio, Brooklyn (NY), ‘CHEEKY LaSHAE + The Cashmere Bouquet’ (performance)
ShapeShifter Lab, Brooklyn (NY), ‘CHEEKY LaSHAE: Sack of Stars’ (performance)
Present Company Gallery, Brooklyn (NY), ‘Antithesis’, Curated by Omar Lopez – Chahoud
Brooklyn Academy of Music, Brooklyn (NY), ‘March On!’, Curated by Dexter Wimberly

2012
Museum of Modern Art, New York (NY), ‘A Study for Staircase, No. 111012’ w/ Jerome Marshak (performance)
RECESS Activities, Inc., New York (NY), ‘spoken for’ (performance)
RECESS Activities, Inc., New York (NY), ‘Sonic Diagrams’, Curated by Kenya (Robinson)
Creative Time, Rockaway Beach (NY), ‘Female Prostate’ (performance)
New York Photography Festival, Brooklyn (NY), ‘What Do You Believe In?’Curated by Amy Smith-Stewart
C24 Gallery, New York (NY), ‘MONDAY NIGHT’(performance)
C24 Gallery New York (NY), ‘CAMPAIGN’, Curated by Amy Smith-Stewart
Triangle Arts Gallery, Brooklyn (NY), ‘Like A Girl Being Pretty’ (performance)

2011
The Skylight Gallery-Restoration Plaza, Brooklyn (NY), ‘Crown Heights Gold’, Curated by Dexter Wimberly
AD Projects, New York (NY), BLOW’(performance)
Branch #47, Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn (NY), ‘All Over The Place’ (SOLO)
The Kitchen, New York (NY), ‘kenya eats a cracker’ (performance)
The Kitchen, New York (NY), ‘Shame The Devil’, Curated by Petrushka Bazin Larsen
The Kitchen, New York (NY), ‘YOURMAMADONTWEARNODRAWS’ (performance)
New York City (NY), ‘The Inflatable Mattress’ (performance)

2010
Museum of Contemporary African Diasoporan Arts, Brooklyn (NY), ‘Soul Clap(1)’ (performance)
The House of Bumble, New York (NY), ‘Displaced Threshold’ (performance)
The House of Bumble, New York (NY) ‘University Model Project Emerging Artist Showcase’, Curated by Forever & Today
Third Streaming, New York (NY), ‘The Ten Commandments’ w/ Nicky Enright (aka DJ Lightbolt) (performance)
Corridor Gallery, Brooklyn (NY), ‘Brooklyn Based’, Curated by Ali Evans
60 Wall Street Gallery – Deutsche Bank, New York (NY), ‘cut to fit’ (performance)
60 Wall Street Gallery-Deutsche Bank, New York (NY), ‘There is No Looking Glass Here’, Curated by Kimberli Gant
Hendershot Gallery, New York (NY), ‘Digression’, Curated by Jessica Elena Shaefer
Museum of Contemporary African Diasoporan Arts, Brooklyn (NY), ‘Ain’t I A Woman?’, Curated by Kimberli Gant
Jersey City Museum, Jersey City (NJ), ‘Hair Tactics’, Curated by Rocío Aranda-Alvarado
Aljira, Newark (NJ), ‘Dreamtime overtones from a fantastic brown planet’, Curated by Edwin Ramoran
P.S.1, MoMA, New York (NY), ‘Black Trash: Sacred Melodramas’ (performance)
Cabinet Space, Brooklyn (NY), ‘(W)RAPPING’ (performance)
Thomas Center Galleries, Gainesville (FL), ‘HAIRPOLITIC: Pomade In America’ (SOLO)

2009
Eyebeam: Art + Technology Center, New York (NY), ‘Universal Access’ w/ Rashaad Newsome (performance)
Low Lives: A Series of Live Networked Performances, Brooklyn (NY) – Miami (FL) – Houston (TX), ‘Dark Seeds(2)’

2008
Museum of Contemporary African Diasoporan Arts, Brooklyn (NY), ‘HAIRPOLITIC: The Pursuit of Nappiness’ (SOLO)

 

PRIZES + AWARDS
2015
Creative Capital ‘On Our Radar’ (March – September 2015)

2013
National Endowment for the Arts/ Grant for the curatorial project ‘TOONSKIN’

2011
Residency Stipend, ANALOG, US
Smack Mellon ‘Hot Picks’ Artist

2008
Brooklyn Arts Council Re-Grant, Department of Cultural Affairs, US

 

RESIDENCIES + FELLOWSHIPS
2015
Thomas Hunter Ceramics Residency, US
Triangle Arts Residency, US
Fountainhead Residency, US

2014
Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, US

2011-2013
ANALOG: Recess Activities, Inc., Online Residency, US

2010
Triangle Arts Workshop Residency, US

2009- 2010
Visiting Artist, Harvestworks, US
WorkSpace Residency, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, US

 

PUBLICATIONS
Black Radical Imagination, “Moon Medicine” by (Kenya Robinson) published by Dominica Publishing

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY
2015
Huffington Post Arts + Culture: “How A ‘White Man in My Pocket’ Can Help You Understand Privilege” by Priscilla Frank

2013
BOMBlog: “Kenya (Robinson)” by Lee Ann Norman

2012
The New York Times: “Creative Hubris, as Ephemeral as Sea Foam” by Melena Ryzik

2011
Clutch Magazine (online): “Colorful Canvas Files| Kenya (Robinson)” by Sky Obercam
16 Miles of String (blog): “Kenya (Robinson) Eats a Cracker in The Kitchen” by Andrew Russeth
The New York Times: “The Serial Sleepover Artist” by Penelope Green

2010
The L Magazine: “The NADA Emerging Artist”
Essence Magazine (online): “10 Female Artists You Should Know About”
Deutsche Bank ArtMag (online): “There is No Looking Glass Here: The current exhibition at the Wall Gallery of Deutsche Bank”
The International Review of African American Art: “Drawing Outside the Lines” by Samantha Raglan
artcritical (online): “LES GALLS” by David Cohen
The L Magazine: “Ain’t I Woman at MoCADA” by Kathleen Massara

2008
Gainesville Magazine: “Hair, Art and Culture: Kenya Robinson Transforms the Familiar Into the Thought Provoking” by Amritha Alladi

 

WORK EXPERIENCE
2015
Fashion Project, Miami (FL). “Experiments in Hair”
University of Florida, Gainesville, ‘PERFORMING BLACKNESS (or Why I Carry a #WHITEMANINMYPOCKET in the Age of Post-Racial Fuckery)’

2014
The Bemis Center, Omaha (NE), ‘Six Thousand is A Lot’, A Pilot Program in collaboration with the Ready-in-Five Program, Early Childhood Educator
Hampshire College, Amherst (MA), Artist Talk

2013
The Brooklyn Children’s Museum, Brooklyn (NY), Early Childhood Eductor

2012
Maple Street School, Brooklyn (NY), ‘Drawing Without Crayons’

2010
ICP at The Point, The Bronx (NY), Guest Lecturer, “Teens in Black and White: Camera and Darkroom”
SUNY Purchase College, Purchase (NY), Guest Lecturer, “Introduction to Performance Art”

2009
New York State Summer School of the Arts, Fredonia (NY), Visiting Artist Lecture Series
Long Island University, Brooklyn (NY), Guest Lecturer, “Portfolio Development”