In a State of Collapse, 2023
porcelain, candied brown sugar, white granulated sugar, Sapele wood, brass, sod. 13 x 16 1/2 x 16 1/2 inches (33 x 41.9 x 41.9 cm). Photos curtesy of M+B Gallery.
In a State of Collapse takes the same name as Monsieur Zohores MZ.24 (In a State of Collapse), where he dressed as a bloody, beaten-up version of Woody from Toy Story while posing for pictures with the audience to dismantle the image of American idealism and masculine heteronormativity that the character embodies. This sculpture uses a candied brown sugar Woody from Toy Story on top of a serving tray made from Sapele wood – a wood indigenous to the Ivory Coast known for its exotic qualities and increased commercial exploitation– a broken porcelain tile and granulated white sugar grout. The Woody figure references sugar subtleties, popularized in the middle ages as edible art brought out between banquet courses to entertain, amaze, and delight guests. At the end of the party, guests broke off pieces of the sugar sculptures to eat or take home as souvenirs. The subtleties often resembled racialized characters and were later substituted for porcelain because of its proximity to whiteness and the decreasing value of sugar. By creating Woody out of candied brown sugar, the image of power, whiteness, masculinity, and American altruism Woody represents becomes more grounded in its failure and fragility as the figure is cannibalized (and melts) by the conditions of its environment.
This piece continues with LaRissa's ongoing research on global trade's influence on systems of labor, taste, value, power, and consumption while simultaneously acting as a portrait of Monsieur Zohore.
The value of blackness resides in its metaphorical aptitude, whether literally understood as the fungibility of the commodity or understood as the imaginative surface upon which the master and the nation came to understand themselves.
—Saidiya Hartman, Scenes of Subjection
MZ.25 (My Condolences) is a question on image making. A group exhibition masquerading as a solo presentation My Condolences uses its singular subject, the artist Monsieur Zohore, to offer a constellation of responses to the impulses and executions of representing blackness. As a force within the market, an act of production, and an insistent framework by which to create, the want of the Black figure becomes performance manifest through Zohore's collective expressions. MZ.25 (My Condolences) probes this centuries-long quandary—the impact and impulses within Black portraiture—as a site onto itself by which capital, capture, and the body—Zohore's in particular— lives as an unwieldy set of responses. Here, a landscape has been provided by which we, the audience, are called upon to consider who owns the black image, or put, more precisely, how is Zohore to be consumed?
My Condolences coalesces its ideas on the market and consumption in a series of portraits of Monsieur Zohore created by seventy artists and counting. Derived from a spectrum of studies—conversation, past performances, art objects, and circulated images—each participating artist has crafted a piece vested in Zohore as representational space. Ranging in medium, material, and form, the works of My Condolences position Zohore between affect, silhouette, texture, and sensation. Cameron Patricia Downey's rendering extends on conversations with Zohore about their mother; the artist likeness manifests as a circular arrangement of black wigs, nestled and draped as a glossy mass of silky ebony. LaRissa Rogers and Noelia Towers both contend with Zohore's performance MZ.24 (In a State of Collapse), wherein Zohore appears as a bloodied version of the doll Woody from the Pixar Toy Story series. The piece relays a series of critical engagements with failure, hetero masculinity, and American idealism. Rogers situates western colonial violence via agriculture and consumption in their brown sugar woody sculpture while Towers concentrates on Zohore's mouth, gleaming with a coat of blood that drips from their lips for their painting. LaKela Brown's plaster relief harbors Zohore in its archival impressions of gold earrings, chicken heads, rope chains, and Egyptian royalty. Zohore also appears more directly as a figure in acrylic and collage renderings in the works of Angela Dufresne, Jo Messer, John Brooks, and Laurie Simmons. And as text in the works of Peishan Huang, Ian Miyamura, and Mark Verabioff. Monsieur Zohore's offering to MZ.25 (My Condolences) is a carnivalesque funeral work entitled MZ.10 (Lazarus or Kissing Cousins), 2019-2023, which will be performed throughout the exhibition. This work belongs to Zohore’s ongoing series This Is My Body That I Have Given Up For You.
The artists of My Condolences are part of Zohore's grappling with the impossibilities that hold captive the production of the Black figure and how, perhaps, a community of artists can play with the desires of the market and the impulse within themselves to bend/resist the structures that guide their work. The attempt here with My Condolences is to muddle the language of Black portraiture and the ethos of the institutional space to forward a community of artists who both acknowledge and play with the function of commodity in the telling of art histories.
— Text by Essence Harden