Jeffrey Meris
Still Standing

January 12–March 6, 2021 East Gallery
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Three sculptures are installed on the floor: two sculptures on the left side of the room and one on the right. On the walls there are seven paintings: two paintings are installed on the left wall, three on the back, and two on the right.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Installation view with the sculpture Just Above My Head in the foreground and the sculpture Half and Half just behind it. Three paintings are installed on the walls: two on the left wall, and one on the right.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Pictured is the sculpture, High Heel, made from manipulated found objects including a disassembled walker and shopping cart connected to a steel table with a perforated surface. On the table is a pair of plaster-cast feet connected to a cranking mechanism which can be functioned to drag the feet across the perforated table top. On the walls are three paintings that vary significantly in size but are aesthetically and formally similar. They are made of terry cloth rags that have been used to clean rust and acid which were then assembled together by metal snaps. This results in various patches of fabric with different shades and textures of light and dark brown stains, resembling patches of animal hide or drum skins. The fabric is stretched over aluminum bars, leaving some of the bars exposed.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Four paintings and one sculpture are installed on the walls around a white column: three paintings on the left wall, and one on the right. In the center foreground is a part of the sculpture Half and Half, a castor that has been turned over so the wheel is sticking up. The sculpture, High Heel, is installed to the left. All four paintings on the walls are made of terry cloth rags that were used to clean rust and acid and have been connected by metal snaps then stretched over aluminum bars. The two paintings on the left have been installed so the face of the work is against the wall and the metal and wooden stretcher is visible.) 

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Three sculptures in a room with a white column and windows. On the left is a partial view of Half and Half, a sculpture consisting of two separate free standing metal doors. Only a part of the right door is visible, along with a rope suspending a cylindrical weight held up by a pulley hardware. In the center is the sculpture George, My Father’s Name, a plaster cast of the artist’s torso and upper arms suspended from the ceiling using pitch pulleys. The torso is pierced by multiple copper tubes capped with blood pressure bulbs. On the floor beneath the sculpture are red, pink, and yellow rose petals loosely arranged in a circle. On the right is Just Above My Head, a sculpture consisting of a steel table, antique lamps and a cast of the artist’s head placed upside and attached to a cranking mechanism which can be functioned to drag the head across the perforated table top.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (The sculpture Half and Half viewed through a brick archway. The sculpture consists of a large industrial sliding metal door that has been bisected and bolted onto two metal bases. The left half of the sculpture has a handle on its left side, a sticker, and a piece of red tape. The right half of the sculpture has rope going across the top of the door, which is attached to a gold air tank on the right side and a cylindrical weight and pulley on the left.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Two paintings identical in size are installed on a wall behind the sculpture High Heel and to the right of the sculpture Half and Half. The painting to the left, Country and God, is made of terry cloth rags that have been used to clean rust and acid and were then assembled together by metal snaps. This results in various patches of fabric with different shades and textures of light and dark brown stains, resembling patches of animal hide or drum skins or grey stains with a marbled effect. The fabric is stretched over aluminum bars. The phrase “Love their country and their God” is written in light blue paint across the top of the painting. The painting to the right, Thicker than Water, is also mostly made up of rust stained terry rags. The bottom third of the painting is covered by light blue fabric with a faded periodic table of elements printed on it as well as a diagram of a chemical compound superimposed in black.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Detail view of Country and God, showing rust and aluminum stained rags as well as the snaps connecting them together.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021. (Installation view of two sculptures: a partial view of Half and Half in the foreground and Just Above My Head in the background.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Three paintings installed: Country and God, and Thicker than Water on the left wall, and Homeostasis on the right wall. A partial view of the castor that is part of the sculpture Half and Half is in the foreground. Homeostasis is made of rust stained rags scantily stretched around a frame, leaving a majority exposed. The work is installed so the face of the painting is against the wall and the stretcher is visible, facing into the room.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021. (The sculpture George, My Father’s Name, installed in between a column and a window. The sculpture consists of a plaster cast of the artist’s torso and upper arms suspended from the ceiling using pitch pulleys. The torso is pierced by multiple copper tubes capped with blood pressure bulbs. On the floor beneath the sculpture are red, pink, and yellow rose petals loosely arranged in a circle.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Detail view of the sculpture George, My Father's Name.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (The sculpture Just Above My Head, consisting of a steel table, antique lamps and a cast of the artist’s head placed upside and attached to a cranking mechanism which can be functioned to drag the head across the perforated table top. There is a pile of white dust under the table, created by the eroding of the sculpture.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Detail view of the sculpture Just Above My Head, showing the plaster cast of the artist’s head, with eyes and mouth closed, installed upside down on the perforated steel tabletop, surrounded by white dust.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (A frontal view of the sculpture High Heel, which is made from manipulated found objects, including a disassembled walker and shopping cart connected to a steel table with a perforated surface. On the table is a pair of plaster-cast feet that are connected to a cranking mechanism, that can be functioned to drag the feet across the perforated table top. A small pile of plaster dust is on the floor under the table that was created by the feet being dragged across the perforated table top.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021

Jeffrey Meris Thicker than Water, 2020-21 Acetic acid and iron rust on terry rags, stainless steel snaps and brushed aluminum 72 x 42 in. (Frontal view of Thicker than Water, a tall rectangular painting which is mostly made up of rust stained terry rags. The bottom third of the painting is covered by light blue fabric with a faded periodic table of elements printed on it as well as a diagram of a chemical compound superimposed in black.)

Jeffrey Meris

Thicker than Water, 2020-21

Acetic acid and iron rust on terry rags, stainless steel snaps and brushed aluminum

72 × 42 in.

Jeffrey Meris Just Above My Head, 2020 Plaster cast, steel, lamps, wooden knob, crank and hardware. 49 x 38 x 18.25 in. (A side view of the sculpture Just Above My Head.)

Jeffrey Meris

Just Above My Head, 2020

Plaster cast, steel, lamps, wooden knob, crank and hardware.

49 × 38 × 18.25 in.

Press Release

White Columns is proud to present ‘Still Standing’ the debut solo exhibition by Jeffrey Meris (b. Haiti, 1991.) Taking its title from a poetry collection by the Bahamian writer, activist and politician Michael Pintard, the exhibition coalesces Meris’ stated interest in “ecology, embodiment, and the lived experience” whilst simultaneously healing “deeply personal and historical wounds.” The exhibition brings together a group of interrelated works produced over the past year during Meris’ residency at NXTHVN, New Haven, CT.

‘Still Standing’ is structured around a group of Meris’ recent ‘paintings’: large-scale, hybrid collage-sculptural works created from accumulations of loosely-connected rust-stained rags (previously used by the artist to clean his earlier mechanical sculptures.) If the kinetic works are centered around trauma and a sense of racially based violence, then the paintings in ‘Still Standing’ display rituals of care, healing and cleansing these wounds. The resultant stretched ‘skins’ – reminiscent of animal hides – evoke myriad connections for the artist including formal and psychological associations with Junkanoo Carnival, percussion (e.g. goat skin drums), slavery, art history (i.e. gestural abstract painting), and our own visceral relationships with our bodies (i.e. flesh, blood and breath.) One of the paintings incorporates a line from Octavia E. Butler’s 1998 novel ‘Parable of the Talents’: “Love their country and their God.”

The body – invariably, but not exclusively, the artist’s – and the social, cultural, and economic forces that the body is exposed to are central to Meris’ performative sculptures from the ongoing series “Now You See Me; Now You Don’t”: two examples of which – incorporating casts from the artist’s head and feet respectively – are included in the exhibition. In these works, fragments of the artist’s body are being subjected to an enacted violence and trauma, where the viewer is implicated in the process of the artist’s erasure. A third figurative sculpture “George, My Father’s Name”, 2021, consists of a suspended and disembodied torso, punctured by copper arrow-like rods that simultaneously evokes the lives of St. Sebastian (who it was believed could protect people from the plague), the late George Floyd, and the artist’s father.

Exploring the physical and metaphorical potential of both materials and processes Jeffrey Meris’ work is profoundly generative: provoking complex narratives around questions of identity, race, class, gender and sexuality. Meris has described his work as “environmental”, informed equally by the circumstances and conditions surrounding its making. In a recent interview with Natalie Willis, a curator at the National Art Gallery of The Bahamas, Meris expanded upon his intentions:

“I’ve come to realize that my formative years growing up in the Bahamas and being of Haitian ancestry continues to impact the ways that I see the world … The Caribbean in and of itself is such a complicated and nuanced space, and to be transplanted to America where things tend to get flattened and squeezed into these homogenized senses of existing, makes it no less complex. America doesn’t see Caribbean, it sees Black. My material sensibility is grounded in values, objects and meanings that speak to – but also depart or break away from – certain traditions. A concrete block can be an architectural element but also a signifier of class, stability and a stand-in for the myth of masculinity. How can I challenge the myths constructed around race, gender, class, and sexuality using signs and symbols that have become symbolic of their existence? In the grander scheme of this discourse, what I am realizing is that the divide that geopolitical borders put on what it means to be human is fictitious, and the sooner we realize this the better off we will be to respond to real issues challenging humanity, such as climate change and migration.”

Jeffrey Meris was born in 1991 in Haiti and subsequently raised in the Bahamas. He received an A.A. in Art from The College of The Bahamas, Nassau, Bahamas (2012); a BFA in Sculpture from Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Philadelphia, PA (2015); and a MFA from Columbia University, New York (2019.) His work has been included in numerous group exhibitions, most recently in ‘Unmastered’ curated by Tavares Strachan for Mestre Projects, Nassau, Bahamas; and ‘overmydeadbody’ curated by Tavares Strachan and Laurie Lazer for The Luggage Store, San Francisco, CA (both 2020) Meris is currently an artist-in-residence at NXTHVN, New Haven, CT.

To learn more about Jeffrey Meris’ work visit: www.jeffreymeris.com

For further information, contact: info@whitecolumns.org

Events

Matthew Higgs in conversation with Jeffrey Meris

February 11, 2021
6pm EST
via Instagram Live

STILL STANDING

An evening of poetry organized by Jeffrey Meris

Readings by Vivian Chiu, Sonia Farmer, Daniel T. Gaitor-Lomack, Merik Goma, Cyrée Jarelle Johnson, Anne Lai, Maelynn Seymour-Major, Pamela Sneed and Michelle Phương Ting.

March 5, 2021

Jeffrey Meris and Titus Kaphar in Conversation

Moderated by Matthew Higgs

March 4th, 2021

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Three sculptures are installed on the floor: two sculptures on the left side of the room and one on the right. On the walls there are seven paintings: two paintings are installed on the left wall, three on the back, and two on the right.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Installation view with the sculpture Just Above My Head in the foreground and the sculpture Half and Half just behind it. Three paintings are installed on the walls: two on the left wall, and one on the right.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Pictured is the sculpture, High Heel, made from manipulated found objects including a disassembled walker and shopping cart connected to a steel table with a perforated surface. On the table is a pair of plaster-cast feet connected to a cranking mechanism which can be functioned to drag the feet across the perforated table top. On the walls are three paintings that vary significantly in size but are aesthetically and formally similar. They are made of terry cloth rags that have been used to clean rust and acid which were then assembled together by metal snaps. This results in various patches of fabric with different shades and textures of light and dark brown stains, resembling patches of animal hide or drum skins. The fabric is stretched over aluminum bars, leaving some of the bars exposed.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Four paintings and one sculpture are installed on the walls around a white column: three paintings on the left wall, and one on the right. In the center foreground is a part of the sculpture Half and Half, a castor that has been turned over so the wheel is sticking up. The sculpture, High Heel, is installed to the left. All four paintings on the walls are made of terry cloth rags that were used to clean rust and acid and have been connected by metal snaps then stretched over aluminum bars. The two paintings on the left have been installed so the face of the work is against the wall and the metal and wooden stretcher is visible.) 
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Three sculptures in a room with a white column and windows. On the left is a partial view of Half and Half, a sculpture consisting of two separate free standing metal doors. Only a part of the right door is visible, along with a rope suspending a cylindrical weight held up by a pulley hardware. In the center is the sculpture George, My Father’s Name, a plaster cast of the artist’s torso and upper arms suspended from the ceiling using pitch pulleys. The torso is pierced by multiple copper tubes capped with blood pressure bulbs. On the floor beneath the sculpture are red, pink, and yellow rose petals loosely arranged in a circle. On the right is Just Above My Head, a sculpture consisting of a steel table, antique lamps and a cast of the artist’s head placed upside and attached to a cranking mechanism which can be functioned to drag the head across the perforated table top.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (The sculpture Half and Half viewed through a brick archway. The sculpture consists of a large industrial sliding metal door that has been bisected and bolted onto two metal bases. The left half of the sculpture has a handle on its left side, a sticker, and a piece of red tape. The right half of the sculpture has rope going across the top of the door, which is attached to a gold air tank on the right side and a cylindrical weight and pulley on the left.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Two paintings identical in size are installed on a wall behind the sculpture High Heel and to the right of the sculpture Half and Half. The painting to the left, Country and God, is made of terry cloth rags that have been used to clean rust and acid and were then assembled together by metal snaps. This results in various patches of fabric with different shades and textures of light and dark brown stains, resembling patches of animal hide or drum skins or grey stains with a marbled effect. The fabric is stretched over aluminum bars. The phrase “Love their country and their God” is written in light blue paint across the top of the painting. The painting to the right, Thicker than Water, is also mostly made up of rust stained terry rags. The bottom third of the painting is covered by light blue fabric with a faded periodic table of elements printed on it as well as a diagram of a chemical compound superimposed in black.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Detail view of Country and God, showing rust and aluminum stained rags as well as the snaps connecting them together.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021. (Installation view of two sculptures: a partial view of Half and Half in the foreground and Just Above My Head in the background.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Three paintings installed: Country and God, and Thicker than Water on the left wall, and Homeostasis on the right wall. A partial view of the castor that is part of the sculpture Half and Half is in the foreground. Homeostasis is made of rust stained rags scantily stretched around a frame, leaving a majority exposed. The work is installed so the face of the painting is against the wall and the stretcher is visible, facing into the room.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021. (The sculpture George, My Father’s Name, installed in between a column and a window. The sculpture consists of a plaster cast of the artist’s torso and upper arms suspended from the ceiling using pitch pulleys. The torso is pierced by multiple copper tubes capped with blood pressure bulbs. On the floor beneath the sculpture are red, pink, and yellow rose petals loosely arranged in a circle.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Detail view of the sculpture George, My Father's Name.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (The sculpture Just Above My Head, consisting of a steel table, antique lamps and a cast of the artist’s head placed upside and attached to a cranking mechanism which can be functioned to drag the head across the perforated table top. There is a pile of white dust under the table, created by the eroding of the sculpture.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Detail view of the sculpture Just Above My Head, showing the plaster cast of the artist’s head, with eyes and mouth closed, installed upside down on the perforated steel tabletop, surrounded by white dust.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (A frontal view of the sculpture High Heel, which is made from manipulated found objects, including a disassembled walker and shopping cart connected to a steel table with a perforated surface. On the table is a pair of plaster-cast feet that are connected to a cranking mechanism, that can be functioned to drag the feet across the perforated table top. A small pile of plaster dust is on the floor under the table that was created by the feet being dragged across the perforated table top.)
Jeffrey Meris Thicker than Water, 2020-21 Acetic acid and iron rust on terry rags, stainless steel snaps and brushed aluminum 72 x 42 in. (Frontal view of Thicker than Water, a tall rectangular painting which is mostly made up of rust stained terry rags. The bottom third of the painting is covered by light blue fabric with a faded periodic table of elements printed on it as well as a diagram of a chemical compound superimposed in black.)
Jeffrey Meris Just Above My Head, 2020 Plaster cast, steel, lamps, wooden knob, crank and hardware. 49 x 38 x 18.25 in. (A side view of the sculpture Just Above My Head.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Three sculptures are installed on the floor: two sculptures on the left side of the room and one on the right. On the walls there are seven paintings: two paintings are installed on the left wall, three on the back, and two on the right.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Installation view with the sculpture Just Above My Head in the foreground and the sculpture Half and Half just behind it. Three paintings are installed on the walls: two on the left wall, and one on the right.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Pictured is the sculpture, High Heel, made from manipulated found objects including a disassembled walker and shopping cart connected to a steel table with a perforated surface. On the table is a pair of plaster-cast feet connected to a cranking mechanism which can be functioned to drag the feet across the perforated table top. On the walls are three paintings that vary significantly in size but are aesthetically and formally similar. They are made of terry cloth rags that have been used to clean rust and acid which were then assembled together by metal snaps. This results in various patches of fabric with different shades and textures of light and dark brown stains, resembling patches of animal hide or drum skins. The fabric is stretched over aluminum bars, leaving some of the bars exposed.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Four paintings and one sculpture are installed on the walls around a white column: three paintings on the left wall, and one on the right. In the center foreground is a part of the sculpture Half and Half, a castor that has been turned over so the wheel is sticking up. The sculpture, High Heel, is installed to the left. All four paintings on the walls are made of terry cloth rags that were used to clean rust and acid and have been connected by metal snaps then stretched over aluminum bars. The two paintings on the left have been installed so the face of the work is against the wall and the metal and wooden stretcher is visible.

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Three sculptures in a room with a white column and windows. On the left is a partial view of Half and Half, a sculpture consisting of two separate free standing metal doors. Only a part of the right door is visible, along with a rope suspending a cylindrical weight held up by a pulley hardware. In the center is the sculpture George, My Father’s Name, a plaster cast of the artist’s torso and upper arms suspended from the ceiling using pitch pulleys. The torso is pierced by multiple copper tubes capped with blood pressure bulbs. On the floor beneath the sculpture are red, pink, and yellow rose petals loosely arranged in a circle. On the right is Just Above My Head, a sculpture consisting of a steel table, antique lamps and a cast of the artist’s head placed upside and attached to a cranking mechanism which can be functioned to drag the head across the perforated table top.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (The sculpture Half and Half viewed through a brick archway. The sculpture consists of a large industrial sliding metal door that has been bisected and bolted onto two metal bases. The left half of the sculpture has a handle on its left side, a sticker, and a piece of red tape. The right half of the sculpture has rope going across the top of the door, which is attached to a gold air tank on the right side and a cylindrical weight and pulley on the left.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Two paintings identical in size are installed on a wall behind the sculpture High Heel and to the right of the sculpture Half and Half. The painting to the left, Country and God, is made of terry cloth rags that have been used to clean rust and acid and were then assembled together by metal snaps. This results in various patches of fabric with different shades and textures of light and dark brown stains, resembling patches of animal hide or drum skins or grey stains with a marbled effect. The fabric is stretched over aluminum bars. The phrase “Love their country and their God” is written in light blue paint across the top of the painting. The painting to the right, Thicker than Water, is also mostly made up of rust stained terry rags. The bottom third of the painting is covered by light blue fabric with a faded periodic table of elements printed on it as well as a diagram of a chemical compound superimposed in black.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Detail view of Country and God, showing rust and aluminum stained rags as well as the snaps connecting them together.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021. (Installation view of two sculptures: a partial view of Half and Half in the foreground and Just Above My Head in the background.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Three paintings installed: Country and God, and Thicker than Water on the left wall, and Homeostasis on the right wall. A partial view of the castor that is part of the sculpture Half and Half is in the foreground. Homeostasis is made of rust stained rags scantily stretched around a frame, leaving a majority exposed. The work is installed so the face of the painting is against the wall and the stretcher is visible, facing into the room.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021. (The sculpture George, My Father’s Name, installed in between a column and a window. The sculpture consists of a plaster cast of the artist’s torso and upper arms suspended from the ceiling using pitch pulleys. The torso is pierced by multiple copper tubes capped with blood pressure bulbs. On the floor beneath the sculpture are red, pink, and yellow rose petals loosely arranged in a circle.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Detail view of the sculpture George, My Father’s Name.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (The sculpture Just Above My Head, consisting of a steel table, antique lamps and a cast of the artist’s head placed upside and attached to a cranking mechanism which can be functioned to drag the head across the perforated table top. There is a pile of white dust under the table, created by the eroding of the sculpture.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Detail view of the sculpture Just Above My Head, showing the plaster cast of the artist’s head, with eyes and mouth closed, installed upside down on the perforated steel tabletop, surrounded by white dust.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (A frontal view of the sculpture High Heel, which is made from manipulated found objects, including a disassembled walker and shopping cart connected to a steel table with a perforated surface. On the table is a pair of plaster-cast feet that are connected to a cranking mechanism, that can be functioned to drag the feet across the perforated table top. A small pile of plaster dust is on the floor under the table that was created by the feet being dragged across the perforated table top.)

Jeffrey Meris Thicker than Water, 2020-21 Acetic acid and iron rust on terry rags, stainless steel snaps and brushed aluminum 72 × 42 in. (Frontal view of Thicker than Water, a tall rectangular painting which is mostly made up of rust stained terry rags. The bottom third of the painting is covered by light blue fabric with a faded periodic table of elements printed on it as well as a diagram of the chemical compound Hemoglobin in black.)

Jeffrey Meris Just Above My Head, 2020 Plaster cast, steel, lamps, wooden knob, crank and hardware. 49 × 38 × 18.25 in. (A side view of the sculpture Just Above My Head.)