Jeffrey Meris
Still Standing

January 12–March 6, 2021 East Gallery

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

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Three sculptures are installed on the floor and seven ‘paintings’ on the walls of the room. Two sculptures are installed on the left side of the room and one on the right; two paintings are installed on the left wall, three on the back, and two on the right.)
(Two sculptures and three ‘paintings’ in a room with an entrance on the left wall. The sculptures are installed on the floor, one in front of the entrance and one to the left of the entrance. The ‘paintings’ are installed on the walls: two on the left wall, and one on the right.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (One sculpture and three ‘paintings’ are installed in a room- the sculpture on the floor and the paintings on the walls: one on the right wall and two on the left. The sculpture, High Heel, is a manipulated found object sculpture made of a disassembled walker, a pair of plaster-cast feet, steel table made of welded square tubes and a perforated surface, and a cranking mechanism. The handlebars are detached from the walker and fixed into the pair of plaster feet on top of the table. The feet are attached to a cranking mechanism that can be functioned to drag the feet across the perforated table top. The rest of the walker is intertwined with the table and mechanism. The ‘paintings’ on the walls vary significantly in size but are aesthetically and formally similar. They are made of terry cloth rags used to clean rust and acid connected by metal snaps which are then stretched over aluminum stretchers, leaving some of the stretchers bare. This results in various patches of fabric with different shades and textures of light and dark brown, resembling patches of animal hide or drum skins.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Four ‘paintings’ and one sculpture are installed in a room with a white column: three ‘paintings,’ are installed on the left wall, and one on the right. In the center foreground a part of the sculpture Half and Half, including a castor on its hardware is visible. The sculpture, High Heel, is installed on the floor to the left. All four ‘paintings’ on the walls are made of terry cloth rags used to clean rust and acid connected by metal snaps which are then stretched over aluminum stretchers, leaving some of the stretchers bare. The two ‘paintings’ on the left are flipped, exposing the wooden backs of the stretchers as well as the points on the stretcher where the collage of cloths are stapled) 
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Three sculptures installed in various places 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 the sculpture George, My Father’s Name is suspended using pitch pulleys. The suspended object is a plaster cast of the artist's torso and raised arms up to the elbow with multiple copper tubes capped with blood pressure bulb valves stabbing the torso. Each ‘stab’ is surrounded by a transparent, light brown liquid and 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 made of a cast of the artist's head, a steel table made of square tubes and a perforated top, and three antique lamps. The head is placed upside down on the perforated top and is attached to a cranking mechanism which can be functioned to drag the head across the perforated top. Under the table are three unplugged antique lamps, all of which are hanging from the tabletop, and two of which are placed on the floor.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (The sculpture Half and Half is installed on the floor and is shown through the brick entrance to the room it is installed in. The sculpture consists of a large industrial sliding metal door bisected and bolted onto two separate but similar 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 door has a gold air tank on the right side and a cylindrical weight on the left which are tied with the same rope, balanced on top of the existing sliding mechanism on the door.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Two ‘paintings’ and parts of two sculptures are installed in a room. The ‘paintings’ are installed on the back wall and are identical in size. Unlike the other ‘paintings’ on the show, the patches of used rags completely cover the stretchers. Some of the rags on the bottom third of the left painting, Country and God, are covered in aluminum and not rust, resulting in a gray and white marbled effect rather than with different hues of brown. The phrase “Love their country and their God” is written on the painting in light blue. The one piece rag that covers the bottom third of the painting on the right, Thicker than Water, is dyed light blue and has a faded periodic table of elements printed on it as well as a diagram of a chemical compound superimposed in black. The top two third is covered in patches of rags used to clean rust, resulting in patches of different hues of brown. The back of one of the doors of the piece Half and Half is visible to the right and the foot and walker of the piece High Heel is visible to the left.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Detail view of Country and God, showing the snaps connecting different used rags together. In the bottom left corner are the rags used to clean aluminum, and the rest are rags used to clean rust.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021. (Installation view of two sculptures, Just Above My Head, and Half and Half. The right half of the view is covered by the back of one of the doors from Half and Half.  On the left side is Just Above My Head, the sculpture made of a plaster cast of the artist's head, a steel table made of square tubes and a perforated top, and three antique lamps. There is a pile of plaster dust on the floor between the lamps from the head being dragged across the perforated table top.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Three ‘paintings,’ two on the left wall and one on the right wall, and a part of the sculpture Half and Half are installed in a room. The part of the sculpture shown is a castor attached to its hardware jutting out of the floor. The painting Country and God, and Thicker than Water are installed on the left wall. On the right wall is Homeostasis, a flipped ‘painting’ which exposes the wooden backs of the aluminum stretchers as well as the points on the stretcher where the collage of rags are stapled to. All the rags in Homeostasis are hues of brown.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021. (The sculpture George, My Father's Name, is installed in two parts in a room. The top part of the sculpture is suspended using pitch pulleys. The suspended object is a plaster cast of the artist's torso and raised arms up to the elbow with multiple copper tubes capped with blood pressure bulb valves stabbing the torso. Each ‘stab’ is surrounded by a transparent, light brown liquid and 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. The plaster cast of the artist’s torso and raised arms up to the elbow is suspended on a pitch pulley.  Multiple copper tubes capped with blood pressure bulb valves are stabbing the torso. Each ‘stab’ is surrounded by a transparent, light brown liquid and on the floor beneath the sculpture are red, pink, and yellow rose petals loosely arranged in a circle.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (The sculpture Just Above My Head, a sculpture made of a cast of the artist's head, a steel table made of square tubes and a perforated top, and three antique lamps is installed on the floor in a room. The head is placed upside down on the perforated top and is attached to a cranking mechanism which can be functioned to drag the head across the perforated top. Under the table are three unplugged antique lamps, all of which are hanging from the tabletop, and two of which are placed on the floor.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Detail view of the sculpture Just Above My Head, showing the cast of the artist’s head upside down on the perforated steel tabletop. A small pile of plaster dust surrounds the head from being dragged across the perforations.)
Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (The sculpture High Heel, a manipulated found object sculpture made of a disassembled walker, a pair of plaster-cast feet, steel table made of welded square tubes and a perforated surface, and a cranking mechanism, is installed on the floor in a room. The handlebars are detached from the walker and fixed into the pair of plaster feet on top of the table. The feet are attached to a cranking mechanism that can be functioned to drag the feet across the perforated table top. The rest of the walker is intertwined with the table and mechanism. A small pile of plaster dust is on the floor under the table from 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. (A portrait-orientation ‘painting’ made of many terry cloth rags used to clean loosely connected by metal snaps. The one piece rag that covers the bottom third dyed light blue and has a faded periodic table of elements printed on it as well as a diagram of a chemical compound superimposed in black. The top two third is covered in patches of rags used to clean rust, resulting in patches of different hues of brown.)
Jeffrey Meris Just Above My Head, 2020 Plaster cast, steel, lamps, wooden knob, crank and hardware. 49 x 38 x 18.25 in. (A manipulated found object sculpture made of a cast of the artist's head, a steel table made of square tubes and a perforated top, and three antique lamps. The head is placed upside down on the perforated top and is attached to a cranking mechanism which can be functioned to drag the head across the perforated top. Under the table are three unplugged antique lamps, all of which are hanging from the tabletop, and two of which are placed on the floor. A small pile of plaster dust and debris lies on the floor by the lamps from the head being dragged across the perforated table top.)

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

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Two sculptures and three ‘paintings’ in a room with an entrance on the left wall. The sculptures are installed on the floor, one in front of the entrance and one to the left of the entrance. The ‘paintings’ are installed on the walls: two on the left wall, and one on the right.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (One sculpture and three ‘paintings’ are installed in a room- the sculpture on the floor and the paintings on the walls: one on the right wall and two on the left. The sculpture, High Heel, is a manipulated found object sculpture made of a disassembled walker, a pair of plaster-cast feet, steel table made of welded square tubes and a perforated surface, and a cranking mechanism. The handlebars are detached from the walker and fixed into the pair of plaster feet on top of the table. The feet are attached to a cranking mechanism that can be functioned to drag the feet across the perforated table top. The rest of the walker is intertwined with the table and mechanism. The ‘paintings’ on the walls vary significantly in size but are aesthetically and formally similar. They are made of terry cloth rags used to clean rust and acid connected by metal snaps which are then stretched over aluminum stretchers, leaving some of the stretchers bare. This results in various patches of fabric with different shades and textures of light and dark brown, resembling patches of animal hide or drum skins.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Four ‘paintings’ and one sculpture are installed in a room with a white column: three ‘paintings,’ are installed on the left wall, and one on the right. In the center foreground a part of the sculpture Half and Half, including a castor on its hardware is visible. The sculpture, High Heel, is installed on the floor to the left. All four ‘paintings’ on the walls are made of terry cloth rags used to clean rust and acid connected by metal snaps which are then stretched over aluminum stretchers, leaving some of the stretchers bare. The two ‘paintings’ on the left are flipped, exposing the wooden backs of the stretchers as well as the points on the stretcher where the collage of cloths are stapled

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Three sculptures installed in various places 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 the sculpture George, My Father’s Name is suspended using pitch pulleys. The suspended object is a plaster cast of the artist’s torso and raised arms up to the elbow with multiple copper tubes capped with blood pressure bulb valves stabbing the torso. Each ‘stab’ is surrounded by a transparent, light brown liquid and 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 made of a cast of the artist’s head, a steel table made of square tubes and a perforated top, and three antique lamps. The head is placed upside down on the perforated top and is attached to a cranking mechanism which can be functioned to drag the head across the perforated top. Under the table are three unplugged antique lamps, all of which are hanging from the tabletop, and two of which are placed on the floor.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (The sculpture Half and Half is installed on the floor and is shown through the brick entrance to the room it is installed in. The sculpture consists of a large industrial sliding metal door bisected and bolted onto two separate but similar 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 door has a gold air tank on the right side and a cylindrical weight on the left which are tied with the same rope, balanced on top of the existing sliding mechanism on the door.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Two ‘paintings’ and parts of two sculptures are installed in a room. The ‘paintings’ are installed on the back wall and are identical in size. Unlike the other ‘paintings’ on the show, the patches of used rags completely cover the stretchers. Some of the rags on the bottom third of the left painting, Country and God, are covered in aluminum and not rust, resulting in a gray and white marbled effect rather than with different hues of brown. The phrase “Love their country and their God” is written on the painting in light blue. The one piece rag that covers the bottom third of the painting on the right, Thicker than Water, is dyed light blue and has a faded periodic table of elements printed on it as well as a diagram of a chemical compound superimposed in black. The top two third is covered in patches of rags used to clean rust, resulting in patches of different hues of brown. The back of one of the doors of the piece Half and Half is visible to the right and the foot and walker of the piece High Heel is visible to the left.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Detail view of Country and God, showing the snaps connecting different used rags together. In the bottom left corner are the rags used to clean aluminum, and the rest are rags used to clean rust.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021. (Installation view of two sculptures, Just Above My Head, and Half and Half. The right half of the view is covered by the back of one of the doors from Half and Half.  On the left side is Just Above My Head, the sculpture made of a plaster cast of the artist’s head, a steel table made of square tubes and a perforated top, and three antique lamps. There is a pile of plaster dust on the floor between the lamps from the head being dragged across the perforated table top.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Three ‘paintings,’ two on the left wall and one on the right wall, and a part of the sculpture Half and Half are installed in a room. The part of the sculpture shown is a castor attached to its hardware jutting out of the floor. The painting Country and God, and Thicker than Water are installed on the left wall. On the right wall is Homeostasis, a flipped ‘painting’ which exposes the wooden backs of the aluminum stretchers as well as the points on the stretcher where the collage of rags are stapled to. All the rags in Homeostasis are hues of brown.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021. (The sculpture George, My Father’s Name, is installed in two parts in a room. The top part of the sculpture is suspended using pitch pulleys. The suspended object is a plaster cast of the artist’s torso and raised arms up to the elbow with multiple copper tubes capped with blood pressure bulb valves stabbing the torso. Each ‘stab’ is surrounded by a transparent, light brown liquid and 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. The plaster cast of the artist’s torso and raised arms up to the elbow is suspended on a pitch pulley.  Multiple copper tubes capped with blood pressure bulb valves are stabbing the torso. Each ‘stab’ is surrounded by a transparent, light brown liquid and on the floor beneath the sculpture are red, pink, and yellow rose petals loosely arranged in a circle.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (The sculpture Just Above My Head, a sculpture made of a cast of the artist’s head, a steel table made of square tubes and a perforated top, and three antique lamps is installed on the floor in a room. The head is placed upside down on the perforated top and is attached to a cranking mechanism which can be functioned to drag the head across the perforated top. Under the table are three unplugged antique lamps, all of which are hanging from the tabletop, and two of which are placed on the floor.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (Detail view of the sculpture Just Above My Head, showing the cast of the artist’s head upside down on the perforated steel tabletop. A small pile of plaster dust surrounds the head from being dragged across the perforations.)

Jeffrey Meris, installation view, 2021 (The sculpture High Heel, a manipulated found object sculpture made of a disassembled walker, a pair of plaster-cast feet, steel table made of welded square tubes and a perforated surface, and a cranking mechanism, is installed on the floor in a room. The handlebars are detached from the walker and fixed into the pair of plaster feet on top of the table. The feet are attached to a cranking mechanism that can be functioned to drag the feet across the perforated table top. The rest of the walker is intertwined with the table and mechanism. A small pile of plaster dust is on the floor under the table from 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. (A portrait-orientation ‘painting’ made of many terry cloth rags used to clean loosely connected by metal snaps. The one piece rag that covers the bottom third dyed light blue and has a faded periodic table of elements printed on it as well as a diagram of a chemical compound superimposed in black. The top two third is covered in patches of rags used to clean rust, resulting in patches of different hues of brown.)

Jeffrey Meris Just Above My Head, 2020 Plaster cast, steel, lamps, wooden knob, crank and hardware. 49 × 38 × 18.25 in. (A manipulated found object sculpture made of a cast of the artist’s head, a steel table made of square tubes and a perforated top, and three antique lamps. The head is placed upside down on the perforated top and is attached to a cranking mechanism which can be functioned to drag the head across the perforated top. Under the table are three unplugged antique lamps, all of which are hanging from the tabletop, and two of which are placed on the floor. A small pile of plaster dust and debris lies on the floor by the lamps from the head being dragged across the perforated table top.)