We’re delighted to present a panel discussion with artists Leilah Babirye, Aya Rodriguez-Izumi, Kiyan Williams, and Lizania Cruz, moderated by curator and writer Legacy Russell, author of Glitch Feminism and Executive Director of The Kitchen in New York City.
My practice deals with concepts of ritual retention in the face of ancestral trauma, colonization and migration. I’m interested in how common everyday activities and objects can take on a ritualistic significance. I approach this theme by calling on personal experiences from my Cuban/Puerto Rican and Okinawan heritage. These ideas are explored through a range of media – installation, performance, sculpture, video and beyond are all utilized depending on the project’s needs. My work often exists in unusual and hard to use spaces: an old pharmaceutical factory, a warehouse historically used to manufacture doors, an underused section of a public city park have all served as backdrops for projects. I aim to create a transformative environment and experience for the viewer with the goal of creating bridges for cultural understanding. By inviting viewers in through one-on-one interactive performances, or offering a prompt whereby they are the sole performers, participants play a vital role in the work.
Kiyan Williams (they/them/theirs) is an artist and writer based in New York. They are attracted to quotidian, unconventional materials and methods that evoke the historical, political, and ecological forces that shape individual and collective bodies. Williams earned a BA with honors from Stanford University and an MFA in Visual Art from Columbia University. Their work has been exhibited at The Hirshhorn, the Hammer Museum, SculptureCenter, Brooklyn Museum, Socrates Sculpture Park, The Shed, and more. Williams’ work is in private and public collections including the Hirshhorn Museum and the Hammer Museum. Williams’ work has been featured in and reviewed by ArtNews, BOMB Magazine, Hyperallergic, and Social Texts. They are a recipient of the Franklin Furnace Fund, Graham Foundation Fund, and Fountainhead Fellowship at VCU. They are currently a lecturer in the Parsons MFA program.
Lizania Cruz is a Dominican participatory artist and designer interested in how migration affects ways of being & belonging. Through research, oral history, and audience participation, she creates projects that highlight a pluralistic narrative on migration. Cruz has been an artist-in-residence and fellow at the Laundromat Project Create Change (2017-2019), Agora Collective Berlin (2018), Design Trust for Public Space (2018), Recess Session (2019), IdeasCity:New Museum (2019), Stoneleaf Retreat (2019), Robert Blackburn Workshop Studio Immersion Project (SIP) (2019), A.I.R. Gallery (2020-2021), BRIClab: Contemporary Art (2020-2021), Center for Books Arts (2020-2021), and Jerome Hill Artist Fellow, Visual Arts (2021-2022).
Her work has been exhibited at the Arlington Arts Center, BronxArtSpace, Project for Empty Space, ArtCenter South Florida, Jenkins Johnson Project Space, The August Wilson Center, Sharjah’s First Design Biennale, Untitled, Art Miami, among others. Most recently she is part of ESTAMOS BIEN: LA TRIENAL 20/21 at el Museo del Barrio the first national survey of Latinx artists by the institution. Furthermore, her artworks and installations have been featured in Hyperallergic, Fuse News, KQED arts, Dazed Magazine, Garage Magazine and the New York Times.
Leilah Babirye (b. 1985 in Kampala, Uganda) lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She studied art at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda (2007–10), and participated in the Fire Island Artist Residency in 2015. In 2018, she received asylum in the US with support from the African Services Committee and the NYC Anti-Violence Project and presented her first solo exhibition at Gordon Robichaux in New York. She is represented by Gordon Robichaux, New York and Stephen Friedman Gallery, London.
Babirye has presented solo exhibitions at Gordon Robichaux in New York (2020 and 2018), Stephen Friedman Gallery in London (2021), and at Rebecca Camacho Presents in San Francisco (2020).
Group exhibitions include: mixed up with others before we even begin at mumok, Museum moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, Vienna, Austria; Strange Clay: Ceramics in Contemporary Art at the Hayward Gallery, London; Black Atlantic, co-curated by Hugh Hayden and Daniel S. Palmer, presented by the Public Art Fund in Brooklyn Bridge Park, New York City; 52 Artists: A Feminist Milestoneat The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, CT; SET IT OFF, curated by Racquel Chevremont & Mickalene Thomas—collectively known as Deux Femmes Noires, Parrish Museum of Art, Watermill, NY; Coventry Biennial, Herbert Art Gallery & Museum, Coventry, UK; Art on the Grid, Public Art Fund, New York; Did I Ever Have a Chance?, Marc Selwyn Fine Art, Los Angeles; A Page From My Intimate Journal, Part 2 —, Parker Gallery, Los Angeles; Flight: A Collective History at the Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, NY (curated by Serubiri Moses); Stonewall 50 at the Contemporary Arts Museum (CAMH), Houston, TX; Fur Cup, Underdonk, Brooklyn, NY (curated by Elisa Soliven); Strange Attractors, Kerry Schuss, New York City (curated by Bob Nickas); Plays on Camp, Assembly Room, New York City (curated by Dr. Ksenia M. Soboleva); and the 2018 Socrates Annual, Socrates Sculpture Park, Queens, NY.
Babirye’s work is held in the collections of The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Hessel Museum of Art, Annandale-On-Hudson, NY; Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry, UK; Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, OH; and RISD Museum, Providence, RI.
Babirye has participated in numerous panel discussions, including at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts (organized by JD Samson); Yorkshire Sculpture International; The Africa Center; the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair; and the Black Lesbian Conference at Barnard College in New York.
Profiles on Babirye and her art were recently published in The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Brooklyn Rail, Hyperallergic,British Vogue, Wallpaper* Magazine, Cultured Magazine, New York Magazine, Modern Painters, OUT Magazine, Raw Material: A Podcast from SFMOMA (Season 4: Luvvers), BET.com, and the Financial Times.
In 2021, Gordon Robichaux and Stephen Friedman Gallery co-published the first monograph dedicated to Babirye’s work with texts by Lauren O’Neill-Butler and Rianna Jade Parker.
Legacy Russell is a curator and writer. Born and raised in New York City, she is the Executive Director & Chief Curator of The Kitchen. Formerly she was the Associate Curator of Exhibitions at The Studio Museum in Harlem. Russell holds an MRes with Distinction in Art History from Goldsmiths, University of London with a focus in Visual Culture. Her academic, curatorial, and creative work focuses on gender, performance, digital selfdom, internet idolatry, and new media ritual. Russell’s written work, interviews, and essays have been published internationally. She is the recipient of the Thoma Foundation 2019 Arts Writing Award in Digital Art, a 2020 Rauschenberg Residency Fellow, and a recipient of the 2021 Creative Capital Award. Her first book is Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto (2020). Her second book, BLACK MEME, is forthcoming via Verso Books.
Top image: Install Images (left to right): Kiyan Williams, Sentient Ruin 7, 2022 Earth. Courtesy the artist and Lyles & King, New York; Lizania Cruz, Opening Statement, 2021 Multimedia video 11:20 minutes Evidence Shelf, Investigation of the Dominican Racial Imaginary, 2022. Courtesy of the artist ; Aya Rodriguez-Izumi, In the Shadow of Fences I, 2022. Courtesy of the artist. Photos: Jason Mandella.