Artist: Despina Stokou
Exhibition title: SHOUT!
Venue: Derek Eller, New York, US
Date: October 14 – November 13, 2016
Photography: all images copyright and courtesy of the artist and Derek Eller, New York
Derek Eller Gallery is proud to present SHOUT!, an exhibition of paintings by Despina Stokou.
To many people, the word “shout” immediately acts as a call to dance, let loose and visit that wild side… It’s in the primal yells of the Isley Brothers’ famous 1959 call-and-response hit ‘Shout!’ or in their ‘Twist and Shout’ of the same year. These are just two in a long list of the hits later appropriated by a dominant white culture, often with little acknowledgement of the cultural precedents or connection to the political realities of African-Americans in the US at that time, or still, today…
I don’t want to hear anymore about how far we’ve come when paid public servants can pull a drive-by on 12-year old playing alone, in the park in broad daylight, killing him on television and then going home to make a sandwich
Shout a little bit louder now…
SHOUT! continues Stokou’s exploration of popular culture and political debates as mediated (and distorted) by contemporary public forums. As an artist, curator, and writer, Stokou’s work is concerned primarily with the expression of language in its myriad forms, from blog posts and Twitter comments to press releases and drug prescriptions. Probing the depths (or shallows) of the Internet, Stokou critically examines the conflation of history with trending topics, and the effects of these shifting forms of communication in the physical world. Online conversations dominate the public narrative, yet large swathes of the population still struggle to have their voices heard in meaningful ways.
We asked 10 years ago. We was asking with the (Black) Panthers, we was asking with the Civil Rights Movement. Now all these people who was asking is dead and in jail. Now what do you think we are gonna do… Ask?
At the center of SHOUT! is a swirling diptych re-imagining the American flag and sourcing campaign slogans from Lincoln through to the present day. Stokou intervenes in the source material, replacing the most repeated words (People, Future, Prosperity, Change) – with terms that have, for better or worse, come to dominate the current political cycle. She provides the following lexicon:
People – Super Delegates
Future – Rigged
Prosperity – Second Amendment
Change – Pokémon Go
Again – Black Lives Matter
Believe – Titties
The slogans go through a political make-over; the results are sometimes realistic – Bill Clinton’s “America for Super Delegates”, or sometimes absurd – Bernie Sanders’ “ Rigged to Titties”, or then, sometimes just hopeful, as when authoritarian slogans like Trump’s (and Reagan’s) turn into a call for social justice, “Make America(n) Black Lives Matter.”
You know you make me wanna (Shout!)
Kick my heels up and (Shout!)
Throw my hands up and (Shout!)
Throw my head back and (Shout!)
Stokou’s flag version is surrounded by a series of large-scale works that quote from Jesse Williams’s powerful speech at the BET Awards earlier this year, in which the actor lambasted the irony of mainstream America profiting from widespread cultural appropriation of black culture, while black Americans continue to struggle against segregation, injustice and even murder at the hands of their own government and public servants; to Tupac Shakur’s prescient lyrics; or currently Colin Kaeprnick’s call for greater awareness of the complex histories threaded through in mainstream culture experiences, as mainstream in fact as the National Anthem.
Shout a little bit softer now…
Structural biases in American culture take form in The Microfarts of Sexism, a commentary on the pervasive issue of sexism in the art world and mainstream media, in which male artists are often glorified for possessing certain traits that just as often stifle women, a pattern that is transferable into the larger workforce and that now, extends up through to the presidency and the current political media coverage. Similarly, SuppressWomenThroughPregnancy.com chronicles websites that turn the do’s and don’ts of women’s bodies into linkable subject matter and in Baby Drug Cocktail(Old Fashioned) Stokou winks at the (outdated) notion of a female diaristic work in the age of advanced reproductive technology.
Mainstream media plays a major role in reaffirming the “Male = Value” stereotype. There are many different value systems in the arts. Aesthetical factors of course, rarity, historical context, technique, hell even scale. But not the penis
SHOUT! is a call to action, a new form of call-and-response to the reality of anger sweeping through the United States and the world right now. What will come out on the other side; at a time when everybody is paying attention and the chorus of voices is growing louder, each day?
Shout, shout, shout, shout (oh-whoa-yeah)
Everybody shout now!
Text by: Melissa Passman and Despina Stokou
SHOUT! will be Stokou’s third solo exhibition at Derek Eller Gallery. She is also represented by Galerie Eigen + Art in Berlin/Leipzig, and her work has been featured in exhibitions at The KW Art Institute, Berlin, The Pit, Los Angeles, Gagosian Gallery, Athens, Ibid, Los Angeles, Nathalie Karg Gallery, New York, and Krinzinger Projekte, Vienna. Stokou’s work will be included in an upcoming exhibition at Kunstverein Gera, Gera.
 Jesse Williams 2016 BET award speech http://www.bet.com/video/betawards/2016/acceptance-speeches/jessewilliams-receives-humanitarian-award.html
 Tupac Shakur’s interview 1994 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aMXzLhbWtmk
 Trump speech in Detroit Economy Club 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IJigwEikRwY
 Despina Stokou http://hyperallergic.com/312225/art-is-genderful-an-artists-notes-on-navigating-a-sexist-system/
Despina Stokou, We Asked 10 Years Ago, 2016, Marker, acrylic, chalk and collage on linen, 40 x 30 inches
Despina Stokou, Is You Is or Is You Aint my Baby, 2016, Marker, acrylic, chalk and collage on linen, 40 x 30 inches
Despina Stokou, La Bamba, 2016, Marker, acrylic, chalk and collage on linen, 40 x 30 inches
Despina Stokou, Mama Said – The Shirelles, 2016, Marker, acrylic, chalk and collage on linen, 40 x 30 inches
Despina Stokou, Is You Is or Is You Aint my Baby II, 2016, Marker, acrylic, chalk and collage on linen, 40 x 30 inches
Despina Stokou, Shout!, 2016, Marker, acrylic, chalk and collage on linen, 40 x 30 inches
Despina Stokou, Day-O Banana Boat Song, 2016, Marker, acrylic, chalk and collage on linen, 48 x 36 inches
Despina Stokou, The Locomotion – Little Eva, 2016, Marker, acrylic, chalk and collage on linen, 48 x 36 inches
Despina Stokou, Baby Drug Cocktail (Martini), 2016, Marker, oil, chalk and collage on canvas, 60 x 48 inches
Despina Stokou, Baby Drug Cocktail (Oldfashioned), 2016, Marker, oil, chalk and collage on canvas, 60 x 48 inches
Despina Stokou, SuppressWomenThroughPregnancy.com, 2016, Marker, oil, chalk and collage on canvas, 84 x 72 inches
Despina Stokou, Jesse Williams BET Award Speech, 2016, Marker, oil, chalk and collage on canvas, 84 x 72 inches
Despina Stokou, Eau de Bro – The Microfarts of Sexism, 2016, Marker, oil, chalk and collage on canvas, 84 x 72 inches
Despina Stokou, Rigged to Titties (diptych), 2016, Marker, oil, chalk and collage on linen, 72 x 96 inches