Chosen Family

Jarrett Key

Artist’s Talk: Jarrett Key with Curator Ellen Tani
December 9, 2020 at 7 pm ET
Watch the archived talk here

A continuation of their Leaving the City series, Chosen Family is a unique body of work that depicts members of Key’s chosen family in relationship to the natural splendor of landscapes that define the figure, lushly painted on wet cement. Taking on a fresco-like appearance, the use of cement conjures connotations of Black life, leisure, and stereotypes: the basketball court, the sidewalk, jail. By exposing the limits of public imagination in regards to Black life, Key’s bucolic images suggest land ownership, safety, and freedom within lush pastoral landscapes.

The nine new works created for the show include four diptychs, each featuring a bust portrait from Key’s chosen family of queer Black folx. “Chosen family in the queer community refers to friends that become brothers and sisters, mentors that become parents,” says Key. Each bust is paired with a landscape, a natural environment that is meaningful to the figure and that has informed their experience. The final work is a triptych that places these four figures in an imagined shared landscape, enjoying each other’s company in nature.

Jarrett Key (b. 1990) lives and works in Providence, RI. Key is a recent MFA graduate from RISD Painting. Key is one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 for Art and Style 2020. Key’s practice embodies several modes of production in one frame. Through form, image, and material, the objects they make integrate a sculpture, painting, and performance practice. Excavating lost stories and the oral histories that define their upbringing in rural Alabama, Key’s work seeks to criticize those historical conditions that are the seeds of contemporary issues in their life, while creating spaces that celebrate beauty, joy and survival.