Hey Tomorrow: Arcmanoro Niles struck chords in post-pandemic life with use of containment
Aug 05, 2021
The openness of the space at Lehmann Maupin, New York can be daunting, but the gallery is admired by many artists as it is filled with natural light, high white ceilings, and light wood floors. For this reason, Lehmann Maupin is an obvious choice to present the gallery’s first exhibition with New York-based painter Arcmanoro Niles with overtly stentorian work. Hey Tomorrow, Do You Have Some Room For Me: Failure Is A Part Of Being Alive (Jun 03 - Aug 28, 2021) is astutely curated and were it not for the gallery’s cavernous physicality, the exhibition itself may have felt intrusive - praying on Niles’ assortment of noticeably private moments. Instead, the subjects, inspired or directly drawn from old photos of friends and relatives, stare directly back, creating an 8 x 8 ft. cube off the canvas inhabiting it while daring the viewer to sonder.
The overall exhibition focuses on moments of quiet, and often somber, failure juxtaposed with cheerful halos of glitter and “seekers”; hedonistic cartoon gremlins on an unending search for satiation and joy. Throughout the exhibition, Niles does a phenomenal job allowing the viewer to abscond real life and enter the reality of his portraits all whilst maintaining a distance that strangers innately inhabit. The viewer may not know what led to the moments snapshotted by Niles, but recognize them as points of pivotal change.
Works such as Kicked Out the House for Living Fast (I Never Held Love in My Gaze so I Searched for it Every Couple of Days), 2021, a man donned in activewear and sunglasses pauses to stare at the viewer before getting into his car. And though the subject seems stalwart, the gravity of his mistake is expressed with funebrial gloominess. Forced to leave his home due to his own philandering, the viewer can imagine standing at a distance, watching as he drives away knowing you’ll never see him again.
Thematically speaking, the sold-out show struck chords in post-pandemic life with its use of containment. The portrait’s subjects are contained in a vestibule, contained in their bedroom, contained in their kitchens; contained in the infrastructure of contemporary life. The artworks are both highly invasive and tangibly vulnerable, as each scene settles into its own misgivings. We are asked to ruminate in doubt and failure beyond the snapshot — using the seekers to remind us that joy is just imagination meeting transitional opportunity. Most noticeably, Niles deftly creates opportunities for growth for his portrait’s subjects, many of which would walk down the street as they go on about their daily routine.
The exhibition's titular painting, Hey Tomorrow, Do You Have Some Room For Me (Failure is a Part of Being Alive), 2021, depicts a serene waterfront with contrasting hot pink skies and pale blue water — the shoreline offering space to look out into nature and contemplate the exhibition’s mass. Its peacefulness creates the chance to process failure, numbness, and density as you imagine each portrait’s subject sitting on the rocks figuring out their next move. Hoping that a moment to pause at the water’s edge lets you gather the strength to stare straight into the future.
Hey Tomorrow, Do You Have Some Room For Me: Failure Is A Part Of Being Alive
Lehmann Maupin, New York
Jun 03 - Aug 28, 2021