Bill Cosby’s Daughter Artist Erika Ranee Curates New York Show

This is Ranee's first curatorial effort.

Erika Ranee, Oh Hell No, 2014, mixed media on canvas. Courtesy of the artist.

Erika Ranee, Oh Hell No, (2014), mixed media on canvas.
Photo: Courtesy of the artist.

Artist Erika Ranee has quietly organized a pop-up group show that takes place in a Brooklyn artist’s studio, kicking off this Saturday at 6pm, and it looks like it’s going to be pretty interesting. It’s Ranee’s first curatorial effort.

The show, “Eye Contact,” features the work of Ranee along with eight other artists, both emerging and high profile. Of the latter group, there are artists Rina BanerjeeEllen Gallagher, and Ella Kruglyanskaya. Banerjee is a veteran of the Venice Biennale, Gallagher has had solo shows at the Whitney Museum and Tate Modern, and Kruglyanskaya’s resume includes shows at New York’s Gavin Brown’s Enterprise and Salon 94 and London’s Studio Voltaire. Also on the roster are Nina Chanel Abney, David Armacost, Lauren Gidwitz, Scott Grodesky, and Ryan Schneider.

“I started thinking about eye imagery after watching marchers carrying artist JR’s banner of Eric Garner’s cropped eyes,” Ranee told artnet News in an email. Garner was killed in a chokehold by New York police officers in 2014 as they apprehended him for selling untaxed cigarettes. The haunting banner was highly visible in demonstrations against excessive use of force by police against black people.

Ella Kruglyanska, untitled. Courtesy Zachary Keeting and Improvised Showboat.

Ella Kruglyanskaya, Untitled.
Photo: Courtesy Zachary Keeting and Improvised Showboat.

In a curatorial statement, Ranee points out that the eye is a classic artistic motif, serving as both a symbol of oppression (the all-seeing eye of Big Brother) and an intrusion (she cites Internet voyeurism). Today, as she points out, the “window to the soul” is often directed at mobile devices and screens. The imagery in the show ranges from personal to political, she says.

The show goes up as controversy continues over accusations of sexual assault against Bill Cosby, who is Ranee’s father. For the daughter of a man who has spent much of his life in the public eye, whether he was being celebrated or condemned, the eye’s metaphorical dimensions must certainly have had particular power.

Ranee creates lively, colorful mixed-media abstractions that occasionally bear funny titles like I Take Zymbalta (sic), from 2014, Mouth Breather, and bow chicka wow wow (both 2013). While keeping a low profile—on her website, she apparently does not use her father’s name—she has made her way into the art world over two decades. Since earning an MFA from the University of California at Berkeley in 1993, she has done residencies at the renowned Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, in Maine, at the Bronx Museum’s Artist in the Marketplace program, and at the Cooper Union, in New York and was an adjunct professor at NYU from 2012-2013. She has shown her work in New York at Allegra LaViola Gallery (now Sargent’s Daughters), at LMAK Projects, and in the Last Brucennial, in 2014.

Ranee’s connections with the some of artists stem from those residencies—that’s how she met Banerjee, Gallagher, and Kruglyanskaya.

She saw Armacost in a show at New York’s Martos Gallery, where, she told artnet News, “I was struck by one painting in particular of several eyes layered and corralled in a circle that at once looks like a face or a fetus.”

“There is an intuitive and lucid technique in his paintings that I find engaging,” she said. “It’s a quality I aspire to in my own work.”

She’s also gained the notice of other artists; Jayson Musson, aka Hennessy Youngman, and Marilyn Minter included her in their 2012 group show “It’s a Small, Small World” at New York’s Family Business, and Shinique Smith organized a show including her work at Atlanta’s SALTWORKS Gallery.

A work by Ryan Schneider. Courtesy Zachary Keeting and Unlimited Showboat.

A work by Ryan Schneider.
Photo: Courtesy Zachary Keeting and Unlimited Showboat.

Ranee’s work is also included in the controversial exhibition “Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue,” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, which is drawn from the museum’s collection as well as that of Ranee’s parents, Bill and Camille Cosby. The museum has come under fire for hosting the exhibition even as accusations of misconduct accumulate.

“Eye Contact” is the ninth outing of a recurring pop-up project called Improvised Showboat, for which artists Lauren Britton and Zachary Keeting stage exhibitions, mostly in and around New York. They are typically one-night affairs taking place in artists’ studios; Britton and Keeting curate the shows in collaboration with the hosting artist and hang them in just an hour. The first took place just a year ago, at Keeting’s Connecticut studio.

“The artists show up with work in hand at about five, and the party starts at six,” Keeting told artnet News by phone. There are generally about a dozen artists to a show. “We don’t try to sell anything, and the artists all pitch in for beer.”

“Eye Contact” takes place at the studio of artist Jennifer Coates, in the Industry City section of Brooklyn; after the opening reception Saturday, it remains on view Sunday and Monday, and closes with a party on Tuesday.

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