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Tiona Nekkia McClodden gets inaugural solo exhibition at White Cube.

Marking the artist’s inaugural solo show with the gallery, White Cube is pleased to present ‘A MERCY | DUMMY,’ an exhibition of sculpture, installation and painting by Tiona Nekkia McClodden.

Tiona Nekkia McClodden, portrait, Palais de Tokyo 2022, Courtesy the artist

Spanning two discrete bodies of work, McClodden takes two pivotal works of literature as her starting point to explore notions of interiority, performativity, sanctuary and violence.

Borrowing its title from Toni Morrison’s 2008 novel, A MERCY is comprised of a series of painted steel head gates – utilitarian devices employed to restrain and placate livestock in preparation for inoculation or slaughter. Contemplating their dual capacity to soothe and facilitate brutality, McClodden draws parallels with Morrison’s novel, set in late 17th-century colonial America. In the narrative, a mother employs a brutal act of mercy, seeking to protect her daughter from the danger of falling into worse hands and to shield her from the same violence that she herself endured. The head gates, with their ability to provide a sense of security, metaphorically embody the paradoxical nature of finding mercy within frameworks of violence.

Tiona Nekkia McClodden © the artist Courtesy the artist and White Cube

Centred on McClodden’s long-time study of the concept of ‘suspension of disbelief,’ the second body of work, DUMMY, presents an immersive installation in the form of a one-act play that McClodden refers to as an ‘arrested scene’, featuring a leather dummy as the core protagonist. The installation takes reference from The Blacks: A Clown Show, the 1958 play written by novelist and playwright Jean Genet.

DUMMY derives from the visual motifs in the playbook’s introductory paragraph, in which Genet asserts that the play’s intended audience is white. He proposes a scenario wherein a symbolic White figure must serve as the focal point of address. In the case that Black spectators are present, white masks are to be distributed. ‘And if the Blacks refuse the mask,’ Genet writes, ‘then let a dummy be used.’ Embodied in this exhibition as a ‘grappling dummy’ – a specific variety modelled on the human image and intended solely for absorbing impact – McClodden explores interiority, identifying with the dummy being the recipient of violence, which is retained deep within the psyche.  

Within this same body of work, a series of leather paintings draw on the silhouette of African masks, originally featured in the Paris (1959) and New York (1961) presentations of the play. Incorporating subtle modifications, McClodden references these historical masks and situates them within the context of the African Diaspora.

Tiona Nekkia McClodden‘ A MERCY | DUMMY,’ 14th February – 24th March 2024, White Cube Bermondsey

About the artist

Tiona Nekkia McClodden was born in 1981 in Blytheville, Arkansas, was raised in Greenville, South Carolina and lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She studied Film and Psychology at Clark Atlanta University in 2002, followed by an apprenticeship in Film and Video with Larry Steele at Educational Media Center at Spelman College, Atlanta, in 2004.

Her work was exhibited in major institutions including Kunsthalle Basel, Basel (2023); Phoenix Art Museum, Arizona (2023); El Museo del Barrio in New York (2022–23); MoMA, New York (2022–23); ICA Los Angeles, California (2022); Prospect 5, New Orleans, Louisiana (2021–22); the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Pennsylvania (2021); and New Museum, New York (2021); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2019). Other presentations of her work have been on view at Haus der Kulturen der Welt (HKW), Berlin (2019); MOCA, Los Angeles (2017); MCA Chicago, Illinois (2017); and MoMA PS1, New York (2016).

In recent years, McClodden has won prestigious grants and fellowships, including the Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant (2022), Princeton Arts Fellowship (2021–23); the Bucksbaum Award, Whitney Museum of American Art (2019); Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts (2019); the Louis Comfort Tiffany Award (2017); and the Pew Fellowship (2016). Her film works have been included at the Kansai Queer Film Festival in Osaka and Kyoto, Japan (2014) and the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (2009), among an array of international film festivals and film programmes.

Her writing has been featured on the Triple Canopy platform, in Artforum, Cultured Magazine, ART 21 Magazine, and many other publications. In 2020, McClodden founded Conceptual Fade, a project gallery and library that hosts micro-exhibitions and publications centred on Black art and conceptual practice.

White Cube’s exhibition programme extends across locations in London, Hong Kong, Paris, New York, Seoul, West Palm Beach and online. Since its inception in 1993, the gallery has exhibited the work of many of the world’s most highly acclaimed contemporary artists.



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