Richard-Jonathan Nelson’s (b. 1987; Savannah, Georgia) textile works explore new visions of Blackness through an associative vision steeped in the languages of science fiction and craft. Nelson’s experience with textile work dates back to his childhood in Savannah, Georgia, when his mother and grandmother taught him to sew. Stitching together different materials, the artist discovered how sewing could allow him to build his own worlds.
The cosmic explosions that appear in Nelson’s work harken back to his upbringing in the Southern Evangelical Church, where the threat of Armageddon loomed large. Living in the South as a queer Black man, that threat was always present, causing Nelson to feel alien in his environment. Accompanying these images are excerpts of poetic language, taken from the closed captions on films and television that the artist is accustomed to reading, having grown up with a hearing-impaired uncle and Deaf Interpreting mother. In his work, they serve as subtle clues, stepping stones amidst a noisy and highly-saturated amalgam of images, forms, and colors. Collectively, these elements come together in a material sense to build a new aesthetic of Blackness, one that is gentle and soft-spoken, yet simultaneously self-assured, bold, and primed to take the next leap into an ever-evolving future.
Richard-Jonathan Nelson’s work was acquired by 21c Museums through the 21c Museum Hotels Acquisition Prize at Untitled Art Miami in 2022. In the summer of 2022, the artist presented a solo exhibition, titled Interlacing distributed intelligence/noir care, at the Museum of the African Diaspora, in San Francisco, CA. He has had numerous solo exhibitions across the country, including at Aggregate Space Gallery, Oakland, CA; Jewish Educational Alliance, Savannah, GA, among others. His work has been featured in group exhibitions at Embark Gallery, San Francisco, CA; Hive Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; and Headlands Center for the Arts, Marin County, CA, among others. The artist received his MFA from California College of the Arts in 2017, and his BFA from Georgia State University in 2011. Nelson currently lives and works in Oakland, CA.