Sandra Payne’s Bling Manifesto

ST. LOUIS — The unabashedly female oeuvre of collagist, sculptor, and conceptual artist Sandra Payne is a smorgasbord of shimmer and sequin, a bling manifesto for the senses at brazen odds with the minimalist white dice. A World of Shine, a retrospective dedicated to the late artist and librarian’s profession, on view at Tasks+ gallery, celebrates Payne’s gravitation towards the refulgent and uncommon, whereas additionally reminding viewers of her devotion to humble supplies and on a regular basis objects. Born and raised in St. Louis, Payne moved to New York within the early Nineteen Eighties, turning into a part of a neighborhood of Black artists who, within the Nineteen Seventies and ’80s, made an imprint at avant-garde galleries like Simply Above Midtown. As a librarian for the New York Metropolis Public Library for almost 30 years, she honed her ardour for gathering and cataloguing whereas persevering with to make and present artwork at small galleries all through town. By the point she handed away at 70, 13 years after returning to St. Louis, her historic residence had itself turn into an archive of eclectic objets de artwork — from glass vitrines of mid-century promotional rain bonnets to designer fragrance and cologne bottles. 

A World of Shine facilities on a sequence of collages lower from high-resolution photos of high quality jewellery bought in public sale catalogues, however it contains as nicely a collection of Payne’s figurative ink drawings, aluminum sculptures, and tableaux of vintage bric-à-brac. Accompanying the exhibition, a monograph designed by Danielle and Kevin McCoy of Work/Play options contributions from the curatorial workforce, along with reflections from a big selection of Payne’s contemporaries and family members.

The next dialog with curator Margaret Rieckenberg was held on the gallery in September. It has been edited for size and readability.


Sandra Payne, “Untitled 3,” from jewel collage sequence (2016), collaged paper on matboard, 20 × 16 inches (all pictures by Suzy Gorman, courtesy Barrett Barrera Tasks and initiatives+gallery)

Hyperallergic: Sandra Payne’s exhibition was deliberate to launch in 2020, however was postponed as a result of pandemic, throughout which period the artist handed away. What function did she play within the present when she was alive?

Margaret Rieckenberg: Whereas we have been in dialogue along with her, it was nonetheless very a lot the early planning levels. She was the one that was producing the principle ideas and themes behind the present. We have been principally following the identical mannequin that we might with any artists for a solo exhibition — very collaborative, very a lot permitting the artist to take the reins of the exhibition. On the time, she was positively desirous to showcase the collages. In the beginning, we wished to help this, however we additionally wished to increase out to include a few of her sculptural items, too, which had been exhibited within the ’90s as a complete sequence of labor. 

After she handed away, we spent many hours going by way of what she had in her home — together with over 100 collages. Her character was not about actually speaking about herself, or her art work, a lot as speaking about different individuals, so we spent numerous time simply attending to know her by way of her residence and thru speaking to family members. Initially, the exhibition was not conceived of as a retrospective in any sense, so these sculptural items would have taken a extra minor function had she not handed away.

Set up view of Sandra Payne: A World of Shine at Tasks+, St. Louis

H: What knowledgeable your choice to remodel a few of her collages into wallpaper that covers the again of the gallery? 

MR: Early on, Susan Barrett [president of Barrett Barrera Projects] got here up with that concept, particularly as a result of there’s a ornamental aspect to the aesthetic of the collages, and he or she wished to play with that, to push at what individuals interpret as artwork versus the ornamental. We determined that the wallpaper can be a very nice method to showcase one other approach through which the collages may operate and will reside in inside house.

H: The wallpaper behind the framed collages appears to break down the boundary between high quality artwork and the ornamental in a fantastically irreverent approach. Nevertheless it additionally felt consistent with what I perceived to be Payne’s personal method of experimentation.

MR: She was positively pushing the boundaries between your on a regular basis sensate expertise and your expertise of an artwork object, asking you to name into query your individual sense of viewing the world round you. She’s taking these on a regular basis objects and recontextualizing them, and in doing so creating this complete new system of worth. The wallpaper was a pure extension of that conceptual facet of her observe — not solely to emphasise the precise aesthetic worth of the collages that she was doing, by blowing them as much as a monumental scale, however to proceed pushing these boundaries in her honor.

Set up view of Sandra Payne: A World of Shine at Tasks+, St. Louis

H: The exhibition additionally pays tribute to the hyper femme — an aesthetic class that’s not too long ago gotten much more consideration. 

MR: I believe that hyper femme aesthetic is basically vital [in relation to] the truth that she was a Black girl. From an artwork historic perspective, the Black feminine physique has historically been claimed by others. There’s not a historical past of self-claiming, that celebratory pleasure of building oneself. For instance, in portraiture, the Black girl’s physique is all the time objectified and even erased not directly. And Sandra was actually claiming that sexuality in a really female, confident approach. That confidence might be most obvious in her Venus Ink Drawings that we included, from 1986, when she was displaying at Simply Above Midtown, and actually within the depths of her exploration. 

H: I believe it’s additionally vital that her collages are comprised of public sale catalogue images. Sandra was from a really middle-class background, and each her work and life appeared to be very pro-bling, however not essentially pro-wealth. 

MR: That was very essential to Sandra’s method to her observe — reassigning the worth of what issues are price based mostly on her personal requirements of magnificence and worth. For her to say, “That is stunning as a result of I say it’s. That is artwork as a result of I say it’s” could be very a lot in keeping with the White male avant-garde observe of reassigning what is taken into account artwork. She’s doing the identical factor, however then additionally extending that into societal requirements of magnificence and worth. 

Set up view of Sandra Payne: A World of Shine at Tasks+, St. Louis
Set up view of Sandra Payne: A World of Shine at Tasks+, St. Louis
Set up view of Sandra Payne: A World of Shine at Tasks+, St. Louis
Set up view of Sandra Payne: A World of Shine at Tasks+, St. Louis

Sandra Payne: A World of Shine continues at Tasks+ gallery (4733 McPherson Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri) by way of October 22. The exhibition was curated by Margaret Rieckenberg.

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