May 1 - 5, 2019
For Frieze New York 2019, Various Small Fires will debut a solo presentation of works by Los Angeles-based artist Diedrick Brackens (b. 1989, Mexia, TX). Brackens uses woven algorithms stemming from the cultural histories of African, American, and European textiles to generate thoughtful, intricate figurative tapestries. Using his own silhouette as a template for the figure in his work, and a “double weave pick-up” technique to create recto/verso images, Brackens constructs layered narratives that philosophically and physically explore the intersection of American identity and sociopolitical tensions. In this new body of work, Brackens investigates the overlooked history of the Black Cowboy while wrestling with tropes of masculinity, using horses to conjure stereotypes associated with black bodies. Although the most popular symbol of the American West is rendered as a trailblazing, gun-toting, horseback-riding white hero, historians estimate that one in four cowhands was black, pejoratively described as a “cowboy” by white ranchers. After the Civil War, being a cowboy was one of the few paid jobs open to African American men, and they became invaluable to the Texan cattle industry in the postwar era. Brackens honors the lesser-known history of his home state through three large-scale narrative tapestries.