Frieze Los Angeles: Calida Rawles

February 14 - 16, 2020 

“All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was.”
-Toni Morrison

VSF is pleased to the gallery’s first fair presentation with Calida Rawles. This fair presentation runs concurrently with Rawles’ solo exhibition at Various Small Fires, Los Angeles. As part of Frieze Talks, Calida Rawles will be in conversation with author Ta-Nehisi Coates and LACMA curator Christine Y. Kim at the Paramount Theater.

Reflecting on topographical matters which shape and hold black life, Rawles merges realism with poetic abstraction through immersive paintings using acrylic on canvas. With this exhibition, Rawles employs water as multifaceted material and space to consider possibilities of womanhood, tranquility, and otherworldliness.

Floating on ripples of cerulean and washes of deep cavernous blue, Rawles’ portraits envision black women in gowns of ivory floating in masses of unnamed water that nearly exceed the curb of the canvas. This non-place of water harbors moments of leisure and sensual delight along with spiritual relief and kinship. Water, with its historical connection to black suffering through Middle Passage and Jim Crow legislation, is also the architect of black serenity in escape and spiritual cleansing and is everpresent in Rawles’ paintings. Strokes of acrylic create textures of deep movement where figures sink and float within the canvas surface. At the same time, their gestures suggest the possibilities of peace in the face of uncertain bodies of water. Rawles works towards the allegorical potential of water and its boundless pursuits offering a new space for black healing.

- Text by Essence Harding, 2020


Calida Rawles (b. 1976, Wilmington, Delaware) received her B.A. in Art at Spelman College and her M.A. in Painting at New York University. Her work has been included in exhibitions at the LACMA Inglewood Art + Film Lab, Inglewood, CA; the San Francisco Arts Commission, San Francisco, CA; FC Fine Arts, Fullerton, CA; Walter Maciel Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Papillon Art, Los Angeles, CA; and Rush Arts Gallery, New York, NY.