By Folasade Ologundudu
The joint series of paintings in Marika Thunder’s latest solo exhibition, Texas / Yeshiva–the first with Nina Johnson gallery–could not be more different. Texas has all the sparkling intensity of rich hues and luscious oozing colors that saturate canvases. Yeshiva is somber and gloomy, characterized by many shades of black, brown, and white. Presenting two bodies of work together, Thunder utilizes the main gallery placing seemingly disparate ideas regarding pop culture and modern society in conversation. A deeply personal show, Texas / Yeshiva reflects on Thunder’s lived experiences. As a child she moved often, spending time in Texas, California, and Pennsylvania. Each place and pivotal moment informs her work. While the paintings represent different periods in Thunder’s life, their creation occurred simultaneously. Exhibiting both series allows the artist to recall memories from various important stages in her adolescence. Here, she illustrates her story through a series of contrasting paintings swelling with cultural symbolism and social commentary. Her curiosity regarding the human psyche is unearthed by exploring ‘subjects of community, faith, and spirituality.’
At first glance, the bright celebratory yet eerie imagery in Texas, bears no connection to the solemn, muted, and desolate Yeshiva series, which is nearly devoid of human life. Thunder’s reflections evince the shared impact of people coexisting within communities unified under common goals whether through religious or social beliefs. In the gallery the works are presented as two distinctly different yet cohesive exhibitions, delineated by an exposed concrete beam that partitions the expansive space. Cotillion Kite, 2022, like many other works in the Texas series, employs vivid colors that conjure memories of childhood nostalgia, as a large kite upheld by the hand of an unseen figure dominates the canvas. In Yeshiva Classroom, 2022 we see an empty classroom; a blank green chalkboard; a short doorway to an exit; a fire alarm; electrical wires pouring out of a socket near the ground; a clock whose hands reveal that it’s just after 4:15 and evidently, class is no longer in session. In several paintings Thunder implements a method of building and destroying the canvas with thick impasto, industrial paint, granite, and wood putty. She layers paint and material only to sand it down and apply paint again, giving the work a visceral texture and human feel. Additionally, paintings from the series,’ Texas and Yeshiva, are framed alternatively, in a metallic silver and rich walnut brown. Through a layered narrative derived from memory, Thunder’s work explores duality and ‘the collective drive to seek purpose and fulfillment.’
Half the stage (Cotillion) by Marika Thunder. Oil on wood panel 40 x 30 in. Courtesy of Nina Johnson
Folasade Ologundudu is a Brooklyn-born writer and multidisciplinary creative specializing in journalism and storytelling through the lens of art and culture. A graduate of Brooklyn College, she received her Bachelor’s degree in Business Management with a concentration in marketing and communications. She also holds a diploma in Digital Marketing from NYU’s School of Professional Studies. She is the founder of Light Work, a creative platform rooted at the intersection of art, education and culture. Her podcast, produced through LightWork, explores the work of BIPOC artists with a focus on the African diaspora. Her critical work engages in art, education, and culture and can be seen in Art Forum, Artnet, Artsy, Hyperallergic, and Cultured Magazine.