The artist Kevin Jerome Everson (*1965 Mansfield, lives in Charlottsville) is one of the most renowned experimental filmmakers of our time. The immediate proximity to the filmed persons, who belong to different African-American living and working worlds, characterizes the artist’s long-standing work. The artist’s solo exhibition is presented on the spacious first floor of the HALLE FÜR KUNST Steiermark and provides an overview of the artist’s many years of work.
The picture is black. The only sound you hear is birdsong, and then the film begins. The 16mm camera is focused on a young woman holding a pair of binoculars. The background is out of focus, so the leaves appear as a blurry green area. The image trembles and reproduces the hand movements of the person filming. For just over two minutes, the camera follows men and women as they watch birds. But the object of observation, the red-backed mockingbird (Brown-thrasher), which lives in the central and eastern regions of the United States, never appears.
It is these almost banal moments that fascinate artist Kevin Jerome Everson (*1965 Mansfield, lives in Charlottesville), one of the most renowned experimental filmmakers of our time. One of his best-known films from recent years is Tonsler Park (2017). Shot in black and white, Everson filmed four polling stations in a local Charlottesville, Virginia voting precinct on the day of the popular vote for the 2016 U.S. presidency. The plot centers on the democratic process, voters, and volunteers in the African American region surrounding the polling place in Tonsler Park. The film focuses on the expressions and actions of individuals and resists any objective portrayal of the bureaucratic process. Rather than pursuing conventional realism, Everson abstracts everyday expressions into theatrical gestures and choreographs poetic compositions that resist a classical narrative form. By exclusively using the 16mm format, rendered in digitized form, Everson recalls the original conception of film, which was intended as an extension of photography. Thus, it seems unsurprising that his practice evolved from so-called street photography. The close proximity to the photographed subjects that often characterizes this genre can also be traced in his films.
The large-scale solo presentation of the artist represents the first institutional show of the artist in Austria and will extend over the entire first floor of the HALLE FÜR KUNST Steiermark. The conceptual framework of the exhibition results from the concentration on certain “divisions” that can be identified in Everson’s oeuvre. Thus, in bringing together a number of projected films that, like Brown thrasher (2020), are concerned with observing the sky, and works that document the realities of life and history of diverse African American communities, an arc of tension is created within the presentation. This juxtaposition also focuses on the medium of film itself, which as a means of communication is able to depict reality. The works, some of which are silent and shot in color or black and white, sometimes reveal more, sometimes less of a narrative or choreography. What is common to all the films, however, is that their creator consistently does not provide any guidelines for interpreting what is to be seen, but rather sends the viewers, like his filmed subjects, on a search for their own motifs.
Curated by Cathrin Mayer
is a professor of art at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. He studied at Ohio University and the University of Akron. His work has been screened at prestigious film festivals such as the Berlinale, Berlin; the New York Film Festival, New York; and the International Film Festival in Rotterdam, Rotterdam. Everson has had solo presentations at prestigious museums and institutions such as the Tate Modern, London; the Museum of Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.
Everson is the recipient of several awards including the Alpert Award, and numerous fellowships including the Guggenheim, NEA, NEH, Ohio Arts Council and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, an American Academy Rome Prize, fellowships from the Wexner Center for the Arts, Creative Capital and the Mid-Atlantic, residencies at Mobile Frames / Media City Film Festival (Windsor/Detroit), Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Yaddo and MacDowell Colony, and numerous university fellowships.