UTA Artist Space is now showing “The Wayward Passage”, the first exhibition for artist Antonio Scott Nichols in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia. On view until November 25, the nine large-scale paintings and three smaller still-life paintings reimagine the Great Migration of the 1920s. It transports viewers from Atlanta on an Afro-futuristic journey to Saturn. These pieces layer references from a pinnacle time in Black American history and artistry with contemporary references 100 years into the future. Nichols envisions Black Americans escaping to Saturn. When viewed in chronological order, the paintings capture fragmented moments in this imagined future, juxtaposing the experience of those who went to Saturn with those who stayed on Earth. Inspired by imaginative authors like Octavia Butler, Nichols uses fragmented visual storytelling and time as tools. The artist’s “what if” scenario also sets up a critique of mainstream historians’ focus on those who migrated to the North and the current emphasis on modern technology.
About the Artist (from www.antonioscottnichols.com)
Antonio Scott Nichols (b.1997, lives and works in Philadelphia, PA) is an artist whose work explores and challenges conventional uses of history, present-day social and political culture, and speculative & imagined futures in fragmented visual storytelling. His works evoke feelings of power, freedom, and ownership by romanticizing notions of escape and accomplishment.
Nichols’ upcoming show grapples with the Great Migration and other historical benchmarks from the 1920s and uses them as foundation for an original narrative. In this narrative, Nichols transfigures historical context into a “what if” story about Black people leaving Earth and settling down on Saturn. He critiques mainstream historians’ focus on those who migrated to the North over those who remained in the South, by juxtaposing the experience of those who went to Saturn with those who stayed on Earth.
In this show, Nichols emulates black music’s methods of appropriation and collaboration, using them to engage with many art forms. He appropriates Sun Ra’s belief about being from Saturn as well as imagery from George Clintons’ ‘Mothership Connection’ as representations of the imagined future. He also converses with the work of a few prominent artists from the 1920s, as well as more contemporary artists who engaged with the history, themes, and stories of the 1920s. Inspired by sci-fi writer Octavia Butler’s use of speculative fiction, Nichols engages with future, present and past in a unique way – not as linear periods of time but rather occurring simultaneously.
Nichols sees himself as the James Van Der Zee of this story, capturing fragmented moments in this imagined future. He treats the figures as both archetypes for the story he is telling and as representations of modern-day Americans. His obsession with crafting semi-kitschy images that radiate feelings of power, freedom, and escape comes from his appreciation of the Romanticism movement from 18th-century Europe.
At the center of his practice, Nichols places great importance on imagination and speculation in connection to the advancement of technology. He challenges the current overemphasis/overreliance on technology, the oversaturation of imagery and information, and the war on the individual imagination in today’s society. In his work, he utilizes old methods of mass media as a reclamation of power over collective consciousness and as a driving vehicle of how the story is told and how the story progresses.
He was born in Atlanta, Georgia and received his BA in Studio Arts from Bard College (2019).