Lee Jaffe
History Revisited

Nohra Haime Gallery, New York

October 21–December 11, 2021
October 26, 2021
Nohra Haime Gallery
500 West 21st Street
10011 New York, NY

T 212 888 3550
[email protected]

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For the first time since 1984, multi-disciplinary artist Lee Jaffe will exhibit History Revisited a series of large-scale mixed media artworks addressing the sharp edges of American history. Born in the Bronx in 1950, Jaffe grew up with his Jewish family during the social tumult of the Civil Rights and decolonizing movements around the globe in the 1960s. Jaffe’s command over composition derives from his extensive training as a conceptual visual artist but also guided by a broader commitment towards social justice. As a filmmaker in the 1970s and 80s, Jaffe collaborated with revolutionary artists Gordon Matta-Clark (Chile) and Hélio Oiticica (Brazil). Jaffe is perhaps most recognized for his ubiquitous photo portraiture of popular culture and music figures such as reggae pioneers Bob Marley and Peter Tosh and visual artist JeanMichel Basquiat whose collaborative work titled Portrait of Cinque is included in the exhibition.

Initially exhibited at Peter Bonnier Gallery in 1984, Jaffe describes the impetus of the series, “At the time of its creation in 1983, I felt an intense need to retell these stories that have been skewed, or largely untold. By combining painting, drawing, sculptural and natural elements, as well as archival documents and photography, I could unearth the contradictions of American history, bone by bone, bill by dollar bill.” For example, in Portrait of Sacco and Vanzetti, Jaffe applies animal material, namely fish scales, and bones, against an encasement of gold leaf and decadence. Furthermore, Jaffe uses greenbacks to undermine its value in Portrait of George Washington. In The Life and Times of Sally Hemings, Jaffe uses the dollar bill to underscore how Trans-Atlantic slavery produced America’s wealth but also to reassert the story of Sally Hemings, a Black woman enslaved and coerced into pregnancy by Thomas Jefferson.

According to Leslie Garrett, Gallery Director, “It is uncanny how relevant Lee Jaffe’s artwork is today. We are excited that these works created nearly forty years ago will now be viewed in the context of today when these very questions around race, violence and power remain embittered and unanswered.” In Portrait of John Brown and Nat Turner, Jaffe reconstructs a map of the United States and wooden gallows to foreground the violent consequences of insurrection and rebellion. In History Revisited, Jaffe reminds viewers that history is always in the making, and for the taking.