MOCA Tucson is proud to present The Relevance of Your Data, an exhibition featuring fourteen new large-scale paintings by Grace Rosario Perkins commissioned by MOCA for her first solo museum exhibition. Perkins invited a group of artists close to her to participate in the show through artworks and performances––Lonnie Holley, Fox Maxy, Olen Perkins, and Eric-Paul Riege. Connected by friendship, kinship, and process-based creation, Perkins and her collaborators approach artmaking as a path to collective healing.
The exhibition’s title refers to the insidious ways personal data is used to categorize an individual’s identity in order to ascribe value or erase relevance––practices that are particularly harmful to people of color. The artists in the show seek to build solidarity between Black and Indigenous makers, and use techniques like abstraction, collage, and improvisation to hack reductive and virulent modes of data collection.
Perkins’ vibrant paintings will hang throughout MOCA’s space, creating surfaces that support other artists’ work. The paintings are heavy and layered with readily available materials like fabric, spray paint, tape, and paper. Perkins incorporates phrases like ‘I love you’ or symbol-rich imagery like spiderwebs, and adds family photos and found objects into the work. She uses autobiographical content but scrambles the information by covering or erasing elements of the paintings, refusing legibility to sustain privacy.
Perkins’ spiderwebs are emblematic of the exhibition’s overall approach in that webs are adaptive and expansive. Like webs, her paintings create structures that connect artworks. For example, Eric-Paul Riege uses Perkins’ paintings as raw material for new soft sculptures and as a site for performance. Riege’s work centers weaving––his fiber-based objects and wearable sculptures honor generations of weavers in his family and illustrate his own stories. Fox Maxy’s film Maat densely collages fragments of personal footage, recordings of activists, and rapid-cut sequences of land, digital space, and the border wall. One of Perkins’ paintings acts as a screen for Maxy’s film, echoing their support of each other’s work.
Olen Perkins, Grace’s father, shows a series of sculptures rendered from mesquite branches and aluminum cans collected in the Gila River Indian Community, where the artist lives and works. The gilded staffs build visual rhythm in their iterations, and act as guideposts that connect land and family. Lonnie Holley transforms found materials into sculptures layered with meaning. With a multivalent creative practice revolving around improvisation, Holley contributes five major sculptures to the show, and will stage a performance and series of workshops later in fall 2022. His vertical, post-like assemblages visually frame Perkins’ paintings, reflective of Holley’s longtime mentorship and friendship with the artist.
Together, these interconnected artworks operate outside of any singular category, creating a generous conversation about identity, land, and collectivity. Through friendship and collaboration the artists produce a web of support to create space for an expanded sense of self and community.
Grace Rosario Perkins: The Relevance of Your Data is organized by Laura Copelin, Curator-at-Large, with Alexis Wilkinson, Assistant Curator, MOCA Tucson.
The exhibition is supported by VIA Art Fund and Wagner Foundation; Desert Diamond Casinos; Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/ New York/ Tokyo; Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona; The Center for Imagination in the Borderlands at Arizona State University; and MOCA Tucson’s Board of Trustees and Ambassador Council.
About the artists
Grace Rosario Perkins (b. 1986, Santa Fe, NM, based in Albuquerque, NM; Diné/Akimel O’odham) is a self-taught painter who has spent 15 years as an arts educator and most recently served as Associate Professor of Painting and Drawing at Mills College, Oakland, CA. Sites of engagement include ONE Archives, Oakland Museum, Residency Art Gallery, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Cooper Union, and Occidental College, amongst others. Perkins has been nominated for a United States Arts Fellowship and SFMOCA’s SECA Award.
Lonnie Holley’s (b. 1950, Birmingham, AL, based in Atlanta, GA) critically admired art practice spans painting, drawing, assemblage sculpture, sandstone carvings, and performance that combines experimental music and poetry. His work is represented in the permanent collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA; and Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., among many other museums. Selections of his oeuvre have been featured in institutional group exhibitions including at the NSU Art Museum, Fort Lauderdale, FL (2022); Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD (2021); Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA (2019); Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY (2018); MASS MoCA, North Adams, MA (2017); de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA (2017), among many others. Holley’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions including at the Parrish Art Museum, Water Mill, NY (2021); Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta, GA (2017); Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art; Charleston, SC (2015); Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL (2004). Holley has been the subject of several documentary films, and his own directed short film premiered at Sundance in 2018.
Fox Maxy (based in San Diego, CA; Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians and Payómkawichum) is a filmmaker and artist. Her work has screened at MoMA’s Doc Fortnight, BAM CinemaFest, LACMA, Rotterdam (IFFR), AFI Docs, ImagineNative Film Festival, BlackStar Film Festival and Camden (CIFF) among others. In 2022, Fox was named as Sundance Institute’s Merata Mita Fellow, in honor of Merata Mita (Ngāi Te Rangi/Ngāti Pikiao), one of the first Maori women to write and direct a feature film. Fox is currently working on her first feature film called Watertight.
Olen Perkins (b. 1958, Sacaton, AZ, based in Uhs Kehk / Blackwater, AZ; Akimel O’odham) is a painter and sculptor. His work has been shown at SOMArts San Francisco, the Institute of American Indian Arts, the Tucson Museum of Art, and more. He holds an MFA from the University of Illinois where he also served as a Professor of Art.
Eric-Paul Riege (b. 1994, Gallup, NM, based in Naʼnízhoozhí; Diné) creates soft, woven sculptures, wearable art, digital collages, and durational performances that relate to his heritage and spirituality, particularly the intergenerational and interspecies traditions of weaving. These works express his philosophies and cosmologies of sanctuary, harmony, and interconnection with all elements of the world around him. His work is a being of Hózhó–Diné philosophy that encompasses beauty, balance, goodness, and harmony in all things physical and mental and its bearing on everyday experience. Riege’s first solo museum presentation was at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami in 2019. He has shown work and performed at venues including the SITE Santa Fe Biennial 2018 (Santa Fe, NM), the Navajo Nation Museum in Tségháhoodzání (Window Rock, AZ), the National Hispanic Cultural Center (Albuquerque, NM), and the Heard Museum (Phoenix, AZ). In 2021 he had group shows at Regen Projects and STARS Gallery (Los Angeles, CA) and a solo show at Bockley Gallery (Minneapolis, MN). Riege is part of the 2021 Prospect New Orleans Triennial and will be included in the 2022 Toronto Biennial.
Image Credits: Photo 1. Grace Rosario Perkins, Michael Drives a Car, 2021-22 (detail). Courtesy of the artist. Photo 2. Olen Perkins, Find A River, 2016 (detail). Courtesy of the artist. Photo 3. Eric-Paul Riege, + [pronounced t’], 2021, installation view, Prospect.5: Yesterday we said tomorrow, Contemporary Art Center New Orleans, New Orleans, LA, 2021-23. Courtesy of the artist. Photo 4. Fox Maxy, Maat, 2020 (film still, detail). Courtesy of the artist. Photo 5. Lonnie Holley, Nesting, 2020 (detail). (c) Lonnie Holley / Artist Rights Society (ARS), New York. Courtesy of the artist and Blum & Poe, Los Angeles/New York/Tokyo.