JOURNEY TO ANOTHER IN WORLD IN ATLANTICA: THE GILDA REGION BY ARTIST APRIL BEY
Reno, NV (August 26, 2023) – Sense-tingling, scintillating and surreal: these adjectives only partly describe the universe created by contemporary artist and educator April Bey in Atlantica: The Gilda Region on view at the Nevada Museum of Art beginning August 26, 2023. Offered under the framework of tourism, the exhibition invites viewers to visit this imaginative world--a place where glitter is the unit of currency--through the lens of an industry the artist experienced firsthand during her childhood in The Bahamas. Tourism is one of the Bahamas’ principle economic engines and Bey incorporates its unique design—in the form of peppy imagery—that often describes the experience of a tourist arriving in a new destination.
Yet, in Atlantica, Bey rewrites fraught histories to eliminate oppression and racism to instead celebrate people of African descent thriving as visionaries and artists. Home to innovators and creators, Altantica presents an Afrofuturism that embraces queerness, feminism, Internet culture, and above all, joy.
“I’m creating a space where Black women and queer people can simply be themselves,” Bey said. “In Atlantica, we can solve everything,” the artist said.
Bey grew up on the island of New Providence in the Bahamas and finds the roots of her inspiration for this exhibition in a childhood memory. At the tender age of five, Bey recalls her Black father doing his best to explain racism to her after she had been teased at school for the color of her hair. Her father responded to Bey’s questions with something far beyond the artist’s expectations—he told her that the reason people mistreated her at school was because Black people are aliens from another planet and that she was on a reconnaissance mission to retrieve information about the strange customs of the people on Earth. To Bey, the idea that she was on a mission from a planet not plagued by divisions of race, gender, and social class was enchanting, and so Atlantica was born.
Serving as an “alien ambassador,” Bey is responsible for reporting on Earth—offered under the auspices of Bey’s journey as an artist and educator deeply interested in feminism, post-colonialism and race, welcoming new worlds so visitors can have experiential encounters with these larger narratives through a physical space informed by the artist’s imaginative social critique.
Originally curated by Mar Hollingsworth at the California African American Museum (CAAM) in Los Angeles, CA, Atlantica: The Gilda Region incorporates mass-produced printmaking, mixed media painting, textiles, and videos to showcase the new planet, where an invented history, landscape and people all bear the imprint of the artist’s scholarship and experiences—a kaleidoscope of pop culture, science fiction, and found objects that symbolic meaning relevant to the central themes of the exhibition.
“I’m trying to get everyone to think in an elevated, evolved way,” Bey said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. “If the aliens came in to check on us, they might be like ‘Ohmigod, you still have race? You still have gender?’”
“Atlantica is a joyous AfroFuturist meme, while it is also a serious paean to women’s resilience in the face of colonialism, specifically Black women who are expected to be sovereign and robust while at the same time assumed to be inept and emotionally weak when leadership roles are sought,” said Bey. “Made in another universe that parallels, critiques, celebrates and satirizes our own Atlantica occupies exploited space, offering up a fictitious world where labels are non-existent, and we are allowed to float within our self-defined identities.”
Bey now resides and works in Los Angeles, CA as a visual artist and art educator.
Bey’s work is in the collection of The California African American Museum, The
April Bey: Atlantica, The Gilda Region is organized by the California African
The Nevada Museum of Art is the only art museum in Nevada accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). A private, nonprofit organization founded in 1931, the statewide institution is supported by its membership as well as sponsorships, gifts and grants. Through its permanent collections, original exhibitions and programming, and E.L. Cord Museum School, the Nevada Museum of Art provides meaningful opportunities for people to engage with a range of art and education experiences. The Museum’s Center for Art + Environment is an internationally-recognized research center dedicated to supporting the practice, study, and awareness of creative interactions between people and their environments. The Center houses unique archive materials from more than 1,000 artists working on all seven continents, including Cape Farewell, Michael Heizer, Walter de Maria, Lita Albuquerque, Burning Man, the Center for Land Use Interpretation, Great Basin Native Artists Archive, Ugo Rondinone’s Seven Magic Mountains, and Trevor Paglen’s Orbital Reflector. Learn more at nevadaart.org.
2. April Bey, One Thigh Snack Fry Dry Please, 2021. Digitally woven blanket with hand-sewn fabric and glitter, 80 x 240 in. Courtesy of the artist and GAVLAK Los Angeles and Palm Beach
3. April Bey, When Your Limit is the Sky, I'm on Another Planet and You Just Fly, 2021. Water-based latex paint, watercolor, hand-sewn fabric, glitter, and sequins, 110 x 216 in. Courtesy of the artist and GAVLAK Los Angeles and Palm Beach
4. April Bey, Enjoyment, 2021 (detail). Acrylic paint, watercolor, and hand-sewn fabric, digitally woven, 110 x 72 in. Courtesy of the artist and GAVLAK Los Angeles and Palm Beach
5. April Bey, 2021 photograph of the exhibit hosted at the California African American Museum in Los Angeles, CA. Photograph courtesy of the California African American Museum