Artists Space

Shala Miller &
Malcolm Peacock

with Amiri Baraka's Cellar Vigil

March 31 – May 27

Artists Space is pleased to present new works by interdisciplinary artists Shala Miller (b. 1993) and Malcolm Peacock (b. 1994). As part of their first New York institutional exhibition, Miller’s and Peacock’s commissions will present complex, generative narratives about the body, specters, ritual, endurance, and the experiential nature of transformation.

Black-and-white print featuring multiple photographs of a naked body, spotlighted against a black background and collaged together. Flashes of white light across the print obscure parts of the image, bringing the body in and out of focus.
Shala Miller, Modern-Day Sisyphus I, 2023. Courtesy the artist [Black-and-white print featuring multiple photographs of a naked body, spotlighted against a black background and collaged together. Flashes of white light across the print obscure parts of the image, bringing the body in and out of focus.]

Rooted in an understanding of performance as an embodied and intimate experience, the exhibition will include live actions, dissonance, and running monologues both visible and invisible as some of its core components. The artists’ commissions will also be presented alongside a suite of rarely seen, unreleased films titled Cellar Vigil (1966) by the poet, activist, and scholar Amiri Baraka.

Shala Miller works across photography, film, writing, music, and performance as a means of meditating on the conjunction of desire, mourning, pain, and pleasure. Under the moniker Freddie June, they explore voice as material. Miller’s new body of work is an extension of their yearslong practice of building fictional worlds with an auto-ethnographic root. For Artists Space, Miller has created an immersive installation that positions a three-channel video as a soundtrack for a fictional character, Obsidian, who serves as a kind of alter ego for the artist, created at the beginning of this year as a way to process their experience of rage as a Black femme. During the exhibition, Miller will invite a series of skilled vocalists and musicians to perform as an integral part of their presentation.

Malcolm Peacock’s most recent projects, which take the form of one-on-one interactions between the artist and invited participants, are informed by the concept of slow choreography and the intricacies of intimacy. Throughout the course of the exhibition, Peacock will complete hourlong breathing exercises in the gallery at sunrise. Members of the public will be invited to participate via advance registration. During these exercises, Peacock will speak the names of individuals provided by Black registrants who make online prayer requests, one part of the artist’s effort to create grounds of intimate exchange between Black subjects.

Registration for both breathing exercises and prayer requests begins March 30, 2023.

Shala Miller, also known as Freddie June when they sing, was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, by two southerners named Al and Ruby. At around the age of ten or eleven, Miller discovered quietude, the kind you’re sort of pushed into, and then was fooled into thinking that was where they should stay put. Since then, Miller has been trying to find their way out, and find their way into an understanding of themself and their history using photography, video, writing, and singing as an aid in this process. Miller earned a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, in 2017 and attended The New York Film Festival Artist Academy in 2019 and the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, Paris in 2016. Miller’s solo exhibitions include Lyles & King, New York in 2023 and Chart, New York in 2021. In 2022, Miller was included in Black Melancholia, at The Hessel Museum of Art, Bard College, and in Beneath Tongues, curated by Sable Elyse Smith, at Swiss Institute, New York. In 2017, Miller was an artist in residence at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture.

Malcolm Peacock received a BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, in 2016, and an MFA from Mason Gross School of Arts at Rutgers University, New Jersey, in 2019. His practice explores the emotional and psychic spaces of Black subjects, particularly by using art as a site to create and experience different forms of intimacy. He has participated in residencies at the University of Pennsylvania, St. Roch Community Church, the Joan Mitchell Center, Denniston Hill, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. His works have been exhibited at venues including Cindy Rucker Gallery, New York; Terrault Gallery, Baltimore; the Institute of Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University; the Prospect Triennial, New Orleans; and the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. Peacock is the recipient of the 2022 Carnegie International Fine Prize.

Poet, writer, teacher, and activist Amiri Baraka (1934–2014) was born Everett LeRoi Jones in Newark, New Jersey. He attended Rutgers University and Howard University and spent three years in the US Air Force before moving to New York to attend Columbia University and the New School for Social Research. For decades, Baraka was one of the most prominent voices in the world of American literature, working in poetry, drama, fiction, and essays. Throughout most of his career, his method was confrontational, calculated to shock and awaken audiences to the political concerns of Black Americans. He taught poetry at the New School for Social Research in New York, literature at the University of Buffalo, and drama at Columbia University, and for two decades, Baraka served as professor of Africana Studies at the State University of New York in Stony Brook.

Exhibition support is provided by Courtney Dailey.

Support for Artists Space’s exhibitions and programs is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Lambent Foundation Fund of Tides Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation, The Cowles Charitable Trust, The Cy Twombly Foundation, The Teiger Foundation, The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, The New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature, Imperfect Family Foundation, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, The Willem de Kooning Foundation, The Fox Aarons Foundation, Herman Goldman Foundation, The Destina Foundation, The Luce Foundation, May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, The Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation, Arison Arts Foundation, The David Rockefeller Fund, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, The Jill and Peter Kraus Foundation, The Richard Pousette-Dart Foundation.