Artists Space

Justin Allen, Rin Johnson, Diamond Stingily, Deborah Willis

February 21, 2017, 7pm

Artists Space was founded with the mission of assisting emerging artists. In its first years, programs were organized through the strict criteria that artists select other artists to exhibit, with established voices offering the space to artists with less recognition. This reading sees two emerging artists invited to share work, with both asked to invite a figure that they admire to read alongside them. Rin Johnson invited Deborah Willis, while Diamond Stingily invited Justin Allen.

A close-up image of an opened jewlery case. The case is oval-shaped and has a velvet lining.
[A close-up image of an opened jewlery case. The case is oval-shaped and has a velvet lining.]

The black mirror was a commonly used optical device among landscape painters in the eighteenth century. Known as the Claude Glass, after Claude Lorraine, for the subtle tonal effects produced, this technology, which prefigured the photographic lens, required the operator to turn their back on a scene in order to frame it, and was associated with the aesthetic of the picturesque.

Originating from the word 'descry'—to catch sight of—scrying is the divinatory practice of foretelling the future with the aid of a reflective surface. While the media used can vary, the black mirror has become a popular instrument among seers. Utilitarian and mythical, the obsidian mirror provokes a future that is literally retrospective, and makes claims toward truth through its manipulation of the mechanics of vision.

A space of active, magical, and fundamentally mediated visualization, the mirror is a compelling shared conceit in the work of Justin Allen, Rin Johnson, Diamond Stingily, and Deborah Willis.

Justin Allen is a writer and performer from Northern Virginia. He has written for Mosaic, Lambda Literary, ARTS.BLACK, and The Archive, the official journal of the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art. He has performed in artist niv Acosta’s work DISCOTROPIC at PS122’s Coil Festival in New York City, and at Tanz im August in Berlin, Germany. In May 2016 he presented at the International James Baldwin Conference at the American University of Paris. He lives in New York City.

Rin Johnson is a Brooklyn-based artist and writer. They are the author of Nobody Sleeps Better Than White People (Inpatient Press, 2016), and recently participated in the group exhibition The Unframed World: Virtual Reality as artistic medium for the 21st century at Haus der elektronischen Künste, Basel. Johnson is a co-founder with Sophia Le Fraga of the online journal Imperial Matters (a space for liquid poetry).

Diamond Stingily is a writer and artist from Chicago, Illinois living in Brooklyn. Stingily published her journal from when she was eight years old through Dominica Publishing, titled Love, Diamond, in 2016. Recent solo exhibitions include Elephant Memory at Ramiken Crucible, New York and Kaas at Queer Thoughts, New York (both 2016).

Deborah Willis is chair of the Department of Photography & Imaging at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. Willis has been the recipient of Guggenheim, Fletcher, and MacArthur fellowships, the Infinity Award in Writing from the International Center for Photography, and the Anonymous Was a Woman Foundation Award. Named one of the "100 Most Important People in Photography" by American Photography magazine, she is one of the nation's leading historians of African American photography and curators of African American culture. Willis's books include Envisioning Emancipation: Black Americans and the End of Slavery, with Barbara Krauthamer, Posing Beauty: African American Images from the 1890s to the Present, and Reflections in Black: A History of Black Photographers 1840 to the Present, among many others.