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Janiva Ellis: Rats

Feb 25 – Sep 12, 2021
Janiva Ellis: Rats

Featuring new works created over the past year, “Rats” is the first solo museum exhibition for the American artist Janiva Ellis, whose paintings use formal themes of speed and transformation to explore fractured states of personal and cultural perception.

Ellis’s paintings produce abundant imagery, invented as well as appropriated. She draws from a broad array of material, including art history and pop culture, to comment on the insidious nature of white supremacist mythology and its denial of itself as a brutal social and structural force. Her work interrogates pervasive images, examining their contexts and sentimental resonances. She uses the wide-ranging strategies of landscape, abstraction, and cartoon for a sardonic reframing of the images’ visual and emotional narratives. The humor in her work aims to create space for release as well as renewal. Ellis uses figuration to paint Blackness expansively, communicating the complexity of navigating such a lopsided and violent landscape. “Rats” traces recent and significant experimentation in the artist’s practice, as she thinks through ideas related to traps, infestation, and mistakes.

Janiva Ellis (b. 1987, Oakland, California) received a BFA from California College of the Arts, Oakland, in 2012. She recently exhibited her work at the 2019 Whitney Biennial, New York, and the 2018 New Museum Triennial: Songs for Sabotage, New York. In 2018 Ellis was awarded the Rema Hort Foundation Emerging Artist Grant and the Stanley Hollander Award. Her works are held in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Rubell Museum, Miami; and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami.

This exhibition is organized by ICA Miami and curated by Alex Gartenfeld, Artistic Director, and Stephanie Seidel, Curator.


Janiva Ellis, Bull Squall Bingo, 2020. Oil on canvas. 48 x 60 in. Courtesy the artist.
Janiva Ellis, Something in the Way, 2019. Oil and pencil on canvas, 14 x 18 in. Courtesy the artist.