Arts / Galleries

Lovie Olivia Celebrates Black Culture, Womanhood In Montrose Art Exhibition — This Artist Tells Intelligent Stories

Art Is Bond Gallery Puts Literature Centerstage

BY // 05.19.23

Artist Lovie Olivia’s exhibit “Interiority Complex” reveals a colorful subterranean world shaped by atmosphere, theory, culture and social consciousness. It is on view at Janice Bond’s Art Is Bond gallery in Houston through this Saturday, May 20. This is an exhibition that tells a compelling artistic story.

As the exhibition guide notes: “Interiority Complex aims to be a site of engagement, a visual reverie and survey of the florid poetics of Black Interiority.”

One major aspect of the visual reverie on display throughout Art Is Bond gallery is literature. A bright green Virgil Abloh book titled Icons greets gallery visitors. A side display of books curated by Kindred Stories includes Ghanaian artist Amoako Boafo’s monograph, Kwame Brathwaite’s Black is Beautiful, Koyo Kouoh’s When We See Us and Marilyn Nance’s Last Day in Lagos. Other volumes displayed in the gallery include Zhou Brothers: 30 Years of Collaboration and works from Audre Lorde and bell hooks.

Yet even within her own work, Lovie Olivia’s bibliophilic passion is evident. In fact, one painting — Her Own Scholarship (2023) — features a stack of books including Black Feminist Thought and Black Futures. Various shades of red and a darkened silhouette of the artist define the atmosphere. And the painting suggests not only an interest in Afrofuturism, but solitude and, perhaps, introspection. Recess (2023) pays homage to Uhura of Star Trek, portrayed by Nichelle Nichols.

Moreover, it is also a celebration of liberation, fellowship and Black womanhood.

Lovie Olivia's "Her Own Scholarship," 2023. (Courtesy the artist and Art Is Bond gallery, Houston)
Lovie Olivia’s “Her Own Scholarship,” 2023. (Courtesy the artist and Art Is Bond gallery, Houston)

“Every piece in there can lead you to a story, to a hero, to a movie or something,” Olivia tells PaperCity. “It’s me trying to unpack an experience we have to subvert — because it’s a wonderful experience. And we just want to see the joy and brilliance of Black people.”

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In addition to working as a solo artist, Lovie Olivia also works as a member of Houston’s ROUX collective. The group, whose work has appeared at Project Row Houses, also includes Rabéa Ballin, Ann Johnson and Delita Martin. But as “Interiority Complex” reveals, a solo exhibit gives audiences a chance to get to know Lovie Olivia’s artistic voice.

Indeed, sociopolitical messages presented from a queer Black perspective reveal the artist’s intentions. One painting, Ain’t I (2023), evokes Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman” speech. The denim jacket in Rest Assured (2023) features buttons inspired by Assata Shakur and the Say Her Name movement.

Lovie Olivia's "I AM" and "AIN'T I," 2023. (Courtesy the artist and Art Is Bond gallery, Houston)
Lovie Olivia’s “I AM” and “AIN’T I,” 2023. (Courtesy the artist and Art Is Bond gallery, Houston)

While Olivia’s progressive messaging centers on Black women, there is also a quality of earthiness inherent in the art. Three of the 11 paintings on display at Art Is Bond feature plants or flowers. By painting plant life, Olivia exists in a continuum of Black artists including Betye Saar and Loïs Mailou Jones. And the continuum also includes other Black women artists such as Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Mickalene Thomas, Jordan Casteel and Gherdai Hassell.

And perhaps the seeds artist Lovie Olivia is planting with her intelligent approach to art will result in more deep conversation and cultural blossoming.

“Interiority Complex” is on view at Houston’s Art Is Bond gallery through this Saturday, May 20. You can find Art is Bond at 4411 Montrose Boulevard. Learn more here.

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