OUR FRIENDS TEACH US SOME THINGS AND OUR ENEMIES TEACH US THE REST and NIGHTWATCH are a part of Kemp’s ongoing painterly studies with the color black. Taken up as a modernist signifier of both chromatic and racial relevance, artists have experimented with the color black as an indicator as a “limit” of color itself. Kemp’s intervention in this long history undertakes a performative dimension. In this investigation, the artist’s canvas is 69 by 69 inches, which corresponds to his height. In this way, Kemp’s works open up a conversation about how painting might be a kind of mirror in which the self is imagined as absorbed in the canvas before us. To remark upon such a possibility is decidedly part of the artist’s intervention: that the history of modernism is always already Black and queer.
DARK GLASS features three delicate pieces of stained glass colored in red, black and green. These three colors are associated with Black nationalism and Pan-Africanism, two connected histories that call attention to fights for Black liberation. In Kemp’s hands, these pieces of glass overlap and rest on a metal pedestal, demonstrating their status as sculptural object. DARK GLASS can be seen as another investigation of the self where the artist considers how histories of Black self-determination might also be utterly fragile, dependent upon interdependency and mutual aid, and require a queer poetics of touch in order to take shape.