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Tiona Nekkia McClodden on preserving Black memory through word and movement
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Tiona Nekkia McClodden on preserving Black memory through word and movement
i-D Magazine October 4, 2022

“I invested in a particular, severe elegance that I wanted to come through with the composition,” says artist Tiona Nekkia McClodden, reflecting on her latest curatorial presentation, The Trace of an Implied Presence. Now on view at The Shed, the exhibition dives ambitiously into the history of contemporary Black dance through the archives of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Tiona’s research on their 1983 festival, Dance Black America. With two additional shows currently on view this month — MASK/CONCEAL/CARRY, a solo exhibition at 52 Walker Street, and The Brad Johnson Tape, X–On Subguation, an installation at MoMa showcasing her newly acquired work — audiences in New York have an expansive opportunity to see the breadth of Tiona’s conceptual approach.

Goings On About Town: Tiona Nekkia McClodden
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Goings On About Town: Tiona Nekkia McClodden
The New Yorker September 16, 2022

The unsettling, contemplative show “Mask / Conceal / Carry,” at 52 Walker, is the most complex of three exhibitions by this Philadelphia artist, now on view across New York City, which are thematically distinct but united by their conceptual rigor and their interweaving of emotions, erotics, and politics. At MOMA (in a selection of contemporary works from its collection), McClodden exhibits a B.D.S.M.-inflected video installation from 2017, in which she is seen reciting the poem “On Subjugation,” written in 1988, by the late Black gay poet Brad Johnson, while she hangs upside down. At the Shed, a sprawling sculptural installation pairs four portable dance floors with big screens showing films of Black performers.

Tiona Nekkia McClodden: Conversations through the Archive, Part Two
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Tiona Nekkia McClodden: Conversations through the Archive, Part Two
MoMA Magazine September 14, 2022

In Tiona Nekkia McClodden’s 2017 work The Brad Johnson Tape, X — On Subjugation, the artist revives the presence of poet Brad Johnson as a posthumous mentor, activating her body as a medium through which his words, gestures, and ideas survive in the present. This room-sized installation comprises dozens of found objects that reference McClodden’s meticulous research into Johnson’s archives and biography. Among the elements is a video projected through a peephole in the gallery wall that depicts the tenth in a series of VHS-recorded exercises in which the artist recited Johnson’s writing while performing acts of BDSM on herself. On the occasion of installing this work at MoMA, McClodden and I spoke about “the body as a poem,” the limits of kink, and the unique balance of tension, pain, and care that runs throughout the artist’s work. (And be sure to read the first part of this interview series.)

The Best Shows to See in New York Right Now
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The Best Shows to See in New York Right Now
Frieze September 12, 2022

The relationship between the archive and dance, particularly Black dance in America, is a slippery one. In The Shed’s second-floor gallery, four dancefloors – one made of black Marley (a thin, roll-out vinyl), another of white Marley and two of hardwood – form individual stages for black and white videos of Black performers rehearsing, improvising and performing. Tiona Nekkia McClodden’s exhibition weaves portraits of artists such as Audrey and June Donaldson, two revivalists of Philly Bop, a Black dance form originating in Philadelphia, and Michael J. Love, a tap dancer and scholar, to create a network of contemporary Black dance that runs counter to ‘official’ narratives codified by predominantly white institutions. The empty dancefloors were activated at the exhibition’s opening by a Philly Bop class, led by the Donaldsons, and will host additional performances by Love, Leslie Cuyjet and the Rod Rodgers Dance Company throughout the exhibition’s run, underscoring how embodied presence on the dancefloor connects us to the past in a way the archive alone can’t. 

Tiona Nekkia McClodden Frames Black Joy with Dance at The Shed
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Tiona Nekkia McClodden Frames Black Joy with Dance at The Shed
Whitewall September 7, 2022

Currently, in New York City, Tiona Nekkia McClodden has not one, but two exhibitions on view. Each is distinct in its message and represents the powerful nature of her dynamically widespread practice. At the art space 52 Walker, “MASK / CONCEAL / CARRY” (open through October 8), approaches its titular themes from a more personal standpoint. And at The Shed, the artist looks at Black joy through the lens of dance by highlighting the 1983 Dance Black America festival in a presentation titled “The Trace of an Implied Presence” (on view until December 11). The exhibition was crafted with the insight of the event’s original producer, former Executive Producer of the Apollo Theater Mikki Shepard,  along with a featured cast of dancers, some of whom were participants in the original festival.

Tiona Nekkia McClodden: Conversations through the Archive, Part One
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Tiona Nekkia McClodden: Conversations through the Archive, Part One
MoMA Magazine September 2, 2022

Artist and filmmaker Tiona Nekkia McClodden is on a journey to speak to her ancestors. Not blood ancestors, but queer artistic predecessors. From 2014 to 2017, McClodden completed a series of works that revived the contributions of Black gay artists active during the 1980s AIDS crisis. McClodden’s 2017 work The Brad Johnson Tape, X — On Subjugation, which examines the life of the Black gay poet Brad Johnson (1952–2011), is currently on view at MoMA. Johnson, who was based in Philadelphia, where McClodden has lived and worked since 2007, is best known for his contributions to several groundbreaking anthologies of Black queer literature. While McClodden never met Johnson, who died in 2011 of AIDS-related complications, the poet’s life, papers, and writing are evoked throughout McClodden’s installation. The artist recently spoke to me about her interest in the archive and how she came to rediscover Johnson, her adopted ancestor.

Tiona Nekkia McClodden: The Trace of An Implied Presence
Press
Tiona Nekkia McClodden: The Trace of An Implied Presence
The Brooklyn Rail August 31, 2022

Tiona Nekkia McClodden’s The Trace of An Implied Presence features an ambitious multimedia installation that follows the living history of contemporary Black dance in America. Upon entering the gallery, one encounters a massive multichannel video installation in a large, darkened room. Custom-made dance floors are paired with each video screen, corresponding to the dance style being presented. Their surfaces are reflective and open—mirrors are placed on two of the dance floors, all illuminated in spotlights, and screens float above the floor hovering in space. Inspiration for this project came from McClodden’s time spent researching in the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Hamm Archives, specifically BAM’s historic 1983 festival, Dance Black America (DBA), curated by Mikki Shepard and Patricia Kerr Ross. Shepard’s presence floats in and out of the videos—cutting into scenes unexpectedly to discuss the 1983 DBA festival and its celebration of over 300 years of Black dance.

The Philly Bop gets new life in New York
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The Philly Bop gets new life in New York
Andscape August 30, 2022

In an ambitious new exhibition at The Shed in Manhattan, artist Tiona Nekkia McClodden presents a survey of contemporary Black dance, including a large-scale video portrait of Audrey and June Donaldson, a married couple who are prominent teachers of a dance that was once central to social life in Black Philadelphia: the Philly Bop. A form of swing dance that evolved from the Lindy Hop, the Philly Bop emerged in the 1950s alongside Dick Clark’s American Bandstand, one of the most popular television shows in the country, which was filmed in the city. But Bandstand’s discriminatory admission policies created a predominantly white show, forcing Black teenagers to find their own spaces. That led to an evolution in style that was distinct from what white dancers were doing.

Artist Tiona Nekkia McClodden Has Three Big Concurrent Shows in New York. Here’s What’s Captivating About How She Sees the World
Press
Artist Tiona Nekkia McClodden Has Three Big Concurrent Shows in New York. Here’s What’s Captivating About How She Sees the World
Artnet News August 24, 2022

Tiona Nekkia McClodden, who first garnered recognition for her work as a filmmaker, is experiencing a moment of well-deserved praise within the art world. Perhaps most notably, the artist amassed critical acclaim for I prayed to the wrong god for you, her contribution to the 2019 Whitney Biennial. Now, with a solo exhibition at David Zwirner’s outpost on 52 Walker Street, an extensive curatorial presentation at The Shed, and an installation on view at MoMA, McClodden’s momentum and impact are more palpable than ever. McClodden’s commitment to deciphering society’s complexities through visual mediums was sparked at an early age, and her love for filmmaking and mining history in various forms can be traced back to a source that’s familiar to many: public television.

Step by Step: Tiona Nekkia McClodden’s living archive of Black dance
Press
Step by Step: Tiona Nekkia McClodden’s living archive of Black dance
Artforum August 23, 2022

For Tiona Nekkia McClodden's latest work, The Trace of an Implied Presence, currently on view at the Shed in New York, the artist has installed four dancefloors in the second-floor gallery, each tailored to different specifications. Two are covered in Marley (one black and one white). Two are made of hard wood. Suspended above each dancefloor is a screen, onto which are projected color and black-and-white filmed portraits of Black performers. Here McClodden presents Michael J. Love, a tap dancer and scholar, striking complex rhythms against the floor; Kim Grier-Martinez, current artistic director of the Rod Rodgers Dance Company, talking about Rodgers’s legacy and Black expression in modern dance; Audrey and June Donaldson—two revivalists of Philly Bop—demonstrating their practice of this Black social dance from Philadelphia; and performer-choreographer Leslie Cuyjet mining her own personal dance lineages through improvisation.

'The Trace of an Implied Presence' Explores the Legacy of Black Dance
Press
'The Trace of an Implied Presence' Explores the Legacy of Black Dance
Paper Magazine August 21, 2022

It's hard to overstate the longstanding impact of Black dancers on all genres of movement that we know today — from contemporary and jazz to hip-hop and ballroom styles. Unveiled earlier this month at The Shed in New York City, The Trace of an Implied Presence exhibit by filmmaker and curator Tiona Nekkia McClodden revisits archival footage to showcase the legacy — and living contributions — of contemporary Black dance. On display now until the end of 2022, the multichannel video installation anchors on McClodden's research into archival footage Dance Black America, a three-day festival celebrating 300 years of African American dance that took place at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in April of 1983. Working in collaboration with cultural worker and presenter Mikki Shepard, who produced the festival, McClodden aims to showcase four vital forms of dance that have been shaped by Black dancers.

The Art of Pain and Discomfort
Press
The Art of Pain and Discomfort
Art Review August 18, 2022

Is language an affliction? The exhibition’s title quotes theorist Judith Butler’s response to a question about why ‘language is hurtful’, excerpted in Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric (2014). For Butler, language is one distressing result of sharing a world with other people. We are exposed to each other and create categories (race, sexuality, gender) that constrain unique subjectivities. These categories, for guest curators Marcelle Joseph and Legacy Russell, appear in the strange, violent collisions of language and visual life, uniting 25 international, intergenerational artists in this exploration of identity, visibility and power. Photography and video contends with how omnipresent technologies both enable and negate the representation of the body: in Tiona Nekkia McClodden’s The Backlight 5.10.2016 (2016), a smartphone camera flashes at the artist’s lens. The bright light illuminates a white jacket, throwing the rest of the image into dark contrast and rendering the photograph’s Black subject inseparable from the background. 

Her Art Comes Without Trigger Warnings
Press
Her Art Comes Without Trigger Warnings
The New York Times August 18, 2022

In the last three years, Tiona Nekkia McClodden has emerged as one of the most singular artists of our aesthetically rich, free-range time. She announced her presence with a standout piece in the 2019 Whitney Biennial — which received its Bucksbaum Award — and has continued her rise with two impressive gallery solos, one at Company, a gallery on the Lower East Side in late 2019, and another currently at 52 Walker Street in TriBeCa. Like any true artist, McClodden’s work derives from the complex, multifaceted nature of her identity, who she is and has become: a Black woman, a lesbian drawn to weight training and BDSM play, a priestess of Santeria. She studied film in the early 2000s, becoming known as an underground filmmaker before turning to video installation and sculpture.

Tiona Nekkia McClodden Is Not Running Away
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Tiona Nekkia McClodden Is Not Running Away
The New York Times August 4, 2022

The artist Tiona Nekkia McClodden hit the gun range on a sweltering Monday in July. The air was sticky inside the facility, but her routine would not be denied. She shoots every week and avoids weekends, when the range gets crowded and loud with men firing off assault-type rifles, inviting sensory overload. It might be a familiar activity for some Americans. Less so for an artist. But McClodden, 41, a star of the 2019 Whitney Biennial who has three major presentations of work now up in New York City — at 52 Walker, the Shed, and the Museum of Modern Art — didn’t purchase guns and get her carry license two years ago with art in mind. At least at first. She did it — like many other Black Philadelphians, she recalls — after the pandemic drained the streets, and then the George Floyd protests and counter-protests filled them with interlopers and a sense of swirling violence. Safety and self-defense were her concerns.

Tiona Nekkia McClodden Uses Her Dynamic Art Practice to Unmask the Black Experience
Press
Tiona Nekkia McClodden Uses Her Dynamic Art Practice to Unmask the Black Experience
Cultured Magazine July 29, 2022

Tiona Nekkia McClodden’s artistic practice resists categorization. The talent excels as a painter, sculptor, writer, filmmaker and curator. She is the founder and director of Conceptual Fade, a micro-gallery and library centered on Black thought and artistic production. Her work explores shared values and traditions within the African diaspora, the “Black mentifact,” as she calls it. Now, with a solo show on view at David Zwirner’s Tribeca outpost 52 Walker, and another opening August 3 at The Shed in New York, McClodden has firmly established herself as a leading voice in contemporary Black culture.

THE SHED PRESENTS TIONA NEKKIA MCCLODDEN: THE TRACE OF AN IMPLIED PRESENCE
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THE SHED PRESENTS TIONA NEKKIA MCCLODDEN: THE TRACE OF AN IMPLIED PRESENCE
The City Life July 27, 2022

The Trace of an Implied Presence meditates on the living history and influence of contemporary Black dance in the United States. The exhibition centers on a multichannel video installation inspired by the artist’s research into the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s 1983 landmark festival, Dance Black America, a dynamic presentation of American dance that featured legendary Black dancers, choreographers, scholars, and dance companies. In The Shed’s Level 2 Gallery, the installation features four individual dance floors that function as stages for projected images of archival dance footage, film portraits of key figures involved with the festival, and the artist’s own documentation of the Philly Bop, a Black social dance from her native Philadelphia.

Weekend arts planner: Tiona Nekkia McClodden, globalFEST at Lincoln Center
Press
Weekend arts planner: Tiona Nekkia McClodden, globalFEST at Lincoln Center
Gothamist July 23, 2022

"MASK / CONCEAL / CARRY" is a new show featuring work by Tiona Nekkia McClodden, a 41-year-old multidisciplinary artist, filmmaker and curator based in Philadelphia. McClodden is familiar to lots of New York arts audiences — she's got works in local museums, and she's been involved with programming at places like The Kitchen. Her show is at 52 Walker, the new Tribeca outpost of David Zwirner Gallery that's directed by dealer and curator Ebony L. Haynes. The space is run by an all-Black staff, and it's intended to offer something different than the conventional gallery experience. Shows here will stay on view for months, rather than weeks. And while you're free to snap pictures and post them on your social media feeds, the gallery doesn't share images from its shows on its website — the idea is that you're meant to come in and have the experience yourself.

Review: A smart yet narrow ICA L.A. show confronts marginalized people’s visibility and invisibility
Press
Review: A smart yet narrow ICA L.A. show confronts marginalized people’s visibility and invisibility
Los Angeles Times July 18, 2022

The exhibition considers a proliferation of art concerned with the marginalized state of being socially and culturally invisible or, conversely, hyper-visible. Work by queer artists, women and artists of color is on view. Twenty-five artists from multiple generations have been assembled by Marcelle Joseph, an independent curator based in London, and Legacy Russell, executive director at the Kitchen, an experimental interdisciplinary art space in New York. They worked with ICA L.A. curatorial assistant Caroline Ellen Liou. Paintings, photographs, sculptures, installations and videos are included, with one and sometimes two pieces per artist featured. Things kick off in the parking lot with a brightly colored, four-panel wall mural by Argentine artist Ad Minoliti, its flat but snappy mix of suggestive geometric and organic shapes said to describe an “Aquelarre no binario / Non-binary coven.” Loose suggestions of interlocking limbs, heads and other human or animal body parts dart in and out of view among graphic signs, so you can’t be quite certain what you are seeing.

Olvido, Sombra, Nada
Press
Olvido, Sombra, Nada
Whitewall February 2022

Mitchell-Innes & Nash is presenting the group exhibition “Olvido, Sombra, Nada” (“Oblivion, Shadow, Nothing”), featuring work by the artists Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Lucas Samaras, and Paul Mpagi Sepuya. Open from February 3 until March 5, the show follows the tension in portraiture between acts of revelation and concealment, named for the poem Espejo (“Mirror”) by Octavio Paz, which looks at understanding and misunderstanding in relation to self-reflections. From Samaras, ten works from the artist’s Sitting series (1978—1980) reveal the artist himself photographed into the shadows of his portraits. Sepuya’s featured works use methods of exposure and props like black drop cloths, translucent screens, and smudged mirrors when capturing indirect or partial portraits of human figures. And from McClodden, viewers will find a suite of black polished leather objects and a series of 65 prints seen for the first time, which come together to create a self-portrait of the artist that at once reveals and challenges elements of identity.

Mitchell-Innes & Nash Now Represents Influential Artist Tiona Nekkia McClodden
Press
Mitchell-Innes & Nash Now Represents Influential Artist Tiona Nekkia McClodden
ARTnews January 11, 2022

The New York–based gallery Mitchell-Innes & Nash now represents Tiona Nekkia McClodden, a closely watched artist whose work recently appeared at the Prospect New Orleans triennial. The gallery presented work by the artist in its booth at Art Basel Miami Beach last month. Mitchell-Innes & Nash will include McClodden’s work in a group show at a seasonal space in Mexico City next month, with a solo show to follow in New York in 2023.

The Best Booths at Art Basel Miami Beach 2021
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The Best Booths at Art Basel Miami Beach 2021
ARTnews December 1, 2021

For a presentation as part of Mitchell-Innes & Nash’s booth, Tiona Nekkia McClodden presents several new works that build off her 2016 work Se te subió el santo? (Are you in a trance?), which served as a “disclosure” of parts of her identity that she had previously kept private. “This is me—the first way I see myself,” she said. The other works on view stem from a series of photographs from related performances and film works as well as a recently completed leather lineman harness, titled A.B. 4 88B.

Barbara Hammer: Tell me there is a lesbian forever…
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Barbara Hammer: Tell me there is a lesbian forever…
The Brooklyn Rail November 1, 2021

Centered in the gallery rests a motorcycle, a relic of someone whose absence has been palpable since she left the realm of the living in 2019. Barbara Hammer is the subject of a museum-quality show, albeit in a gallery, curated by Tiona Nekkia McClodden. Marking the opening of Company’s new space on Elizabeth Street, this exhibition is steeped in rigorous research and careful preparation on par with any large institutional endeavor. Acutely aware that she herself would no longer be here to witness it, Hammer chose McClodden, without the latter’s knowledge, as a possible curator for this show. Viewing exhibition-making as an art practice in its own right, McClodden has long been invested in research-based projects that use installation as a kind of portraiture. Primarily focusing on Black queer genealogies, the artist is known (among many other things) for her curatorial interventions focusing on the poet Essex Hemphill (Affixing Ceremony: Four Movements for Essex, 2015) and the composer Julius Eastman (Julius Eastman: That Which Is Fundamental, 2017).

‘Curating Is Always About Desire’: Artist Tiona Nekkia McClodden on Her Exhibition Paying Homage to Revered Queer Filmmaker Barbara Hammer
Press
‘Curating Is Always About Desire’: Artist Tiona Nekkia McClodden on Her Exhibition Paying Homage to Revered Queer Filmmaker Barbara Hammer
artnet news October 25, 2021

For the inaugural show at its new space, Company Gallery has mounted the first solo show in New York dedicated to the feminist filmmaker Barbara Hammer since her death in 2019. Titled “Tell me there is a lesbian forever…”, the show is curated by artist and filmmaker Tiona Nekkia McClodden, who delved deep into Hammer’s archive to gather videos, photos, and drawings from the first few decades of her practice starting in the late 1960s, when she came out as a lesbian, rode off on a motorcycle with a Super-8 camera, and started creating her experimental films, such as Dyketactics in 1974.

TIONA NEKKIA MCCLODDEN AND GENEVIEVE HYACINTHE ON BLACK ATLANTIC RELIGION AND CONTEMPORARY ART
Press
TIONA NEKKIA MCCLODDEN AND GENEVIEVE HYACINTHE ON BLACK ATLANTIC RELIGION AND CONTEMPORARY ART
Art in America February 1, 2021

Tiona Nekkia McClodden is both an artist and a Santería priestess. Also known as La Regla Lucumí, this Afro-Caribbean religion is, like Haitian Vodou, an amalgamation of Roman Catholicism and Ifa, the religion of the Yoruba people in West Africa. McClodden is American, and much of her work centers around being dispossessed of, and later reclaiming, her religious heritage. 

TIONA NEKKIA MCCLODDEN with Sara Roffino
Press
TIONA NEKKIA MCCLODDEN with Sara Roffino
The Brooklyn Rail December 1, 2020

Since learning how to make films in a basement at Spelman College (where she was not enrolled), Tiona Nekkia McClodden has found her way from the editing room to the studio, making work that has garnered her both a Guggenheim grant and a place in the 2019 Whitney Biennial—for which she won the exhibition’s top honor, the Bucksbaum Award. As McClodden’s practice has expanded into sculpture, installation, and performance, her background in film and the medium’s attendant concerns with time and narrative have remained central to the work she makes, while allowing her to examine content as diverse as BDSM, Santeria, Autism, the erasure of Black queer artists from the canon of art history, and the multiple potentials of readymades. 

Tiona Nekkia McClodden: Hold on, let me take the safety off
Press
Tiona Nekkia McClodden: Hold on, let me take the safety off
November 1, 2019

You are hit first by the contrast. The clinical white of the gallery walls behind the black leather and paint draw in and repel—equal and opposite forces. Within the freeing constraints of the gallery space, we are invited to explore an artistic vision of other types of freeing constraint: physical and psychological kinds, based off leather and trust and, most importantly, balance in pain and pleasure.