Oasa DuVerney’s Black Power Wave

Oasa DuVerney’s first solo exhibition in Wellankora Exhibition in Brooklyn,”a world you live inHer graphite drawings make for both a warning and a promise. The 43-year-old artist, who was born in Queens to Trinidadian parents, was Relentless defender For the cause of valuing and protecting black lives. As she explains on the gallery’s website, “The figures in these works are presented with care and compassion and an understanding that the black body is worthy but not always provided.”

The term you use, “black body,” brings me back to the discussion I had with curators and writers about whether this metaphor is appropriate and does the work we imagine it should. Despite its widespread use, it strikes me as inhuman when discussing experiences affecting lions People, All human. However, what DuVerny does with the works on display—nine oversized graphite drawings sometimes decorated with colorful acrylic paint—is to fully humanize her subjects. And by using her children and their friends and neighbors as models, both urban and local, she puts her skin in the game.

Her son, Stokely DuVerney Beavers, was portrayed in “A Growing Veil” (all works dated 2022) behind a chain-link fence decorated with an assortment of orchids—heleborine, coral root, dragon’s mouth, lady’s slippers, and serpentine—all in color. Shimmering in shades of fuchsia, canary yellow, cardinal red and deep purple. The work suggests how the sometimes hostile scientist sees this young black man (from a stark black and white perspective), versus painting her son’s face in monochrome graphite, compared to how she sees it: a living, growing color. Throughout the show she keeps her promise.

There are two pictures of her daughter. In the first, “Black Power Wave: Nightwatch,” Nzinga DuVerney appears to be asleep, her long braids falling on her pillows, her body bouncing off her bed. Rising from the bottom of the composition, muscular zigzag towards its torso, it forms a dark, graphite wave, moderately reflective. The artist began creating what she calls “black power waves” in 2016, and they have become a signature of her work. The wave, saturated with graphite and being cut and shaped in such a way as to suggest the irregular surface of the choppy water, appears intense and might read as a threat. However, in the second photo, “The Black Black Wave: Weaving Helleborine,” the daughter faces her twin portrait of weaving orchids into her hair. The waveform appears as a kind of decorative trellis that supports both shapes.

Duvernay displayed black energy waves earlier National Museum of Women in the Arts, in Washington, D.C., at BRIC in Brooklynand currently in Brattleboro Museum and Arts Center in Vermont. The waves operate on several levels, including a visual metaphor for the collective political and social power based on the black community, conceptualized as a force of nature. But from an aesthetic point of view, the waves are more prominent. In the medium-sized graphite drawing “Join What, Die For Who?” , the wave turned into a group of segmented rattlesnakes, the kind of image that would appear as the band’s heraldic emblem. In Madonna With Child, the wave protectively encircles the figures of a casually dressed black woman holding a sleeping child, acting as a kind of decorative border or baroque frame.

For DuVerney, a world reshaped with such irresistible racial power is where you want to be. She is meant to make this wave sweep across every viewer on the banks of her paradise: Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where her people dwell.

Awassa Duvernay: A world you live in

During August 6, Wellankora Gallery, 33 Herkimer Street, Brooklyn, 917-848-4627; welancoragallery.com