September 9, 2022 - October 8, 2022
Chapter NY is excited to announce, High-Rise, Cheyenne Julien’s second solo exhibition with the gallery, which will debut a series of equally scaled drawings depicting elevator scenes.
Julien’s practice explores cultural and collective histories reflected through her own lived experiences. Often derived from memory, Julien’s paintings and drawings portray intimate subjects inspired by her closest relationships and life in New York City. Her work highlights the interdependency of bodies and their contexts, asserting the power of built environments to dictate racial perception.
For High-Rise, Julien focuses on the elevator as a site for communities to converge and interact. The artist grew up in a high-rise apartment building in the Bronx where elevators played a central role in her daily life. Due to a lack of maintenance, they were regularly out of service, both inconveniencing the building’s residents and accentuating their importance. Her work spotlights these often overlooked, yet highly frequented spaces, reimagining the brief encounters that bring people together within them.
The title of the exhibition references J. G. Ballard’s 1975 novel, High-Rise, which examines class divisions within a luxury skyscraper, centering elevators as a site where tensions appear. Julien’s elevators enclose a wide range of interpersonal dynamics within their claustrophobic interiors. Romantic partners lean affectionately into one another, parents intuitively wrap arms around their children, individual passengers peer into their cellphone screens, and in one scene, white passengers cower away from a black woman with her dog. Julien’s narrative vignettes extend beyond the passengers, focusing on the architectural settings and inanimate objects that impact their daily experience.
Historically, the advent of elevators facilitated a cultural progression towards a lifestyle of convenience and comfort. They have played a crucial role in the trajectory of urban development, allowing cities to expand vertically to greater heights. In Julien’s works, the upward ascent of her passengers metaphorically enacts a form of racial uplift. She emphasizes glimmering light throughout her compositions—particularly reflected in the metallic surfaces of the elevators—to suggest the proximity of a divine presence. Julien, however, tempers this optimism by casting sharp beams of light onto her subjects and settings. Their shapes mimic searchlights and maintain an eerie sense of surveillance that grounds her scenes in the darker side of reality.
Cheyenne Julien (b. 1994, Bronx, New York) lives and works in the Bronx, NY. She received her BFA in Painting at the Rhode Island School of Design in 2016. She has had solo and two-person exhibitions at Chapter NY, New York; Smart Objects, Los Angeles; and Water McBeer, New York. Julien’s work has also been included in group exhibitions at Hotel Europe, Zurich; Carl Freedman Gallery, Kent, GBR; Anton Kern Gallery, New York; the Schlossmuseum, Linz, AUR; The Jewish Museum, New York; Gladstone Gallery, New York; Public Art Fund, New York; the American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York; The Harvey Gantt Center, Charlotte, NC; Mitchell-Innes and Nash, New York; Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw; Gavin Brown’s Enterprise/Unclebrother, Hancock, NY; Karma, New York; Loyal Gallery, Stockholm; and White Cube Bermondsey, London. Julien’s work is included in the collections of the Hirshhorn Museum, Washington D.C.; Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; RISD Museum, Providence; University of New Hampshire Museum of Art, Durham, NH; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.