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Nina Chanel Abney

Nina Chanel Abney Leans Into the Importance of Framily with Pace Prints

Recently on view at Pace Prints in New York was a solo show entitled “Nina Chanel Abney: Framily Ties – You Win Some, You Lose Some” (September 30–November 12). Inaugurating the gallery’s new ground-floor space on West 22nd Street was a selection of the American artist’s large-scale prints and collages, marking Abney’s third presentation with the gallery. Broken up into intimate portraits of friends, and works that abstract ideas around friendship, relationships, and community, the creative process behind the pieces are largely inspired by Henri Matisse‘s.

Ahead of presenting two more solo shows in the coming months—”Big Butch Energy” at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami this week and another at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland in late January—the artist shared with Whitewall what it was like working with the print shop to create these unmissable works.

Nina Chanel Abney Nina Chanel Abney, portrait by Todd Midler.

WHITEWALL: You’ve been working with Pace Prints since 2018. How did this relationship first form? How has this impacted or expanded your practice?

NINA CHANEL ABNEY: I was initially introduced to Pace Prints by a good friend of mine and haven’t really left the print shop since. Working in the print shop has greatly impacted my practice. The team at Pace Prints is so innovative and open to a challenge every time we work. I have been able to experiment with things in my work that I don’t think I would have been able to achieve alone. The printing process has also sharpened my sense of color and composition, which has allowed me to approach my paintings differently.

WW: How did you create these works on paper at Pace Prints with the gallery’s master printers? What was unique about this experience?

NCA: Every day in the print shop is a unique experience. With each work, we collectively figure out how we can attempt something that none of us has done before. For this exhibition, we tried at our hand at more intricate patterns, cut out elements that require much more precision, and a new process to adhere the work. When I reflect on the first prints I made with Pace Prints in 2018 through to my current exhibition, it’s mind-blowing to see how much the work has evolved.

Nina Chanel Abney Photo by Diana Panuccio © Art Gallery of New South Wales.

WW: For the exhibition’s works, you also used a relief printing process, rendering graphic forms in richly-saturated oil-based inks. Can you tell us a bit about this process?

NCA: The process varies depending on the work, but overall I am either using a relief printing process to print the piece in its entirety, or I am printing large sheets of flat color or patterns, then cutting out the imagery and utilizing the different elements to make a collaged work.

Nina Chanel Abney Nina Chanel Abney · Crew (Jannah/Jay) (2021) Collage on panel · 63 9/16 x 44 1/2 inches, © Nina Chanel Abney, photo courtesy of the artist and Pace Prints.

WW: There is a series of works paying homage to Henri Matisse. How so? 

NCA: This body of work was originally created for the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Australia as part of a larger exhibition entitled, “Matisse Alive.” I wasn’t able to see the exhibition due to travel restrictions during the pandemic, so I was very excited for the opportunity to show these works again in New York City. Henri Matisse‘s cutouts have been a vast inspiration to my own journey with collage and have hugely influenced the process in which these works were created. While making these works, I was fortunate enough to gain access to Matisse’s color palette during a visit to MoMA, which greatly informed the work.

Nina Chanel Abney Nina Chanel Abney · WHITE (2021), Collage on panel · 58 3/4 x 59 3/8 inches, © Nina Chanel Abney, photo courtesy of the artist and Pace Prints.

WW: Included is also two series of collages portraits of you and your friends. How would you describe the importance of the people in these works?

NCA: Everyone in the portraits has become an extremely close friend of mine, and in some way has impacted my outlook on queer dating and relationships.  Generally, I wanted to represent Black queer friendships, while more broadly exploring ideas around the meaning of community. 

Nina Chanel Abney Nina Chanel Abney · ME (2021), Collage on panel · 74 1/4 x 33 inches, © Nina Chanel Abney, photo courtesy of the artist and Pace Prints.




On view at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami is Nina Chanel Abney’s exhibition “Big Butch Energy” (November 29–March 12, 2023).


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