Taymour Grahne Projects is pleased to present Heartland, Madelynn Green’s first solo exhibition in London. On view at Taymour Grahne Projects in Holland Park, the paintings in Heartland bridge the artist’s American origins with her current residence in the U.K. The exhibition will open on Saturday 17 July, 3 – 5pm.
After ‘Birth of a Star’, her solo exhibition with Almine Rech in Paris that explored literal and figurative stardom within Black life and visuality, Madelynn Green’s new show pivots from the celestial realm to something closer to home. Through her trans-Atlantic lens, ‘Heartland’ spotlights the peculiarities of the artist’s hometown of Milwaukee, USA.
Located two hours north of Chicago, Milwaukee is a mid-sized city known for its beer, festivals, sports, and cuisine. Yet beneath the city’s veneer simmers cruel legacies of poverty, segregation, and social inequality. In 2017 British documentarian Louis Theroux visited Milwaukee to examine the city’s murder crisis. The programme revealed systemic dysfunction’s propensity to forge personal tragedies. Upon moving to London in 2017 Madelynn was surprised to discover that many people she encountered had solely learned about her hometown through Theroux’s bloody lens.
The Milwaukee in Theroux’s documentary represented just a portion of the city; its most violent district. The artist’s experience with seeing her hometown filtered through a sensational documentary and from across an ocean allows her, in ‘Heartland’, to reexamine Milwaukee using a context both personal and political; an approach both tender and scrutinous.
As a body of work ‘Heartland’ consists of smaller scale paintings that consider the “heartland” as a geographical, thematic, and material concept. Madelynn experiments with landscape painting and revisits subjects explored in her prior works, like domesticity and portraiture. Milwaukee is located in the Midwest; America’s “Heartland.” Milwaukee, as a hometown, is in literal possession of the artist’s heart. It is a space imbued with fondness and nostalgia; with simplicity and complexity.
Situated on Lake Michigan, Milwaukee boasts sublime natural landscapes that the artist has rendered alongside the city’s urban infrastructure. Along with vivid greenery and the expanse of Lake Michigan, the artist depicts the industrial haze of a liquor store, the social rituals of food, the intimacy of home, and one of the city’s ubiquitous beauty supply store -an emblem of Black-Americans’ historical tendency to self fashion.
Madelynn unites the diverse works in this exhibition with another allusion to the “heartland”; the paintings are underpainted with striking shades of red. Red underpainting is unusual, particularly for the artist. By using red as the foundation for these works she again gestures toward the “heartland”-red being the visual representation of love and of blood. The red is also a gesture toward Milwaukee’s literal history of redlining; the practice of racial housing discrimination that emerged in the 1930s and only formally ended with the Fair Housing Act of 1968. Redlining systematized the exclusion of Black people from certain neighborhoods in the city. The effects of Milwaukee’s redlining linger today. A 2015 NPR article named Milwaukee the most segregated city in America.
The city remains highly segregated. A single street often divides entire neighborhoods between stark lines of White and Black; rich and poor. The lingering ghosts of Milwaukee’s red lines define the lives of many presentday Milwaukeeans and deeply colored the artist’s experience growing up in the city. The red lines of Milwaukee established the framework of the city’s present-day disparities and set the groundwork for the artist’s paintings, which illustrate the often blurred lines between the personal and political.