For the Meridians sector of Art Basel Miami Beach 2022, James Cohan is pleased to present Let The Mermaids Flirt with Me, 2022, a suite of stained glass paintings in lightboxes by Christopher Myers. Installed within a freestanding octagonal architectural structure, Let The Mermaids Flirt with Me, 2022, creates a chapel for contemplation of the illuminated compositions.
This monumental site-specific installation creates an atmospheric devotional space for Myer's deeply personal and poetic project. It is a visual exploration of the varied mythological, spiritual, and historical relationships between Black bodies, diaspora, and water. During the fair, the artwork will be activated by a series of performances featuring original music by Camila Ortiz that brings to life the figures depicted in each illuminated stained glass panel.
Each of these panels draws its imagery from mythologies, narratives, and iconographies associated with the African diaspora and the African-American experience. Myers pulls from a wide range of sources: from the stories of water deities like Mami Wata and North Carolina low-country cymbees to the poetry of Langston Hughes and the words of Martin Luther King Jr. As he writes, “Our songs, our myths, and our knowledges are rooted in opacities and liminalities, double-meanings and metaphors, the suggestive and the fluid. Martin Luther King Jr. said that in the face of “the kind of physics,” the Bull Connors of the world wielded against our bodies and our spirits, we marshaled “the transphysics – we knew about…we had known water.”
In his stained-glass paintings, Myers depicts his figures as contemporary icons in a medium most commonly associated with sacred Christian architectural spaces. As he remarks of his interest in the material, “Stained glass is a grand, old form associated with Europe that tells breathtaking stories of gods, love, war, and death, and asks big questions about the world around us. And yet, stained glass has other roots, global histories. It is a traditional form that holds all the stories of the world.”
In this new work, Myers contemplates the ways in which varied diasporic mythologies and experiences intersect each other and other cultural forms. The exterior of this architectural environment is clad in a custom-printed fabric that references both J.M.W. Turner’s and Théodore Géricault’s famous depiction of slave ships, the brutal engines of the forced diaspora of the Middle Passage. Across its cladding and the illuminated stained glass works contained within, Let The Mermaids Flirt with Me filters collective and individual histories through the transformative materiality of narrative to speak powerfully to the present.
To preview works from our booth in our Viewing Room in advance of the fair, here.