Sept. 30, 2021 – Jan. 24, 2022
Mary LeFlore Clements Oklahoma Gallery
See the artists in action
Abstract Remix brought mural artists Rhiana Deck, Codak Smith, Kalee Jones W., and May Yang to the Mary LeFlore Clements Oklahoma Gallery, connecting Oklahoma Contemporary’s downtown home to the iconic mural arts landscape evolving across the city. Deck, Smith, Jones W., and Yang have developed a mural painting practice that builds on the legacies of Abstract Expressionism, yet are distinct in style and unique to Oklahoma City.
From cave paintings to Renaissance frescos, from Mexican muralismo to graffiti writing, murals have been both the first evidence and a continually evolving assertion of human creative expression. Murals constitute the largest public art programs in the United States. Recently, Oklahoma City has enjoyed a resurgence in this art form; local artists have been commissioned to enhance buildings, streets and entire city districts with their murals.
Deck, Jones, Smith, and Yang stand out for their distinct preference for abstraction over figuration or portraiture. Works by Abstract Expressionist artists such as Jackson Pollock, Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell led to both the critical and commercial dominance of art from the United States post-World War II, yet this type of abstraction is not typically expected in mural form. Abstract Remix brought together individual yet complementary aesthetics that illustrated the many ways abstract painting has informed contemporary mural art practice.
Abstract Remix celebrated murals and presented an opportunity for audiences to consider how this major artistic medium art practice is shaping Oklahoma’s shared cultural landscape. The murals designed and painted specifically for the walls of the Oklahoma Gallery provided a concentrated swatch of the larger fabric of Oklahoma City, which was named by USA Today as Best City for Street Art in 2021 — “a veritable outdoor gallery.” By placing these typically public works indoors, the exhibition invites the public to a visual conversation on how Oklahoma Contemporary is integrated within the larger panorama of Oklahoma City’s cultural and artistic growth.
This exhibition was supported by Heartland Payment Systems, Anonymous, Annie Bohanon, Cox Communications, Leslie and Cliff Hudson, The Kanady Family, George Records, Glenna and Richard Tanenbaum and Velocigo.
About the Artists
Rhiana Deck is of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. She paints in her own fluid style, using movement to evoke emotions and to conjure abstracted dreamscapes from her imagination. Deck views her practice as a way to constantly learn, grow, and communicate respect for the natural world. Deck works primarily with acrylic paint, aerosols, and occasionally beadwork for family and friends.
At the age of 4, Deck’s parents enrolled her in an adult painting class taught by Bernice Hinton at Mushroom Art Studio. In 2007, she attended the Rocky Mountain School of Art. Deck has exhibited in Oklahoma, Colorado, and Georgia. Deck collaborated with fellow Native artist Chad “Nish” Earles (Caddo Nation) to paint Earth and Sky, a large-scale mural located on Sheridan Avenue and Gaylord Boulevard in downtown Oklahoma City. The mural will stand until 2026. Deck contributed to Plaza Walls from 2017–2019 and participated in the 2021 Sunny Dayz Mural Fest.
Kalee Jones W.
Kalee Jones W. is a color-driven artist who uses media such as jewelry, stained glass, and painting to visually express authenticity and openness. As a contemporary artist, she frames her process as a gentle hunt to harness fleeting moments of intuitive creativity. Jones W.’s spontaneous compositions often house camouflaged figurations. The artist’s deliberate approach of avoiding preconception allows the unforeseen to arise through layers of mark-making and color washes that capture the spontaneity of the present moment.
Born in Texas and raised in Oklahoma, Jones W. earned her BA in Visual Arts from Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado, in 2007. Upon returning to Oklahoma in 2010, she prioritized her painting practice—between 2011 and 2013, she produced The Gentle Hunt series in which she developed a composition process that privileges intuition and impulse over detailed conceptualization. Over the last decade, Jones W, has shown her work in galleries and businesses throughout Oklahoma City, including DNA Galleries in the Plaza District. She has been a participating artist in the annual 12 x 12 invitational exhibition of Oklahoma Visual Art Coalition since 2012. In 2017, she produced a mural for Plaza Walls and most recently, participated in the 2021 Sunny Dayz Mural Fest.
Codak Smith’s work is marked by his intuitive ability to complicate foundational aspects of design. His art begins with the basic concepts of line and structure that erupt in a tension between the chaos of the unknown and the sanctuary of defined construction, resulting in new approaches to form, composition, and color theory. His family background in architecture and interior design had him immersed in 1980s contemporary art and architecture. This--combined with a childhood in Portland, Oregon, of comic books, skateboarding, and bus rides--meant developing an early fascination with line leading to a deeper interest in graffiti. The direct interaction of the medium with the urban landscape allows for renditions of the ideals of composition, theories of destruction and rebirth, and emotive juxtapositions of color distinct to his style.
A 2017-2019 Tulsa Artist Fellow, Smith works at Ritual Electric, a tattoo shop in Tulsa. The artist has produced and exhibited work internationally in cities such as Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Montreal, and London. He has also made commissioned work for Central Oklahoma Transportation and Parking Authority, Tulsa Young Professionals, VAIO Computers, Pabst Blue Ribbon, Red Bull, NOKIA, Sanrio (Hello Kitty), MGA Entertainment, Pepsi Street Motion, Fat Possum Records, and DUB Magazine. He has shown in over 50 solo and group exhibitions and was featured in Graffiti/Noffiti: 50 Years of Writing Culture, published in 2018.
May Yang is a Tulsa-based artist, printer, and designer. Using printmaking and mixed media techniques, Yang borrows themes from remix culture prevalent in popular music to produce work that processes the information overload common in our digital age. “Sampling” bits and pieces
of typography or pre-existing photographic images, these resources/references are transformed into new works.
In 2008, Yang graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) with a BFA in Graphic Design and Printmaking. While interning for MICA’s Dolphin Press & Print, she assisted in printing editions for Jon Rappleye, Jane Kent, and Faith Ringgold. Yang then earned her Professional Printer Certificate from Tamarind Institute of Lithography in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 2010, Yang was a Momentum Tulsa Spotlight artist and worked with curators Shannon Fitzgerald and Sarah Jesse to produce a body of work about her cultural heritage. Yang has participated in a number of juried and invitational group shows, including the New Prints Program at the International Print Center New York, 24 Works on Paper at the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition, and the Emerging Artists show at Mainsite Norman. She co-owns Flash Flood Print Studios, a screenprinting business in Tulsa that focuses on high-quality printing on both flat stock and textiles.
Images: Codak Smith, Form and Folly (detail), 2021. Aerosol spray paint on hardboard, seasoned wood, acrylic latex paint on wall, video projection, and audio. Photo: Sarah Ondak. Rhiana Deck, Adapt (detail), 2021. Aerosol spray paint and acrylic on hardboard. Photo: Sarah Ondak. May Yang, Untitled (detail), 2021. Acrylic latex paint on paint marker on wall. Photo: Sarah Ondak. Kalee Jones W., Fruit Forward with Nice Dancey Dance (detail), 2021. Acrylic latex paint on pencil on wall. Photo: Sarah Ondak. Rhiana Deck, live painting. Photo courtesy the artist. Kalee Jones W., headshot. Photo by A.J. Stegall. Codak Smith, live painting. Photo courtesy the artist. May Yang, headshot. Photo by Alexis Newton.