Dominic Chambers (b. 1993 St. Louis, MO; lives and works in New Haven, CT) creates vibrant paintings that simultaneously engage art historical models, such as color-field painting and gestural abstraction, and contemporary concerns around race, identity, and the necessity for leisure and reflection. Interested in how art can function as a mode for understanding, recontextualizing, or renegotiating one’s relationship to the world, the artist sees painting as a critical and intellectual endeavor, as much as an aesthetic one. A writer himself, Chambers draws inspiration from literature, especially Magical Realism and the writing of W.E.B. Du Bois, particularly Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk, and one of its central themes―the veil. A product of racial injustice that is a metaphorical lens through which Black bodies are observed and experienced, references to the veil appear throughout the artist’s work, whether in the large swaths of color that obscure the figures in his Wash Paintings series, or in his recurring use of a raindrop motif as both an active and passive element in his paintings. Many of Chambers’ compositions incorporate Fabulist elements, including ghostly silhouettes meant to be stand-ins for the artist and surreal landscapes that feel both familiar yet unplaceable.
Chambers’ most recent bodies of work feature his friends and acquaintances engaged in acts of leisure and contemplation. “Too often, the Black body has been located in our imaginations as one incapable of rest,” the artist explains, “often when we imagine what the Black body is doing it is usually an act of labor, rebellion, or resistance.” In his Primary Magic and After Albers series, Chambers sought to remove these associations. His subjects are depicted reading or lost in thought, their gaze fixed on points that seem far beyond the realm of the picture plane. Locating his figures in shifting, monochromatic dreamscapes, Chambers suggests the mutability of our environment, and his scenes evoke the sensation of losing oneself in a good book or moment of quiet reflection. The artist sees color as a protagonist in his paintings―as important to unlocking their meaning as his subjects. Chambers’ deft manipulation of the tension and interplay between contrasting colors gives his work a subtle electric charge, while his eye for balance imbues each piece with a particular poetic harmony.
Chambers received his B.F.A from Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Milwaukee, WI in 2016, and his M.F.A. from Yale University School of Art, New Haven, CT in 2019. Solo exhibitions of his work have been organized at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, St. Louis, MO (forthcoming); Tephra Institute of Contemporary Art, Reston, VA (2022); Lehmann Maupin, New York, NY (2022); The August Wilson African American Cultural Center, Pittsburgh, PA (2020); Luce Gallery, Turin, Italy (2020); The Millitzer Studio and Gallery, St. Louis, MO (2017); and the Residential Gallery, Des Moines, IA (2017). Select group exhibitions featuring his work include When We See Us: A Century of Black Figuration in Painting, Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town, South Africa (2022); Fire Figure Fantasy: Selections from ICA Miami’s Collection, Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, FL (2022); Black Bodies, White Spaces: Invisibility & Hypervisibility, Green Family Foundation, Dallas, TX (2021); Realms of Refuge, Kavi Gupta, Chicago, IL (2021); Art Finds a Way, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, FL (2020); Synchronicity, Roberts Projects, Los Angeles, CA (2020); Abstractions of Black Citizenship: African American Art from Saint Louis, Hedreen Gallery, Seattle University, Seattle, WA (2020); Painting Is Its Own Country, Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture, Charlotte, NC (2019); Chambers & Weinberg, Hawthorn Contemporary, Milwaukee, WI (2019); Again, Always, Green Hall Gallery, Yale University, New Haven, CT (2019); Between Two Worlds, Band of Vices, Los Angeles, CA (2019); Interwoven, Kravets Wehby Gallery, New York, NY (2018); Water & Dreams, The Green Gallery, Milwaukee, WI and Chicken Coop Contemporary, Portland, OR (2017); NOW Figuration, Portrait Society Gallery of Contemporary Art, Milwaukee, WI (2017); Bridge Work 02: From Memory to Metaphor, Arts + Literature Laboratory, Madison, WI (2017); Post Mode 2.0, John Fonda Gallery, Baltimore, MD (2016); Bridge Work 02: From Memory to Metaphor, The Pitch Project Gallery, Milwaukee, WI (2016); Post Mode, NYSRP Gallery, Brooklyn, NY (2015); Final Exhibition, Yale Norfolk School of Art, Norfolk, CT (2015); Deconstructing the Local, MIAD Galleries, Milwaukee, WI (2014); Progress, Contemporary Art Gallery, St. Louis Community College – Florissant Valley, St. Louis, MO (2013); and Varsity Art XVIII, Art Saint Louis, St. Louis, MO (2013).
Chambers’ work is in a number of private and public collections, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (promised gift); Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA; Green Family Art Foundation, Dallas, TX; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, FL; Long Museum, Shanghai, China; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, CA; Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA (promised gift); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA; Pérez Art Museum Miami, Miami, FL; Vanhaerents Art Collection, Brussels, Belgium; Xiao Museum of Contemporary Art, Rizhao, China.
Chambers is the recipient of the Robert Reed Drawing Scholarship, Yale University, New Haven, CT (2018); Ellen Battell Stoeckel Fellowship, Yale Norfolk School of Art (awarded through Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design) (2015); and the Varsity Art XVIII Award, St. Louis Community College – Florissant Valley, St. Louis, MO (2014). He has completed residences at the New York Studio Residency Program, Brooklyn, NY (2015), and the Yale Norfolk School of Art, Norfolk Historic District, CT (2015).
Artist portrait by Daniel Kukla