CanvasCLE  |  May 13, 2022

The delightful, disturbing disruptions of Erykah Townsend

The conceptual artist Erykah Townsend is blunt, has a distinctive approach to pop culture, and is on a roll. The 24-year-old Cleveland Institute of Art graduate recently wrapped up her first solo show, “Bitter Sweet,” at SPACES. The rest of her 2022 dance card is full, with a show starting in early June at Abattoir Gallery in the Fulton-Clark neighborhood and a residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland starting this summer.

The Abattoir show, which Townsend will share with artist Alex Vlasov, is called “Cheap Thrills,” and it will vamp on ready-mades, the detritus of pop culture brands leave behind. A birthday card destined for the trash after the birthday date has passed is a ready-made. Townsend loves ready-mades. They’re often the seed of her witty and cutting cultural critiques.

The moCa residency, which will culminate in October with a show of her new work, provides a $4,000 creative budget, a $2,000 stipend and $500 for travel. Also in Townsend’s moCa war chest: $1,000 for related public programs.

In addition to exhibiting and selling her work, she has a part-time job as a design assistant for an artificial plant company in Cleveland’s downtown to buttress her bottom line.

Because Townsend, who is also known as E.T., finished college in 2020, during the pandemic, her virtual Bachelor of Fine Arts thesis was unsatisfying to her. The Feb. 12 “Bitter Sweet” opening at SPACES, a gallery in the Hingetown neighborhood of Cleveland, “felt like my BFA because I didn’t have that experience,” she says.

The works in “Bitter Sweet,” which occupied the main gallery at SPACES, were awash in ambiguity and duality. No matter how complex her message, Townsend’s presentation is in your face yet entertaining. Like candy, it romances the brain’s taste buds. Like candy, it harbors the threat of decay.

By Carlo Wolff, CanvasCLE

Original Article

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