"I MIGHT BE" from Black Enough by Kevin Claiborne, all images courtesy the artist and Thierry Goldberg Gallery

‘Black Enough’ Solo Exhibition by Student Kevin Claiborne

BY Brittany Nguyen, September 19, 2020

Kevin Claiborne, a Visual Arts student, is featured in a solo exhibition titled “Black Enough” in New York City. Hosted by Thierry Goldberg Gallery, Black Enough contemplates what Blackness is in “an admixture that forms images that represent, what he calls, the “body as border.”’ 


This collection stems from an earlier trip to the Mojave Desert in which Claiborne spent an amount of time reflecting upon “the relationship between the environment and Black people’s identity development in beautiful yet potentially harmful places” according to the gallery’s press release. Some leading questions Claiborne asks are “How do our environments support or prohibit identity development and positive mental health, particularly within the Black American experience? How are our many intersections of identity relevant as our bodies change environments, or as our environments change our bodies? How is Blackness performed? ...”


Words such as “performed” and “Black” show up on top of photos from his trip as part of the artist’s poetic play with printed language in relation to the natural world. Antwaun Sargent from Thierry Goldberg Gallery said “his marshaling is an attempt to get people caught in a spiral of query that allows the viewer to confront and clarify their own relationship to Blackness.”


In an interview with Writing student Audrey Deng, Conversations with Artists in Art Getting Art, Claiborne said “I’m creating it for myself, and I view it both as a weapon and as armor. I’m trying to communicate things I’m concerned about regarding race, mental health, identity, and how those things intersect with one’s environment and social conditioning.” 


When asked about a photo in a photography series pertaining to death Claiborne said, “it is kind of sad. I mean, it can bring up discussions about police brutality, the way the Black body has been treated in society, particularly in urban settings. Themes of depression and loneliness and abandonment.”


In tumultuous times of pandemic and protest, Claiborne’s Black Enough is “a reminder that in this moment, space must be made for the range of the emotional Black voice, one that carries the gravitas of death and disease, demand and defense,” Sargent said. 


Claiborne is a poet and photographer who lives and works in New York, NY. He holds a BS in Mathematics from North Carolina Central University, Durham, NC; MS in Higher Education from Syracuse University, NY; and he is currently working toward his MFA in Visual Arts at Columbia University, New York, NY. His work has been included in exhibitions at UCSB Multicultural Center Gallery, Santa Barbara, CA; New Wight Gallery at UCLA, Los Angeles, CA; and at At Peace Gallery, Brooklyn, NY. His work was featured or written about in Artforum, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Atlantic, and Atmos. Claiborne’s work is part of the collection of The Whitney Museum of American Art. 


Black Enough opened at Thierry Goldberg Gallery in New York on September 9 and runs through November 1, 2020 in-person Wednesday through Sunday from 10am—6 pm.