top of page

Nina Chanel Abney

Cafeteria 2

Jan 27, 2023-Jan 7, 2024

Nina Chanel Abney, Cafeteria 2, installation view at moCa Cleveland, 2023. Site-specific vinyl mural, 313.5 x 536.5 in (796.29 x 1362.71 cm). Courtesy the artist.

About the Exhibition

Nina Chanel Abney’s site-specific mural, Cafeteria 2, was first unveiled alongside her solo exhibition at moCa, Big Butch Synergy (Jan 27-Jun 11, 2023). This mural incorporates elements from Big Butch Synergy and expands on Fishing Was His Life, her series of collages inspired by Gordon Parks’s photographs documenting the 1940s fishing industry in Gloucester, MA and at New York City’s Fulton Fish Market. Abney transports audiences to a bustling cafeteria to explore themes of desire, loathing, and personal value in relation to gender and racial identity. Within this marketplace, sneakers, basketballs, and other goods are balanced by images of figures and price tags. She encourages visitors to think about how these goods are often read as masculine, contributing to the social dynamics that impact gender performance. Price tags connecting to the objects and figures highlight capitalism as a dominant power structure that we use to assign value to individuals based on race, class, gender, and social status. At the base of this larger-than-life image, the artist includes “I AM,” paying homage to the pivotal “I Am A Man” signage used in the 1968 Memphis Sanitation Strike during the Civil Rights Movement. By notably omitting the word “man,” Abney leaves space for her experiences; she shines a light on discriminatory systems that work to maintain heteronormative ideals–beliefs that assume heterosexuality as the default sexual orientation–while also highlighting how the objects depicted have supported the formation of her identity as a Black, queer, masculine-of-center woman. This omission opens up the phrase as a resource for self-advocacy, while also reminding us about how our biased systems continue to center certain identities over others.

Lead support for Cafeteria 2 provided by Joanne Cohen & Morris Wheeler.

Additional support provided by The Dominion Energy Charitable Foundation.

Installation Images

Nina Chanel Abney, Cafeteria 2. Installation view at moCa Cleveland, 2023. Photo: Jacob Koestler

About the Artist

NIna Chanel Abney

Nina Chanel Abney

Nina Chanel Abney (b. 1982, Chicago) strives to signal narratives that speak to topics on politics, heritage, race, sexuality, and celebrity. The figures in her works typically appear as heavily stylized, graphic, geometric shapes against vivid backgrounds overlaid with symbols and patterns. Known for her frenetic, large-scale paintings, Abney has recently been commissioned to transform the Lincoln Center’s new David Geffen Hall’s façade in New York, drawing from the cultural heritage of the neighborhood previously known as San Juan Hill that comprised African American, Afro-Caribbean, and Puerto Rican families, which she similarly did recently for a public mural at the new Miami World Center inspired by Overtown, a historic Black neighborhood in Miami. Her first solo exhibition debuted in 2017 at Nasher Museum of Art, North Carolina, and subsequently toured to Chicago Cultural Center; Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and the California African American Museum; and the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York. Recent exhibitions include The Gordon Parks Institute (2022), The Art Gallery of New South Wales (2021), ICA Boston (2020), The Contemporary Dayton (2019), The Norton Museum of Art (2019), and Palais de Tokyo (2018). Her work is in the collections of MoMA New York, The Rubell Family Collection, The Brooklyn Museum, Bronx Museum and the Burger Collection, Hong Kong.

Exhibition Materials

▶ Wall Text
▶ Gallery Guide
▶ Videos

bottom of page