Terron Cooper Sorrells creates art that he believes needs to exist. His large works are immersive in nature, enveloping the viewer such that they feel as though they’re part of the image. Each painting brings up themes like setting and time: examining where we are in life today, and probing how this might relate to the subjects on the canvas. Captivated by narrative storytelling, the artist notes a need for harmony, describing himself as a “compositional perfectionist.”
This compositional perfectionism is apparent in Sorrells’s upcoming solo exhibition, on view at Richard Beavers Gallery from February 3 through March 18, 2023.
The 12-work show examines daily life in the Black community, with a focus on concepts like family and the act of building. at which they inherit.
Rite-raid (2022), is a large-scale work that investigates the mayhem at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. A play on the pharmacy brand name Rite Aid and the word “raid,” the work features five subjects carrying boxes of essentials like toilet paper, detergent, and a blanket.
Notably, they aren’t looting electronics or other valuables; they are simply taking what they need—but what are the implications of taking hoards of items the general public so desperately requires? What does this so-called raid mean for the Black subjects featured on the canvas, only three of whom wear face masks?
Through the work, Sorrells asks questions such as: What is this person going through? How much does he have in his pocket? What does it feel like to steal from one’s brothers and sisters?
Most of Sorrells’s paintings take place in Virginia; some are set in Chicago, and the vast majority depict an urban area. In Rite-raid, there is no identifiable location, as similar situations erupted nationwide, and Sorrells likes his viewers to place themselves directly in his work.
A pigeon bursts into flight in the bottom left-hand quadrant of the canvas, and a backdrop of fiery sky— orange and purple with a hint of blue—issues a warning of sorts. The artist speaks at length about his subjects: the three men donning masks in Rite-raid, what this means about their personality, and the person who is wearing a hat and yelling, mouth agape, mask-free. The work ponders what it means to be an outlier, and what it means to listen to or ultimately defy authority.
Rich Dad, Poor Dad (2023) shows a smiling Black father and his two joyous children hard at work behind the counter of a lemonade stand, while a Black father-son duo stand facing the other way, stoic and still, the child drinking from a cup.
The title pays homage to the 1997 bestseller written by Robert T. Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter, a work of nonfiction emphasizing the value of financial literacy. Sorrells’s painting is a play on that, but the artist takes this duality a step further; he asks the viewer to consider what it means that one father is the consumer and the other the person profiting from the exchange. Which dad is the so-called “rich” one? Is it the entrepreneur teaching his children about money, or might it be the father who is supporting Black businesses and embodying thoughtful consumerism?
All BERRIES CONSIDRED is on view February 3-March 18, 2023
Richard Beavers Gallery SoHo is located at 14 Wooster Street in New York City