Room for Living, Satterwhite’s first solo museum show at the Fabric Workshop and Museum
Logan Cryer reports back from Jacolby Satterwhite’s latest exhibition at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, Room for Living. Read further to learn more about how Satterwhite uses virtual reality, dance, drawings, and sculpture to explore desire and the mundane.

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Jacolby Satterwhite, Room for Demoiselle Two, 2019. Digital C-print, 60 x 45 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York.
Jacolby Satterwhite, Room for Demoiselle Two, 2019. Digital C-print, 60 x 45 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York.

A couple weeks ago, my friend and I were discussing ambient music when they pointed out that “ambient” means to move around. Ambient music feels so massive because of the slow shifts of its instrumentation; to listen to it is to know how fullness is synonymous with change. Aware of this relationship, Jacolby Satterwhite has produced an iconic body of video work comprised of expansive 3D animated environments. In his videos, the camera glides about and guides the viewers through various environments that teem with dancing figures, futuristic machinery, a throbbing galaxy and an imperceivable amount of detail. The challenge of describing his work is hefty, but the significance of the content is matched by the mere experience of being moved through it all and witnessing a fullness that is rare in visual art. How much can an artist say when they have more space than ever before to say it?

On view through January 19th at the Fabric Workshop and Museum, Room for Living is the first solo museum show for Satterwhite, who received his MFA from the University of Pennsylvania in 2010. Since that time, he has been accumulating the digital elements that meld together in his various video constructions. At any moment, Satterwhite’s videos may feature hybrids of mythical creatures and vehicles, which carry about fantastically-adorned humanoids or collaged videos of real humans dressed in BDSM attire. They may contain a warehouse where figures dance about, while luminescent whips undulate between them. Text written in squiggly neon float in the air and gentle melodies are sung in the distance. At the center of many of Satterwhite’s pieces are works from his mother, Patricia Satterwhite. A writer, singer, and artist herself, Patricia Satterwhite was a profuse creator and developed work in relation to her schizophrenia. These elements and more make up the striking imagery of his videos with themes ranging from Blackness, queerness, sexuality, family, history, and science fiction.

Jacolby Satterwhite, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Throne, 2019. LED, plexiglass, silicone, velvet chairs, and plastic plants. Dimensions variable. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño. On headsets: Jacolby Satterwhite, Domestika, 2017. HD virtual reality color video with sound.
Jacolby Satterwhite, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Throne, 2019. LED, plexiglass, silicone, velvet chairs, and plastic plants. Dimensions variable. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.
On headsets:
Jacolby Satterwhite, Domestika, 2017. HD virtual reality color video with sound.

Room for Living is showcased on two floors of the Fabric Workshop and Museum. On one level is a two channel video projected on two screens, which face each other across the room. Amidst the fantastical imagery, one screen cuts to footage of Satterwhite dancing alone in the streets of Shanghai. He faces the camera, hyperaware of its presence amongst an unknowing, or unbothered, crowd. The shots are cut quickly one after another and the abundance of fast, self-presenting imagery feels like it could live comfortably on Instagram or in a playful music video by your favorite artist.

In a slower moment, one screen displays an aerial view of nude figures riding winged and metallic creatures across a near-barren landscape. In each corner of the screen is an imposed rectangle of more footage of different landscapes, scrolling along as well. The scene is serene in its desolation. Visually, it is the most reminiscent of a video game of all of the moments in Satterwhite’s show. From behind these figures, it almost feels as though the viewer could control their movements and direct where they go next.

There is a tension in the materiality of Satterwhite’s work and how an audience is able to interpret it. While in popular culture 3D animation has done wonders for creating play spaces for people to dictate new realities or to receive clear stories–Satterwhite does not allow the viewer to do either. With so much to uncover, the viewer can only participate and learn through steadfast witnessing. This certainly stunts an audience member’s ability to know exactly what Satterwhite’s extensive work is exacty about and from the curatorial text, it seems didactics are not of much importance. There are two virtual reality headsets in Room for Living through which guests take on an even more immersive journey into Satterwhite’s videos. Where there may be tension in watching his videos and feeling overwhelmed with ambiguity, the VR piece, inherent with brevity and not being able to see everything at once, funnels ambiguity into wonderment.

Jacolby Satterwhite, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. The Remote Control for Cocks on Wheels, 2019. Powder-coated steel, plywood, artificial turf, magnets, PLA filament, epoxy, epoxy resin, enamel, baking soda, superglue, bond filler, plexiglass, LED, and silicone. Sculptures: 62 x 44 (diameter) inches, 78 x 44 (diameter) inches, 54 x 70 (diameter) inches, Neon: 48 x 59 inches. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.
Jacolby Satterwhite, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. The Remote Control for Cocks on Wheels, 2019. Powder-coated steel, plywood, artificial turf, magnets, PLA filament, epoxy, epoxy resin, enamel, baking soda, superglue, bond filler, plexiglass, LED, and silicone. Sculptures: 62 x 44 (diameter) inches, 78 x 44 (diameter) inches, 54 x 70 (diameter) inches, Neon: 48 x 59 inches. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.

The second floor for Room for Living holds a collection of sculptures fabricated by the Fabric Workshop and Museum staff. These works are taken from images and ideas in Satterwhite’s video piece, Reifying Desire, as well as text and drawings from Patricia Satterwhite. The museum uses the latest fabrication techniques to accomplish this and each piece glistens with machine-perfect curves and industrial polish.”Room for Ascension” is a mixed media sculpture that features four nude figures–save for pink high heels and pointed cones on the chest–standing on tall and narrow platforms. They appear to be posed in exhalation and face the video screen suspended directly above. “The Remote Control for Cocks on Wheels” is a series of small mixed media sculptures of which are lined about on an arching table tops that sit atop astro turf. These pieces appear to be abstracted doodles translated into 3-Dimensional space the way a cartoon is made into a popsicle–two facades and a strip of material to give width. Hanging nearby is sign with neon lettering which reads, “The remote control/to the cock, one wheels, a gift box to put a gift inside and send it into a room using the remote control.”

The standout sculpture is a larger than life installation of four figures that were made from a digital scan of Satterwhite. Compositionally based on Caravaggio’s “The Incredulity of Saint Thomas,” the four bodies stand together and observe the tablet screens on each other’s torsos. The video is of a performance piece by Satterwhite where he writhes around on a messy floor which dirties his whole body. This piece, along with the other sculptures fabricated by the FWM staff, is impressively-made and expounds technical achievement. However, what it has to do with the rest of Satterwhite’s work is unclear. From the curatorial text, there is little indication of what Satterwhite’s intention is by delving into making his work into physical pieces. The effort comes off as an attempt from the museum to translate Satterwhite’s work into something else; perhaps something more traditional and commodifiable. The result feels more like well-made fan art than a collaborative extension of a prolific practice. “Room for Living” is rich with questions around museum and artist relations, the potential for current technologies in our art making and the pitfalls of curating and writing about such work. At its core is Satterwhite’s confidence, an assertion of self that asks to be seen and admired. It is a sight that should not be overlooked.

Jacolby Satterwhite: Room for Living. September 13, 2019–January 19, 2020

Jacolby Satterwhite, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Room for Doubt, 2019. 5-channel HD color video, insulation foam, expanding glue, resin, fairing filler, plywood, faux-leather vinyl, double-faced chiffon, polyester rope, thread, automotive paint, and inkjet print on synthetic cotton. 93 x 96 x 96 inches. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.
Jacolby Satterwhite, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Room for Doubt, 2019. 5-channel HD color video, insulation foam, expanding glue, resin, fairing filler, plywood, faux-leather vinyl, double-faced chiffon, polyester rope, thread, automotive paint, and inkjet print on synthetic cotton. 93 x 96 x 96 inches. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.

More Photos

Jacolby Satterwhite, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Room for Levitating Beds, 2019. PLA filament, epoxy, epoxy resin, spray mount, aluminized glass beads, HD color video, steel, velour, plywood, vinyl, hot glue, foam tubing, wire, and poly-fil. 48 x 120 x 48 inches. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.
Jacolby Satterwhite, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Room for Levitating Beds, 2019. PLA filament, epoxy, epoxy resin, spray mount, aluminized glass beads, HD color video, steel, velour, plywood, vinyl, hot glue, foam tubing, wire, and poly-fil.
48 x 120 x 48 inches. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.
Jacolby Satterwhite, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Room for Ascension, 2019. Mirrored acrylic, HD color video, televisions, aluminum, enamel, plywood, PLA filament, epoxy, epoxy resin, and wood. 120 x 72 x 72 inches. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.
Jacolby Satterwhite, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Room for Ascension, 2019. Mirrored acrylic, HD color video, televisions, aluminum, enamel, plywood, PLA filament, epoxy, epoxy resin, and wood. 120 x 72 x 72 inches. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.
Jacolby Satterwhite, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. The Remote Control for Cocks on Wheels, 2019. Powder-coated steel, plywood, artificial turf, magnets, PLA filament, epoxy, epoxy resin, enamel, baking soda, superglue, bond filler, plexiglass, LED, and silicone. Sculptures: 62 x 44 (diameter) inches, 78 x 44 (diameter) inches, 54 x 70 (diameter) inches, Neon: 48 x 59 inches. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.
Jacolby Satterwhite, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. The Remote Control for Cocks on Wheels, 2019. Powder-coated steel, plywood, artificial turf, magnets, PLA filament, epoxy, epoxy resin, enamel, baking soda, superglue, bond filler, plexiglass, LED, and silicone. Sculptures: 62 x 44 (diameter) inches, 78 x 44 (diameter) inches, 54 x 70 (diameter) inches, Neon: 48 x 59 inches. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.

Jacolby Satterwhite, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Room for Cleansing, 2019. Plexiglass, LED, HD color video, silicone, MDF, enamel, latex paint, PLA filament, epoxy, epoxy resin, enamel, bond filler, tile, grout, plywood, and aluminum. 120 x 96 x 48 inches. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.
Jacolby Satterwhite, in collaboration with The Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia. Room for Cleansing, 2019. Plexiglass, LED, HD color video, silicone, MDF, enamel, latex paint, PLA filament, epoxy, epoxy resin, enamel, bond filler, tile, grout, plywood, and aluminum. 120 x 96 x 48 inches. Photo credit: Carlos Avendaño.
Tags

3D animation, caravaggio, fabric workshop and museum, game, jacolby satterwhite, queer, Room for Living, sculpture, shanghai, The Incredulity of Saint Thomas, university of pennsylvania, video, virtual reality, VR

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