Giovanni’s Room is a new gallery outpost set on disrupting the conventional white cube model. The program will foster and promote under-recognized and emerging local and international artists and new perspectives on established artists. The 3,000-square-foot gallery looks out to the rooftops and marquees of downtown LA from the sixth floor of historic 1930’s Art Deco gem; Claud Beelman's Ninth and Broadway Building.
Jeremy Maldonado emphasized the importance of inaugurating his new Gallery, Giovanni’s Room, with Sanders show: “I hope Giovanni's Room allows artists to enter the gallery space with no sort of sanctioning of their ideas or their perspectives,” said Maldonado, “It’s important for me as a Mexican gay man, born in Los Angeles, to support the LGBTQ+ community, artists of color, and those from diasporic or marginalized backgrounds.”
The gallery’s namesake borrows from the eponymous title of author, James Baldwin’s critical 1965 novel. The book explores themes of heartbreak, identity, loss, sexuality, race, and gender— all subjects skillfully interwoven throughout the works in let’s keep this between us, and across michon sanders’ practice. She depicts ineffable moments, from the beautiful and magical everyday — moments that may be overlooked. Split seconds or inflections, these moments have the ability to bear a person's true soul, and she translates that, and more, into painting. The gallery’s mission is not only to program exhibitions, but to create a physical space for engagement with film, humanitarianism, and interdisciplinary practices. Maldonado takes a wholistic view when programming. He is interested in, not only the tone and prowess of the work showcased at the gallery, but also in his artists as individuals and community members he seeks to build his roster around.
sanders paints only from family photos, transferring their encoded relational intimacy to her painted subjects. Painting in a distinct style she describes as Black Realism, she picked up a paint brush just five years ago. Already, her work holds its own among the likes of Kerry James Marshall, Barkley L. Hendricks, and Amy Sherald.
“I focus on the depiction of Black life, not the spectacle or its aftermath, but the moments of transition or pause, where next moves are being negotiated, connections are being made, and thoughts are being collected,” sanders said. “My work is driven by the desire to remember those moments in between, where we as a people are just existing.” — michon sanders
michon sanders (b.1980) grew up in Tallahassee, Fla., and received her BFA from California College of the Arts in Oakland in 2021. That same year she was featured in T: The New York Times Style Magazine. She won the 2020 AXA Art Prize, juried by Julia Chiang, Erik Parker, Laurie Simmons, and Salman Toor. In addition to receiving a grant from the Los Angeles Lakers In The Paint program, she recently received a scholarship to Anderson Ranch in Colorado. Her first solo show debuted this year at Friends Indeed Gallery in San Francisco. Sanders currently lives in Los Angeles, California, where she is currently pursuing an art MFA at the USC Roski School of Art and Design.
Giovanni’s Room (est. 2022) is a gallery that fosters and promotes under-recognized and emerging local and international artists, as well as fresh perspectives on established artists. Founded by Jeremy Maldonado, the program is informed by interests in art, film, humanitarianism, and interdisciplinary practices. The gallery, designed by L.A.-based architect and engineer Lindon Schultz, comprises 3,000-square-feet of flexible, window-lit and multi-room space. Located at 850 S Broadway, the Ninth and Broadway Building was built in 1930 by leading Art Deco and Moderne architect Claud Beelman, who also designed downtown’s Superior Oil Company headquarters (1955, now the Standard Downtown Hotel), Westwood’s Occidental Petroleum building (1962, now the Hammer Museum), and Downtown's beloved turquoise Eastern Columbia Building (1930). Giovanni’s Room dedicates at least 10% of show profits toward a charity or organization of the artist’s choice. michon sanders chose to donate to Trans Lifeline (www.translifeline.org).
michon sanders went home in May. The 42-year-old painter currently pursuing an art MFA at USC had just lost her niece. She jumped on a plane to Florida and spent two weeks up until the funeral services with her mom and sister. They sat together in a period of mourning that only the three of them will ever truly know about. It was the kind of seismic, unexpected, earth-shattering event that you don’t return the same as you once were. Sanders knew what she had to do next: paint through the grief.
She dedicates her debut solo exhibition at Giovanni’s Room, Let’s Keep This Between Us, to her niece. The title points to those tender, stolen moments she’s known to pull from. It’s also a nod to the interactive dialogue between her and the viewer, however endearing or confrontational, as if to nod and say, “whatever's happening right now, let's keep it between you and me.”
Sanders only paints family members. This might help explain the connective intimacy of her figurative works, painted in radiant splendor proportionate to their grand scales in a distinct style she describes as Black Realism. But it’s not the whole picture. Take-out dinners and floral couches are rendered with cozy familiarity and dynamic precision, an inherent nostalgia baked into the beaded braids and rotary phones and aviator frames of the pre-millennium. If vignettes look retro, a bit zoomed in, or askance, it’s because they began that way. Each painting was once a physical photo, developed at a lab and tucked away into a familial scrapbook; they feel real because they are real. “I focus on the depiction of Black life, not the spectacle or its aftermath, but the moments of transition or pause, where next moves are being negotiated, connections are being made, and thoughts are being collected,” Sanders says. “My work is driven by the desire to remember those moments in between, where we as a people are just existing.”
Let’s Keep This Between Us is as much a departure as it is a breakthrough. For one, she pulls source material from camera phones, not ‘90s photo albums, hinted in the contemporary signifiers like iPads and basketball shorts. She also bookends her seven new paintings with discerning experimental form in sculpture (the checkers table) and video (the camcorder). For an artist who picked up a paintbrush just five years ago, Sanders today holds her own among idols like Kerry James Marshall, Barkley L. Hendricks, Amy Sherald, Kehinde Wiley, Lorna Simpson, and others. And while the exhibit is tinged with a sadness that often brings into focus what you have left, the motifs of her burgeoning career remain the same. Here, family always comes first.
By Mariella Rudi