CULTURED: Dinner and a Revolution, a review of The Supper Club by Elia Alba

Art | Oct 2017 | By Jasmin Hernandez

Elia Alba, The Spiritualist (Maren Hassinger), 2013. Courtesy of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.

“When we want to talk about diversity, it’s not a binary—it’s intersectional,” says New York-based artist Elia Alba. “There is diversity within diversity.” Her words arise as we discuss her upcoming exhibition “The Supper Club,” which opens late September at The 8th Floor in New York. Alba’s new show is a multi-layered project that began in 2012 when she, a black-identified Latinx artist, wanted to connect with fellow artists of color in her community and give them a voice.

Five years in the making, “The Supper Club” encompasses 60 artist portraits, 25 politically focused dinners and a forthcoming book project, slated for 2018, with curator Nicole Caruth.

Initially, Alba starting shooting portraits of artists that she either knew well or had long admired and followed. The portraits are rich, dazzling and almost transportive images of lauded artists, such as LaToya Ruby Frazier, Lina Puerta, Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz and Hank Willis Thomas. Taking a cue from Vanity Fair’s Hollywood issue, which mainly features white A-listers on its covers, Alba decided to use that template but flip it to honor black and brown artists.

“The Hollywood issue assigns a moniker to each actor they include based on the kind of roles they play,” says Alba. “So I said, ‘O.K., let’s look at these artists. Let’s look at the people around me. What kind of work do they do? What does their work signify?’”

By looking at all of the elements in their work, Alba was able to extrapolate different personas for the artists of color. “Their own practice calls out their moniker,” she says.

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