From Chicago to Detroit, Yashua Klos Presents Black Resilience, Defiance, and Tenderness — Colossal


#Chicago #collage #flowers #identity #portraits #engraving #segregation #Yashua Klos

January 30, 2023

grace ebert

A photo of a portrait of a woman impaled by wooden blocks.

“You See Through It All” (2021), construction on woodblock paper and graphite on archival paper, 41 x 54.5 inches. All images © Yashua Klos, shared with permission

Chicago continues to rank among the most segregated cities in the United States, with black and brown populations living on the South and West sides lacking the investment and resources of white-dominated northern neighborhoods. Caused by more than a century of unequal governance, red lines, and various forms of discrimination, this enduring racial separation has irrevocably shaped the city and its residents, impacting those who came to the area during the Great Migration and those who still call it home. today. It is often said that the history of Chicago is also the history of segregation.

This infamous legacy is an essential component of Yashua Klos’s evolution as an artist. “I’m from the city of Chicago, and Chicago’s urban planning was designed for segregation, to separate blacks and whites,” he shares with Colossal. “That segregation is built into the ‘red’ home ownership policies and the geography of the city.”

A photo of a collaged portrait of a man with blocks dividing his face

“Your strength is in your shadow” (2021), construction on woodcut paper and graphite on archival paper, 41.5 x 51 inches

Now living in the Bronx, Klos often reflects on his hometown, bringing the grid-like structure of its streets to his work. A 2021 solo show at the UTA Artist Space featured portraits bisected by angular blocks textured like wood, brick, and cinder, allowing bits of the smooth roadways to emerge through facial features. “In the history of art, the grid is a kind of tool for optical democracy. There is no visual hierarchy in a grid – you can enter any space at any time. So, I’m interested in that grid’s proposition for democracy and how it has failed black people, especially where I come from and how Chicago is built,” he says.

The collaged portraits evoke the ways in which identities are an amalgamation of both genetics and surrounding influences. They imitate three-dimensional shapes that emerge from the flat plane of the paper, and Klos portrays subjects breaking free from constraints or relying on structure for support. “I am considering Black people who are forming a defiant sense of self in order to survive in an often unfair environment. That is why these head shapes often appear constructed of construction materials and suggest they are sculptures or even monuments,” the artist writes, referencing the art’s historical use of statues and portraits to convey value and respect.

A wood-like representation of an upturned hand holding blue flowers

“Vein Vine” (2021), paper construction of woodblock prints, graphite, spray paint, and Japanese rice paper on stretched canvas, 84 x 60 inches

Although Klos spent his education in Chicago, his father’s family has ties to Detroit, particularly the auto industry and the Ford plant, where many relatives worked. Like his portrait, the artist’s woodcuts of unique upturned hands allow this personal story to converge with broader themes of family love and political resilience. The appendages grab onto native Michigan botanists and blocks floating nearby while denying “the job of holding up the flowers,” he says. “Here I found (an) opportunity to explore issues of nurturing, tenderness, generosity and personal care.”

To explore an archive of Klos’s works, visit his site and Instagram

A framed collage photo of a hand holding blue flowers

“Your Roots Hold On To You” (2022), paper construction of woodblock prints on muslin and Japanese rice paper, acrylic paint on paper, 60 x 75.5 inches

A photo of a collaged portrait of a man with wooden blocks dividing his face

“You Built Your Shelter From Shadows” (2021), paper construction of woodblocks and graphite on archival paper, 42 x 50.5 inches

A photo of a collaged hand holding blue flowers.

“We Hold the Wildflowers”

A collage photo of a hand holding blocks

“Diagram of How She Hold It All Together” (2021), construction on woodblock paper and graphite on archival Japanese rice paper, 52 x 53 inches

#Chicago #collage #flowers #identity #portraits #engraving #segregation #Yashua Klos

Do you care about stories and artists like this? Become a Colossal member today and support independent art publishing for as little as $5 per month. You’ll connect with a community of like-minded readers passionate about contemporary art, read ad-free articles and newsletters, keep up with our interview series, get discounts and early access to our limited-edition print releases, and much more. Join now!