Kevin Jerome Everson (b. 1965) uses the visual language of documentary film to create real fictions that are elegant re-creations of observed but often overlooked reality. For Don’t Need for None, his first solo museum exhibition in Virginia, the internationally acclaimed experimental filmmaker debuts three new short films: Workers Leaving the Job Site (2013), Sound That (2014), and Fe 26 (2014) that represent his continued interest in the gestures and tasks of working class African American culture. The films are also testaments to the changing economic conditions of Everson’s hometown of Mansfield, Ohio, a Mid-western community that symbolizes America’s post-industrial Rust Belt.
Everson’s films purposefully blur the line between documentary filmmaking—where the camera is a neutral recorder of real-time events—and fictional narratives. Everson explores the “internal language” of a worker: “the specific way they do things, perform . . . the way their bodies move in space.” His formal exercises (most less than 10 minutes long) balance poetic naturalism with control, and at times serve as self-portraits of the artist, whose working class background informs his films (and work ethic) to this day. To him, identity is tied to what you do, and there is nobility in being good at a job, a pride of practice that runs counter to typical filmic stereotypes of black men in American society.
Over the last 20 years, Everson has produced more than 100 short-form and six feature length projects. His ability to disrupt or question racial assumptions through choreographed reality has caught the eye of dozens of national and international curators, including ones for the Whitney Biennial (2012, 2008), and from New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the American Academy of Rome, and London’s Whitechapel Gallery. In addition, his work has been juried into dozens of prestigious film festivals, such as Sundance, Toronto, and Rotterdam. His unique experimental approach comes from a background in sculpture and street photography rather than the conventional trained path of a filmmaker. He has an MFA from Ohio University, a BFA from the University of Akron, and has received numerous fellowships from the Guggenheim, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, as well as an American Academy Rome Prize, grants from Creative Capital and the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, and residencies at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, Yaddo, and MacDowell Colony, along with many university fellowships. He is currently associate professor of art at the University of Virginia.
Don’t Need for None: Films by Kevin Jerome Everson is organized by Leah Stoddard, Adjunct Curator of Contemporary Art, Taubman Museum of Art. This exhibition will be on display June 14 – September 27, 2014 in the Media Lab Gallery.
Home page exhibition image: Kevin Jerome Everson, Sound That film still (detail), 2014, Courtesy of the artist; Trilobite-Arts-DAC; Picture Palace Pictures
Exhibition thumbnail image: Kevin Jerome Everson, Production still from Fe26, (2014, 16mm, 7:21, color, sound), Image courtesy of the Artist; Trilobite Arts-DAC; Picture Palace Pictures