moniquemeloche is thrilled to present icutfromthemiddletogetabetterslice, a solo exhibition of new paintings by David Antonio Cruz. This is Cruz’s second exhibition with the gallery.
Icutfromtehmiddletogetabetterslice explores the notion of ‘chosen family’: the nonbiological bonds between queer people, based in mutual support and love. Each painting depicts the likeness of the artist’s own community, and at the same time the portraits strive to capture much more than the physical representation of the figures; they venerate the overall structure of queer relationships, captured through intimate moments of touch, strength, support, and celebration.
Created during a time of upheaval, isolation, and urgency, this new body of paintings and multilayered drawings offers a moment of reprieve, inviting members of the queer community to gather alongside their chosen kin. An integral element to queer survival, the term “chosen family” describes the relationships that develop as surrogates for the nuclear family, defined not by the parameters of genetics or marriage, but by shared exchanges of unconditional validation and acceptance. The resulting images—a series of reconstructed and intergenerational family portraits celebrating BIPOC queer resilience and autonomy—offer a quiet dismantling of the societal structures, expectations, and hierarchies long imposed on them.
Depicted in lush, operatic spaces, Cruz presents a landscape of bodies, a mandala of amaranthine touch that captures the physicality of connection. Fragmented and upended figures supersede the landmark posture characteristic of patrician portraiture over the canon of art history. The playful sensuality is further underscored by seductive textures and glittering palettes, offering opulently glamorous patterns and colors. Assertive gazes convey both a sense of empowerment and vulnerability, inviting the viewer to share in this experience of tender solidarity. Each work is further imbued with Cruz’ multilayered visual vocabulary and codification, centered on the queer narrative; warped priapic symbols appear concealed throughout, while some patterns recall the faint outline of little birds and butterflies, a play on language that subverts derogatory terms in queer life. Ceiba trees, found in Mexico, the Caribbean, and West Africa, are carefully rendered in wax pencil in recognition of the colossal strength developed within the roots of these kindred chosen family trees.
Each thoughtful portrait presents a means of responding to the complex struggles and restrictive binaries imposed on queer people of color, presenting empowered depictions of authenticity as a form of resilience and an unapologetic celebration of queer life.
David Antonio Cruz (b. 1974, Philadelphia) received his BFA in Painting from Pratt Institute and his MFA from Yale University. He also attended Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and completed the AIM Program at the Bronx Museum, New York. Recent residencies and fellowships include the LMCC Workspace Residency, New York (2015); Gateway Project Spaces, Newark, NJ (2016); BRIC Workspace Residency, Brooklyn (2018); Neubauer Faculty Fellowship, Tufts University, Boston (2018); and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Award (2018). Cruz’s work has been included in notable exhibitions at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C (2014); El Museo del Barrio, New York (2016); the Ford Foundation, New York (2019); the Brooklyn Museum (2019); and the McNay Art Museum, San Antonio (2019). Cruz is currently on view as part of The Outwin American Portraiture Today exhibition on view at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (2020); The Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts (2020/2021); and the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum (2021/2022), Cruz presented performances at Performa 13, New York (2013); and the High Line, New York (2015). Upcoming group exhibitions include A Site for Struggle, The Block Museum at Northwestern (2022) and A Place For Me: Figurative Painting Now, ICA Boston (2022). Cruz lives and works in Boston, where he is a Professor of the Practice in Painting and Drawing at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University.