Lehmann Maupin presents Leave Room for the Wind, an exhibition of new work by artist Dominic Chambers. Born in St. Louis, MO (1993) and currently based in New Haven, CT, Chambers creates vibrant paintings that frequently portray scenes of leisure, joy, and quiet contemplation.
In his newest body of work, Chambers continues his examination of the contemporary role of leisure—focusing on its relationship to nature—and explores how art can function as a mode for understanding, recontextualizing, or renegotiating one’s relationship to the world. Leave Room for the Wind coincides with the artist’s debut solo museum exhibition at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis (on view through February 15, 2024) and marks the artist’s first major solo exhibition in New York.
Chambers is often inspired by literature and has cited Magical Realism, alongside writings by W.E.B. Du Bois, Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin, as significantly influential to his practice.
For Leave Room for the Wind, Chambers turned to poetry, engaging with the writing of Tracy K. Smith, Ocean Vuong, and Mary Oliver. The artist took particular inspiration from Oliver’s book-length poem The leaf and the Cloud, in which the author states:
“I will leave room for the wind combing the grass, / for the feather falling out of the grouse’s fan-tail, / and fluttering down, like a song.”
Drawing simultaneously from the art historical cannon and combining fundamental tenets from formal models like color field painting and gestural abstraction, in this body of work Chambers explores the recreational activity of kite flying, considering what it might mean to “leave room for the wind” as Oliver suggests.
Across the exhibition Chambers situates his subjects in vibrant landscapes that evoke both the sublime and the surreal. The richly-hued paintings depict open fields saturated in primary hues of red, yellow, and blue, many of which are populated by figures flying kites. The pastime traces its origins to military use (kites were originally tools for signaling, observation, and even the delivery of ammunition), but today is profoundly associated with recreation and the outdoors. A deeply domestic activity pursued solely for its own sake, kite flying is unconnected with external recognition or reward—an enjoyable way to spend time doing nothing.
Chambers’ omission of any buildings or landmarks in this series creates a sense of privacy, and none of his figures engage the viewer. In the titular painting Leave Room for the Wind, a pair of children race across a blue-green field trailed by a set of translucent kites, while in another work two young boys stand still, flying blue, yellow, and purple kites across a pink-red sky. The children appear fully removed from the rhythms of daily life, unbound by time or expectations, completely immersed in their activities. In these scenes and throughout the exhibition, Chambers proposes that enjoyment, stillness, or wonder can act as a gateway to private life, and that leisure and recreation are critical to replenishing one’s interiority. Leave Room for the Wind calls us to remember our capacity for stillness, and reminds us of what we might find when we allow ourselves to venture there.
About Dominic Chambers
Dominic Chambers (b. 1993 St. Louis, MO; lives and works in New Haven, CT) creates vibrant paintings that simultaneously engage art historical models, such as color-field painting and gestural abstraction, and contemporary concerns around race, identity, and the necessity for leisure and reflection. Interested in how art can function as a mode for understanding, recontextualizing, or renegotiating one’s relationship to the world, the artist sees painting as a critical and intellectual endeavor, as much as an aesthetic one.
A writer himself, Chambers draws inspiration from literature, especially Magical Realism and the writing of W.E.B. Du Bois, particularly Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk, and one of its central themes—the veil.
A product of racial injustice that is a metaphorical lens through which Black bodies are observed and experienced, references to the veil appear throughout the artist’s work, whether in the large swaths of color that obscure the figures in his Wash Paintings series, or in his recurring use of a raindrop motif as both an active and passive element in his paintings. Many of Chambers’ compositions incorporate Fabulist elements, including ghostly silhouettes meant to be stand-ins for the artist and surreal landscapes that feel both familiar yet unplaceable.
Chambers received his B.F.A from Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, Milwaukee, WI in 2016, and his M.F.A. from Yale University School of Art, New Haven, CT in 2019.
Chambers’ work is in a number of private and public collections, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (promised gift); Crocker Art Museum, Sacramento, CA; High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA; Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, FL; Long Museum, Shanghai, China; Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Los Angeles, CA; Morehouse College, Atlanta, GA (promised gift); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA, and the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Miami, FL.