I Can Make You Feel Good
Tyler Mitchell, a 24-year-old photographer and filmmaker based in Brooklyn, aims to revitalize and elevate the Black body in his work by representing people in his own community as joyful and proud. Characterized by a use of natural light and candy-color palettes, his work visualizes a Black utopia contrasting with representations and experiences of reality, while offering a powerful and hopeful counter narrative.
Over the course of this new exhibition on view at International Center of Photography in New York, entitled “I Can Make You Feel Good,” Mitchell leads a number of multidisciplinary public programs and events which will activate the galleries. In addition, Mitchell unveils a series of retail products via his new product design endeavor Items from the Studio which will be available for sale in ICP’s new shop. “I Can Make You Feel Good is simply a declaration. And one that I feel is gut punching in its optimism. It feels important at a time like this to declare such a thing,” said Mitchell.
Curated by ICP’s new Curator-at-Large Isolde Brielmaier, PhD, with support from Assistant Curator Susan Carlson, this is Mitchell’s first US solo exhibition and the US premiere of several prints, video, and installation works focusing on the artist’s ideas of a “Black visual utopia.”
“We are thrilled to present Tyler’s solo show at the launch of our new home, a center integrating our museum and school for the first time in decades. Opening a new home on the Lower East Side, a dynamic neighborhood with a rich photographic history, is an opportunity to explore ideas about community and representation in new ways, much like Tyler’s work challenges us to re-think depictions of everyday life,” said ICP’s Executive Director Mark Lubell.
Brielmaier notes, “Tyler’s exhibition comes at a critical time in our visual culture when so many are challenging pre-existing representations and taking ownership of their own imaging. His poetic images and videos offer our visitors a wonderful opportunity to re-envision how they see the world around them and all that is possible.”
Idyllic Space, a video installation complete with AstroTurf and white picket fences, invites viewers to lie down and watch scenes of Black youths enjoying simple pleasures in suburban settings where they appear sensitive, free, and effortless. It highlights the seemingly mundane activities many of us take for granted, as a bold visual reminder that moments of leisure, play, and delight have historically been denied to Black people, in lived experience as well as in representation.
An earlier video work, Chasing Pink, Found Red, combines images of Black youths relaxing amongst a lush picnic scene contrasted by crowdsourced narratives of small daily traumas of Black life recorded by Mitchell’s friends, family, and social media followers.
Also included in the exhibition is a new installation of photographs printed on fabric and hung as a laundry line down a 60-foot hallway of the museum. With this installation, Mitchell takes inspiration from photographers and artists like Gordon Parks who have used laundry lines in their work as a poetic symbol. Mitchell often uses laundry lines as a reference to proverbial domestic space and the working Black body.
Referring to himself as a concerned photographer, he has previously said that “conveying Black beauty is an act of justice.” He utilizes the tools of documentary reportage, portraiture, fashion photography, art photography, and filmmaking to explore new ways of interpreting culture today.