Jammie Holmes’s first solo museum exhibition celebrates the lives of everyday Black folk while continuing the rich tradition of Black figurative painting.
Jammie Holmes: Make the Revolution Irresistible
August 11 – November 26, 2023
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
In Jammie Holmes’s first solo museum exhibition, Make the Revolution Irresistible, the artist makes visible what has often been rendered invisible in art institutions: representations of life for everyday Black folk. A self-taught artist, Dallas-based Holmes paints what he knows, revealing experiences of loss, challenging stereotypes of masculinity, and honoring communities left in the margins.
The seventeen large-scale paintings on display at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth are figurative, expressive, and full of symbolic iconography. His painterly portraits of friends and family members place him within a rich tradition of Black figuration, with painters from the past like Jacob Lawrence and Barkley L. Hendricks to contemporaries like Kerry James Marshall and Kehinde Wiley.
For Holmes, he feels a responsibility to represent his roots and help audiences connect to the way of life he grew up with in the small town of Thibodaux, Louisiana. His paintings feature friends, family, neighbors—people living their everyday, normal lives. Going to church, playing card games, cutting each other’s hair. Holmes uses his platform as an artist to provide his community the space to be seen, to be celebrated. Or as he likes to say, “to give them their roses.”
Holmes doesn’t shy away from expressing the realities of life back home. Several paintings, like Blame the Man #2 (2021), include figures wearing black shirts with cursive script reading “Rest in Peace.” With such high crime rates, it’s not uncommon for young people in Thibodaux to die in the crosshairs of gang violence. As a result, it’s customary to create these t-shirts as a way to honor the loss of loved ones. It’s part of a process of mourning.
Notions of family and brotherhood are prevalent in Holmes’s work. For example, Endurance (2020), features the artist cutting his brother’s hair. We see black and white tile on the floor and floral wallpaper behind the pair, setting us in a domestic space. The atmosphere is relaxed, intimate, and loving. Seen taking care of his brother, Holmes challenges notions of masculinity, showcasing a different kind of strength: affection.
In addition to scenes of contemporary life, Holmes also reflects on Black history with paintings referencing Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Kathleen Cleaver, Fred Hampton, and the efforts of Black Panther Party leadership as seen in works like Zebra in the Room (2023). With his energetic brushwork, the artist uplifts the virtuosity and power of these figures and their causes. In referencing these historical Black leaders, Holmes seeks to recognize the hard work of those who dedicated their lives to fighting for change. Again, he wants “to give them their roses,” and in turn, hopes to inspire new generations of leadership.
The work of Jammie Holmes is rooted in the Black American experience, and in particular, a face of America we don’t often see in museums. While sometimes representing the unjust realities facing people of color in this country, Holmes also provides an empowering portrait of his community. There is strength and dignity in the figures he paints. Although his work often centers around people and places from his hometown, the expressions and themes of family, spirituality, and loss are universal. This is ultimately an American story.
Jammie Holmes will deliver an artist lecture at the Fort Worth Modern on Tuesday, September 19 at 6 pm.