Nina Chanel Abney

'Big Butch Energy/Synergy'

In Big Butch Energy/Synergy, Nina Chanel Abney brings together recent large-scale works that examine Black identity and queerness through coming-of-age narratives. The artist broaches these subjects playfully, creating approachable images that focus on her personal experiences as a masculine-of-center woman. Abney executes these works primarily in collage, streamlining the picture plane with a bold, graphic style that highlights the subtleties of the expressions and poses of her dynamic figures. Working on a massive format, she invites viewers to experience the collage’s rich pictorial spaces on the scale of history painting.

Nina Chanel Abney signature image
Nina Chanel Abney, "Pump," 2022, collage on panel, diptych: 96 x 72 in. each. Courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, and Pace Prints, New York.

In this body of work, Abney expands on understandings of collegiate storylines that have centered white hetero characters in popular films like Animal House, focusing instead on the representation of Black masculine women. The figures in these grand works play out the routines and dramas of college life in settings like school dances, sporting events, and the gym, offering glimpses into the group dynamics and formative life events of Abney’s invented crew of characters. The artist uses these settings and figures to examine signifiers of maleness and femaleness, celebrating those who reject normative presentations of gender.

About the artist

Nina Chanel Abney (b. 1982, Chicago) has been honored with solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; the Gordon Parks Foundation, Pleasantville, N.Y.; Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; and the Contemporary Dayton, Ohio. Her solo exhibition at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, N.C., toured to the Chicago Cultural Center; the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the California African American Museum, Los Angeles; and the Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase College, State University of New York. Abney was recently commissioned to transform Lincoln Center’s new David Geffen Hall façade in New York, drawing from the cultural heritage of the neighborhood previously known as San Juan Hill that was composed of African American, Afro-Caribbean, and Puerto Rican families. Her recent public mural at the Miami Worldcenter was similarly inspired by the historic Black neighborhood Overtown. Abney’s work is held in the collections of The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Brooklyn Museum, New York; the Bronx Museum, New York; the Dallas Museum of Art; the Rubell Family Collection, Fla.; the Burger Collection, Hong Kong; the Nasher Museum of Art; and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, among others.

Install Views


Big Butch Energy/Synergy is organized by SCAD Museum of Art curator Ben Tollefson.

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