Jamal Cyrus: The End of My Beginning is the first museum survey of Houston-based multidisciplinary artist Jamal Cyrus (b. 1973), and the artist’s first presentation in Los Angeles. Spanning nearly two decades, the exhibition provides an unparalleled opportunity to trace the trajectory of Cyrus’s practice, following his work as a founding member of the pioneering collective Otabenga Jones & Associates to the present. The End of My Beginning includes approximately 50 works in assemblage, textiles, sculpture, and installation by Cyrus, including mixed media works using an eclectic array of materials such as paper, graphite, papyrus, and denim, produced over the past sixteen years.
Cyrus’s expansive practice explores the evolution of African American identity within Black political movements and the African diaspora. He is especially attuned to the cultural cross-pollination and hybridity that emerged from cross-border interactions in historical eras — from Ancient Egypt and the sixteenth century transatlantic slave trade to the Jazz Age of the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights movements of the 1960s. His aesthetic combines an enduring interest in music and record shops with an expansive array of materials—from drum kits, vinyl records, and conch shells to muslin, wax, papyrus, denim, and Kente cloth. In doing so, Cyrus’s vexing contemporary artifacts commemorate and question iconic figures and the understanding of historical events. The ensuing objects, installations, and actions cobble a patchwork lineage where the cumulative historical acts of silencing through edits, redactions, assassinations, and omissions become hauntingly and urgently present, forging a chronicle of histories lost and found.
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated color catalogue designed and co-published by Inventory Press, featuring essays by the exhibition’s curator, Steven Matijcio, Director and Chief Curator, Blaffer Art Museum; Grace Deveney, Associate Curator of Photography, Art Institute of Chicago; writer and editor Ciarán Finlayson; Jamillah James, former Senior Curator, ICA LA; writer and independent curator Ana Tuazon; and an interview with the artist conducted by Dr. Alvia Wardlaw, Director and Curator, University Museum at Texas Southern University, Houston.
Jamal Cyrus: The End of My Beginning is curated by Steven Matijcio, Jane Dale Owen Director and Chief Curator, Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston, with special contributions by Dr. Alvia Wardlaw, Director and Curator, University Museum at Texas Southern University.
Lead support for Jamal Cyrus: The End of My Beginning is provided by The Ford Foundation. Major support for the exhibition and publication is provided by The Brown Foundation, Inc. and Leah Bennett. Generous support is provided by Inman Gallery, Houston; Judy & Scott Nyquist; and Dr. Shirley Rose.
The presentation at ICA LA is organized by Jamillah James, Senior Curator, with Caroline Ellen Liou, Curatorial Assistant.
The exhibition is generously supported by The Angeles Art Fund and Jereann and Holland Chaney. Additional support is provided by Kerry Inman/Inman Gallery, Houston, Ann Daughety, and Lea Weingarten.
ICA LA is supported by its Curator’s Council, Fieldwork, and 1717 Collective.
Jamal Cyrus (b. 1973, Houston, TX) graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Houston in 2004 and a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008. He has participated in national and international exhibitions, including Direct Message: Art, Language and Power, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (2019); The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (traveled to the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia ); Arresting Patterns, Artspace, New Haven, Connecticut, (traveled to the African American Museum, Philadelphia ); Fore, the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2013); Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art (Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston; traveled to the Studio Museum in Harlem; Grey Art Gallery at New York University; and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis [2012–13]); Museum as Hub: Steffani Jemison and Jamal Cyrus: Alpha’s Bet is Not Over Yet, New Museum, New York (2011); Jamal Cyrus: Winners Have Yet to Be Announced, The Kitchen, New York (2009); and Landfall, Museum of London Docklands, London (2009).
As a member of the artist collective Otabenga Jones and Associates, Cyrus has exhibited at the High Museum, Atlanta (2008); Lawndale Art Center, Houston (2014); Project Row Houses, Houston (2014); the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC (2008); the California African American Museum, Los Angeles (2008); the Menil Collection, Houston (2007); and Clementine Gallery, New York (2006). Cyrus is the recipient of the High Museum’s David C. Driskell Prize (2020), the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant (2019), the BMW Art Journey Award (2017), the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship (2009), the Artadia Houston Award (2006), and the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award (2005). His work is in the collections of the Menil Collection, Houston; Blanton Museum of Art, Austin; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, NY; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Rose Art Museum, Waltham, MA. He is represented by Inman Gallery, Houston and PATRON Gallery, Chicago.