Mousse 75 TIDBITS
The Picker: Cudelice Brazelton IV
by Leonie Radine
The Picker (2020), Undergird (2019), Helix (2020), Barb (2021)—Cudelice Brazelton IV’s titles already suggest that his works get under one’s skin. His assemblages and painting/collages have a piercing quality and leave a mark. They can be tiny or large-scale, but no matter what the size, they pervade the space with their bodily presence. His works bear traces of various subcultures and current discourses and events, though they are neither illustrative nor documentary. Blackness, punk, DIY, and queer club culture are not only referenced in Brazelton’s practice, but constitute its driving force. Whether absurdly humorous or eerily dark, adorning or crafty, his works sharply point to what lies behind or in front of the surface of a body (of work).
Brazelton bridges the past, present, and future lives of discarded or displaced subjects, objects, images, and sounds—all haunted by the question of their identity in a larger continuum of time and space. Even though his material is strongly related to his personal background and the spaces he inhabits, his work remains open to the many layers matter can possibly unfold. He operates at the interface of skin and flesh, between surface and substance, and creates a hybridity of humanity, technology, and objecthood.
Oscillating between abstraction and figuration, The Picker is one striking example of Brazelton’s enrapturing painting/collages on found textiles stretched on canvas—here, a piece of checkered wool recalling a man’s shirt or the lining of old-school trench coats. An oval-shaped cutout reveals a surrealistic distorted face with eye-like features drawn on black painted wood. The visage is framed by beige carpet and rivets, and a black bolt sticks out like the pointed bill of a swordfish. An inkjet print of a Black hand is waving from its right temple. A buckle is loosely tied to it with a strand of black hair, pointing in turn to a rust-colored belt attached to the wool and carrying images of a pierced ear and a reptile-like rivet formation on a black leather garment. In his essay “On Repetition in Black Culture” (1981), James A. Snead describes the magic of repetition and the “cut” in Black culture as making room for “accident” or “rupture” inside the system itself, whereas European culture tends to cover up “the repeating constituents within” and “instead maintains the illusions of progression and control at all costs.”1 This might give a key to Brazelton’s methodology of cut, rupture, accident, repetition, and manipulation. The works center on processes of de- and reconstruction, which also manifest in a reassembling of elements in different locations. They not only flow into each other but also trace back to the artist’s biography. He was born in Texas, grew up in Columbus, Ohio (along the Rust Belt), and used to sustain his practice as an artist with temporary jobs in a steel factory. Equally formative was the profession of his mother, who ran a hair salon in their family basement.
These experiences resonated in his solo show Heavy Circuit at Ola Bunker, Frankfurt (2020), where dark, crafty collages gathering fabrics, garments, rivets, industrial hardware, hair and cosmetic products cohabitated with printed photos of a barber (Two Tone Drip ) and imagery referring to US police brutality (as in Dark City, Agent, or Overbite II [all 2020])—often covered with layers of black paint. In Brazelton’s subsequent show at Wschód gallery, Warsaw (2020), the artist tattooed the exhibition architecture—he brand-marked its walls in an eight-hours-long process of burning denim (Helix). This technique revealed the room as a vulnerable body whose wounds gave rise to something new: an image, a formation, a community. Surface marks also dominated the imagery of Undergird, a painting collage on a black-and-white inkjet print of a close-up photo of his skin—layered, cut, pierced—which acquired a planetary presence.
A similar image reappeared in his two-person show Recoil, with Dozie Kanu, at International Waters, New York (2020). Brazelton populated the space with three small and/or fragile works: Lord, Stream, and Incomplete Burglar (all 2020). Lord consists of 150 razor blades glued into a single block embedded with an augmented picture of his skin, this time rendered in a bloody red. The small object rests on two simple hooks bearing traces of the heating process required to bend them. Drops of blood on the skin recall eyes. Associations with surveillance, self-destruction, and self-care—the blade as a grooming device, a weapon, a working tool, and a symbol of masculinity—emanate from this one tiny object.
Brazelton’s most recent exhibition at Galerie Sans titre (2016) in Paris (2021) showed what he has picked up (on) during the past year—what he saved on his desktop, stored in his pockets or suitcases, or shipped from place to place. Coins, buttons, and pens coalesced in adhesive glue (as in Barb) or car mats (as in Rip Technology ), or melted with roughly painted black canvases, while an image he found on a shoe store sign in the streets of Tbilisi was transformed into a neat blue stamp on the wall. That the most elegant work in the show is titled Blemish (2021) is striking: this piece conveys a typical twist of perspective, a multiplicity of meaning.
Looking at Brazelton’s work, one is inevitably confronted with the razor-sharp injury of the white gaze—certainly also in the art world—on Black skin and the Black subject. But at the same time the artist emphasizes the piercing puncture as one of the most adorning and powerful mechanisms (of art) to break open systems from within.
 James A. Snead: “On Repetition in Black Culture,” in Black American Literature Forum 15, no. 4 (1981): 146–54.
Cudelice Brazelton IV (b. 1991, Dallas) lives and works in Frankfurt. He attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and currently studies at the Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste. Selected solo and duo exhibitions include Friend of a Friend Warsaw, Wschód and Emanuel Layr, Warsaw (2021); Bronzed from Silver, Sans titre (2016), Paris (2021); Recoil (with Dozie Kanu), International Waters, New York (2020); Violent Groom, Wschód (2020); Prune (with Nicholas Grafia), Shoot the Lobster, New York (2019); and Bounty, Jeffrey Stark, New York (2017). Selected group exhibitions include Cuerpos, Lodos Gallery, Mexico City (2020); The Struggle for Change, Murmurs, Los Angeles (2020); Ten Toes Down, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Chicago (2018); In Practice: Another Echo, SculptureCenter, New York (2018); and Le Colt est Jeune & Haine, DOC!, Paris (2018).
Leonie Radine is a curator based in Cologne. Since 2015 she has worked at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne, where she curated two group exhibitions in the series HERE AND NOW at Museum Ludwig: Transcorporealities (2019) and Home Visit (2016), and worked on several group and solo exhibitions, including major surveys of Wade Guyton (2019) and Haegue Yang (2018). In 2018 she curated Flaka Haliti’s solo exhibition at the National Gallery of Art in Tirana. Together with artist Maria Eichhorn and curator Yilmaz Dziewior, she is currently working in the capacity of assistant curator on the German Pavilion at the 59th Venice Biennale.