© Antonio Scott Nichols

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Antonio Scott Nichols

Philadelphia, PA

Artist Statement

Antonio Scott Nichols (b.1997, lives and works in Philadelphia, PA) is an artist whose work explores and challenges conventional uses of history, present-day social and political culture, and speculative & imagined futures in fragmented visual storytelling. His works evoke feelings of power, freedom, and ownership by romanticizing notions of escape and accomplishment.

Nichols’ most recent show, The Wayward Passage, grapples with the Great Migration and other historical benchmarks from the 1920s and uses them as foundation for an original narrative. In this narrative, Nichols transfigures historical context into a “what if” story about Black people leaving Earth and settling down on Saturn. He critiques mainstream historians' focus on those who migrated to the North over those who remained in the South, by juxtaposing the experience of those who went to Saturn with those who stayed on Earth.

In this show, Nichols emulates black music’s methods of appropriation and collaboration, using them to engage with many art forms. He appropriates Sun Ra’s belief about being from Saturn as well as imagery from George Clintons’ ‘Mothership Connection’ as representations of the imagined future. He also converses with the work of a few prominent artists from the 1920s, as well as more contemporary artists who engaged with the history, themes, and stories of the 1920s. Inspired by sci-fi writer Octavia Butler’s use of speculative fiction, Nichols engages with future, present and past in a unique way - not as linear periods of time but rather occurring simultaneously.

Nichols sees himself as the James Van Der Zee of this story, capturing fragmented moments in this imagined future. He treats the figures as both archetypes for the story he is telling and as representations of modern-day Americans. His obsession with crafting semi-kitschy images that radiate feelings of power, freedom, and escape comes from his appreciation of the Romanticism movement from 18th-century Europe.

At the center of his practice, Nichols places great importance on imagination and speculation in connection to the advancement of technology. He challenges the current overemphasis/overreliance on technology, the oversaturation of imagery and information, and the war on the individual imagination in today's society. In his work, he utilizes old methods of mass media as a reclamation of power over collective consciousness and as a driving vehicle of how the story is told and how the story progresses.

© Antonio Scott Nichols

Antonio Scott Nichols's Portfolio

© Antonio Scott Nichols

Artist Biography

Antonio Scott Nichols was born in 1997 in Atlanta, Georgia, and currently lives and works in Philadelphia, PA. Nichols earned his Bachelor of Art from Bard College. Antonio an African American and Afro-Futurist painter who explores Black bodies as vessels of “time.” Understanding that “time” operates as the sequence of all existence and events in past, present, and future simultaneously, Nichols uses it as a layering tool that informs the framework of each painting (in terms of subjects, color, the photo, culture, fashion, and setting). Nichols explores the past as it latently informs the present and blatantly informs the physicality of the subjects depicted in the paintings. Currently, he is focusing on the 1920s because it was an important past era for Black art and culture. He utilizes the present by embracing the now in each painting, using it as the platform of the project by including contemporary elements that clash with the 1920s themes. Simultaneously, Nichols uses visionary fiction to explore the future in asking these questions: What do my subjects have to offer? What could they obtain? And what could they represent? He depicts imagery of the projected future as propaganda for Black people. Nichols sources W.E.B DuBois’s “Criteria of Negro Art” as a foundational goal for each painting: “Black art will always have to be propaganda for the Black agenda.” He is also a self-proclaimed disciple of Octavia Butler and is heavily influenced by her literature.



© Antonio Scott Nichols

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