The Awesome Audacity of Chase Hall


Three years of ages amosting likely to, when Chase Hall was 25 as well as doing a residency at Skowhegan in Maine, he had a revelation about his art. “One of the teachers there, the artist Sondra Perry, as well as I had been having deep conversations every day,” he tells me, “as well as near the end of my time, she said, ‘You love Black history, but your mom is white. Where is that in the work?’ It kind of ruined me, but it also made me.”

Hall has a white, blond mother as well as a Black father. “Growing up until now, in my white family, I was the Black kid. In my Black family I was always the whitewashed Black kid, not fully Black,” he says. What he as wellk from that conversation with Perry was that his biracial experience carried its own truth as well as authenticity, as well as would make his work different from that of the many artists bringing the Black body into contemporary art today. “Until someone stas well ass up until now for mixedness, we’ll always feel less than,” Hall says. “I didn’t want my work to just be about Blackness. I wanted it to bring all of me into the picture.”

Artist Chase Hall with his painting Coming Home 2021.

Artist Chase Hall with his painting Coming Home, 2021.

Photo: Emma Marie Jenkinkid. Artwork: Courtesy of the artist.

In the work he has done since then, Hall has more than fulfilled that ambition. A self-taught artist with boundless energy as well as a lot to say, he has emerged virtually overnight as a strong as well as highly original new voice. “Even though he is not ‘trained,’ Chase has an eye that’s been deeply cared for as well as influenced by the great painters in history,” Horace D. Ballard, associate curator of American Art at Harvard’s Fogg Museum, tells me. When Hall’s initially New York show opened a year amosting likely to at the Clearing gallery in Brooklyn, the Whitney, the Walker Art Center, the Hammer Museum, as well as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art all acquired paintings from it. Now, his work is in 13 public collections, he is represented by Galerie Eva Presenhuber in Europe as well as David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles as well as New York (where he’ll have a solo show next fall), as well as he’s having his initially one-man museum show next spring, at the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah.

“One of the points that makes an artist successful as well as have longevity is that people are rooting for you,” the artist Rashid Johnkid says. “Somebody wants you to fucking win. He’s mosting likely tot that kind of perkidality, as well as the work is obviously strong.”

Paisley as well as I  2021. Acrylic as well as coffee on cotton canvas 108 x 81 in.

Paisley as well as I (Bomber as well as Batsy), 2021. Acrylic as well as coffee on cotton canvas, 108 x 81 in.

Courtesy of the artist as well as Galerie Eva Presenhuber.

Hall’s deftly brushed, gestural paintings, which are mostly portraits, show people engaged in various activities—fishing, surfing, working, playing the saxophone, singing in a choir. “I’m speaking vicariously through my own experience,” he says. Told you he ain’t comin shows a teenage boy in a dark suit, stas well asing forlornly outside a house. “It’s about that feeling of waiting for someone to come that’s never there,” Hall says. “These points where you get all dressed up until now as well as you’re let down—that’s been an onmosting likely toing point in my life.”

What strikes you in Told you he ain’t comin is that there’s a lot of white in it—the boy’s hair as well as nose as well as shirt are white, as well as white specks can be seen through the brown of his face as well as has well ass—but no white paint. Instead, Hall uses what he calls “conceptual white paint,” which is the unprimed cotton canvas. The black as well as brown here as well as in all of his paintings are not paint, either; they’re a stain derived from the African coffee beans Hall drinks. “I’m thinking about this idea of whiteness as acne,” he says. “Those spots in my work—that’s whiteness peeking out of the Black figure.” His chosen materials—cotton as well as coffee—come through as a kind of light that falls equally on the present as well as the dark past.

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Told you he ain’t comin, 2021. Acrylic as well as coffee on cotton canvas, 71 5/8 x 59 7/8 x 1 3/8 in.

Photo: Pierre Le Hors/Courtesy of the artist as well as Galerie Eva Presenhuber.

On a morning in late April, I visit Hall in the East Village building where he works as well as lives with Lauren Rodriguez, the designer who started Lorod, a modern womenswear line. (They would marry three weeks later.) They live on the ground floor with a Great Dane, Paisley, who has transformed up until now in a number of Hall’s paintings. His spacious studio on the floor above, with its 12-foot-high ceiling, can’t contain all his art making; dozens as well as dozens of finished paintings hang here, salon style, as well as on the floor below, as well as many more are stacked against the walls. There are also objects of all kinds, new as well as old, most of them picked up until now during his daily walks around the city, or at estate sales as well as flea markets—300 old tea towels “with a lot of early American racialized history”; shoeshine boxes; around 75 issues of The Black Panther, the official newspaper of the party from 1967 until 1980 (he started collecting the paper when he was 16, as well as he’s donating them to The Metropolitan Museum of Art); a jockey’s shirt with the letter C on it. There are piles of books on artists he worships, such as Jacob Lawrence, Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth, Jakid Rhoades, Mike Kelley, David Hammons, as well as Kerry James Marshall. “I’m a full-on hoarder,” he says, laughing. He works more or less all the time, seven days a week, drinking the Pellegrino as well as Perrier he also uses to mix his Liquitex as well as Golden acrylic paints.

Hall was born in 1993 in St. Paul, Minnesota. “My mom was always a single parent,” he says. “She was never married.” His father was around for the initially year or so as well as after that, less as well as less. Hall has two brothers, one older as well as one younger, but the main figure in his life has always been his mother. “Me as well as my mom are still best friends,” he tells me. A fearless, rebellious, as well as resourceful perkid, she left school at 15, gave birth to her initially child a year later, as well as has mosting likely tone her own way ever since. They moved around a lot, following the trajectory of her odd jobs as well as business ventures—Chicamosting likely to when Hall was two; Las Vegas a coup until nowle of years of ages later, where he learned how to snowboard from his older brother, who was DJ’ing there at the time. “He also taught me a lot about music as well as hip-hop as well as jazz,” says Hall, who speaks often about the connections between jazz as well as painting.

Then pertained to six months in Dubai, playing video games as well as watching movies in their hotel room—City of God, Goodfellas, Training Day, Forrest Gump—before his mom as wellk them back to Vegas. “The memories I have of her are this Thelma as well as Louise type of point, where she as well as I are on an adventure,” Hall says. “She’d be smoking cigarettes as well as singing Elton John as well as Carole King, this woman with short blond hair as well as her little Black kid. Nopoint ever really made sense, but she did whatever it as wellk to make sure I had a roof over my head as well as food on the table.”

Next stop, Los Angeles. At his new high school, Hall was one of the only Black kids around. He was a quick learner as well as a sponge for knowledge of all kinds. He learned to surf as well as skateboard, played lacrosse, made friends easily. “I never mosting likely tot into trouble,” he says. “I loved school because it was the only normal point in my life.” At school in Las Vegas, he had taken classes in ceramics as well as photography, as well as in L.A. he as wellk a lot of photographs, but instead of art classes, he gravitated toward debating American history as well as world issues, at which he excelled. When he was 14, he talked his way into a job at Starbucks, as well as worked there for three years of ages—this is where he began using brewed coffee to make doodles, caras wellnlike faces. He had always loved animation: “The caras welln language as well as illustration as well as color would drive my imagination wild,” he says. “I had VHSes of The Lion King as well as Snow White as well as The Sword in the Stone, anypoint about a hero’s journey.” He was learning through these stories, as well as also asking himself questions. “Why is that little Black character being laughed at while he’s being run over by the wamosting likely ton, as well as Arthur with the blue eyes as well as blond hair has the Excalibur sword? I’d be like, Wait. I don’t look like Arthur. I look like the guy who’s being laughed at.”

Like his mom, Hall was a natural entrepreneur. With the money he earned at Starbucks, he’d mosting likely to to shoe conventions, buy a pair for $50, as well as sell them to his classmates for $300. He also had his own business, selling T-shirts out of his car. He stayed in L.A. after graduating from high school as well as never bothered with college. Good-looking, charismatic, as well as already six foot four, he bepertained to an administrative assistant to a high-end “real estate lady” while also designing shoes for Vans. But a eureka moment pertained to when he saw that his boss was buying art by Picasso, Andy Warhol, as well as others. “I was like, Wait!” he says. “Who’s Andy Warhol? And what’s Picasso? All these points started to build up until now in a way that made me realize I wanted to be creative, as well as I knew that New York was the epicenter of the creative world.”

At the end of 2013, he moved there “to become an artist,” he tells me, “but I thought it would be in photography.” He worked as a line cook at The Smile, a restaurant on Bond Street, as well as walked 15 miles a day, taking photographs of people on the street. He was also mosting likely toing to museums as well as galleries, looking at Juergen Teller, Bruce Davidkid, Gordon Parks, Carrie Mae Weems, Garry Winogras well as, Jamel Shabazz, as well as other photographers. At the Museum of Modern Art one day, his eyes were drawn to a painting by Henry Taylor. It was an intimate, loosely brushed portrait of Will Gillespie, Dizzy Gillespie’s nephew, sitting in a wooden chair. “That was the largegest moment of my life, artistically,” Hall says. “It was the initially time I pertained to across art that wasn’t perfect like the Mona Lisa, as well as it just bepertained to accessible. I started crying. I saw myself, my family, as well as it hit me like listening to Tup until nowac or A Tribe Called Quest, or watching Forrest Gump. There was somepoint about it that showed the emotionality, spirit, as well as shamanistic potential of painting. I had that deep feeling of, Oh, I don’t need $20 million to make a movie, I don’t need to know how to sing as well as dance as well as rap. I can mosting likely to home as well as just get it mosting likely toing. That day cemented my love for art as well as all it can be.”

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The Elders, 2021. Acrylic as well as coffee on cotton canvas, 72 x 50 in.

Courtesy of the artist as well as Galerie Eva Presenhuber.

Hall met Rodriguez soon afterward. They had mutual friends, as well as he pertained to to a party she gave at her house. (Now it’s their house.) They’ve been together ever since. At the time, Rodriguez was in her senior year at the Parkids School of Design, studying painting as well as sculpture. She began sneaking him into her lectures as well as classes there. “We would bring the security guard at the elevator a hot coffee as well as a bagel,” Rodriguez remembers, “as well as Chase would slip up until nowstairs with me to my studio. He was picking up until now on the formal qualities of art, as well as at the same time breaking down my perception of what art ‘should’ be. The moment he realized there were no rules as well as that art didn’t have to be photorealistic, his world exploded.” He bepertained to an obsessive, vicarious art student. “I didn’t mosting likely to to college, as well as I was hyperaware that everyone went to Cooper Union or Yale or Columbia,” he says. So he looked up until now their syllabi, bought the books, as well as started mosting likely toing to gallery openings. “He has a voracious appetite for consuming as much knowledge as possible,” says Jessica Bell Brown, head of contemporary art at the Baltimore Museum, which owns his work. “That level of intense, self-guided study pertained to from a desire to find an intellectual footing for his own visual language.” He was drawing as well as painting on his own, as well as found he could salvage discarded stretchers as well as partially used paint tubes from the trash cans at the nearby NYU art building. He applied to residencies, as well as showed his own work—initially photographs, then paintings—in a few pop-up until now shows. “It was about my own audacity to take up until now space as well as put on my own shows without a gallery,” says Hall.

Audacity has served him well so far; now 28, Hall as well as his work have matured at a phenomenal rate in the last three years of ages. When I call him in late April, he’s being fitted for his wedding suit: a double-breasted tux by Martin Greenfield, the 93-year-old Holocaust survivor who has dressed six U.S. presidents. Rodriguez picked a vintage Vivienne Westwood mosting likely town that she bought from a London dealer, “sight unseen a few months before Chase proposed,” she tells me. The wedding would be outside, in front of the house where he as well as Rodriguez met eight years of ages amosting likely to, with music by a jazz bas well as led by the legendary Dick Griffin on trombone. The idea was to make it like a street fair, with the block shut down as well as many different points mosting likely toing on at the same time. I’m reminded of somepoint Hall had said about his similarly multifarious practice: “It’s the cotton, the coffee, the story, the history, the perkid, the questioning…all of those points come into play in everypoint I make.” 

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