There is a distinctive restraint in Lay Me Down in Praise, 2022, Justen LeRoy’s three-channel—and to my head, a few chapter—video installation at Artwork + Exercise (the exhibit is a collaboration concerning A + P and the California African American Museum in Los Angeles). The multidisciplinary LA-born and -elevated artist believes that melismas—vocal operates popularized by R&B new music and rooted in the songs of the Black church, which exhibit a singer’s selection and psychological dexterity—have analogs in numerous geological processes and functions. Yet even with this all-encompassing conceit, it’s noteworthy that the artist is calculated with his metaphors and elaborations. In LeRoy’s progressive arrangement of movie portraits and sounds, interpolated with purely natural landscapes—a “Black environmental strategy,” as he phrases it—the earliest sung observe doesn’t seem until the past moments of the work’s first chapter.
LeRoy has a specific curiosity in music. For the Hammer Museum’s 2020 edition of Designed in L.A., he contributed an audio collage, On God, 2020, showcasing voice notes from good friends and family members, tracks across distinct genres, and a range of different appears, together with falling rain and the trill of a dial tone. This piece intimates the every day noises LeRoy heard at his father’s barbershop expanding up. Lay Me Down is a continuation of this collage work, with sourced and unique video clip footage from LeRoy and a collaborator, artist and filmmaker Kordae Jatafa Henry.
Lay Me Down is greatest absorbed from a situation as close to the ground as possible so that you can really feel the vibrations created by the work’s bass. From this vantage, you can see how the screens are arranged all over the viewer, like open up arms likely in for an embrace. Scenes of waves, shore birds, and persons seated with fingers raised heavenward blink into a next chapter of glaciers melting into impossibly blue seas. The first sung note is expressed like a query, as even though it were a voice hearing alone for the initially time. It conveys a little something over and above words and phrases and is complete of meaning—maybe the sight of a glacier breaking is the finest way to explain it. By the 3rd and ultimate chapter, the melismas are more self-specific and layered. Lava erupts from a volcano. A person’s cradling arms fill the cradling screens. Basaltic magma flows down a slope even though the notes stretch on, generating flesh and earth solemnly but strategically converge.