Allouche Gallery is pleased to present its first solo exhibition of paintings by Sissòn, opening in New York. The exhibition is an exercise in breathing and birthing.

Holding your breath suggests anticipation. But to wait to exhale is so much more loaded. The sensation is one of withholding more than anticipating. You want to dance, but only when you can do so with reckless abandon, without surveillance or interruption, or judgment. You want to live, but only on your terms. A real life, not a half-life.

In Sisson’s first solo show with Allouche Gallery, the pregnant space of a breath is explored. Portraits of acrylic on canvas depict Black women in their variance and range. The quiet tension that precedes a revelation swirls through their paintings, all of which center the Black woman. Oxygen is the medium of life, and here serves as a metaphor for the richly varied expressions of Black female interiority. In their sumptuously textured compositions, figures that populate the artist’s physical and spiritual lives are frozen perfectly for the viewers' benefit. Each static stroke is a gesture of gratitude.

To be a Black woman is to be perpetually misunderstood, taken for granted, and still the most powerful, beautiful person in the room. How can you live as an oxymoron? Is it the chicken or the egg? Are we reviled for our innate grace? Or are we powerful because of the artificial barriers we constantly disassemble?

The artist’s figures look directly at you and you cannot look away. They are living patterns, all that matters in the composition, and what matters most in the life of the artist. Waiting to Exhale is a love letter. An attempt at celebrating without mythologizing. A bow to the original birthers. The mothers of humankind, the saints of today, allowing them space to be demons if they so wish, or unremarkable if that suits them better. In the poem Inhaling, from which this exhibition takes its title, Barbara ChaseRiboud (herself depicted in the show) asks what:

[Is] the difference between
Racing through life breathless
And loitering through it
Waiting to exhale.

The difference is intention. Intention that can only be reached when we know how we are perceived and what to do with that perception.

(Text by Camille Okhio)

Sissòn is a non-binary, self-taught American artist. Their work reveals and questions the experience and social constructs of race, identity, and power. Born in Los Angeles and raised in Glendale, Arizona, Sissòn began their creative curriculum at age seven under the tutelage of their mother, Kimberlin. When she passed away in 2006, Sissòn abandoned their practice for almost a decade. They returned in 2015, creating work that would form the basis of their first solo show, Ivory Gold Slaves. In addition to their solo endeavors, Sissòn has participated in notable group exhibitions, including those at renowned institutions such as the Contemporary African American Museum in Los Angeles and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History in Detroit. They recently had a piece acquired by the Portland Museum of Art as part of their “+ Collection” exhibition.