Marcus Leslie Singleton’s Future Memories

Standing On The Corner of Admiration & Opposition // Mid-Arrest, 2021, oil on panel, 20×20 inches.

Review by Molly Cranston

For his second solo show at Turn Gallery, Marcus Leslie Singleton offers Future Memories, a series of twelve oil paintings, or ‘Bubble Paintings’, that consider nonlinear time and its impact on the Black body. Singleton’s figures live inside the bubbles that he paints for them. Tasked with daily activities and achievements, they work, rest, perform and celebrate, all the while with ambiguous expressions and eyes that are often engaged out of frame. 

Singleton’s mastery of texture and tonal contrast creates a delicate and oscillating emotional landscape in the details of his sparing, intentional compositions. There is stillness in the loudest hues, everything has the breeze running over it. He paints a pair of skeletal shoes that are somehow undeniably shy.

The bubbles themselves are imperfect, shifting, spheres of coloured light that sit softly, but uncomfortably, on the canvas – caught on a branch, or brushing through some rich and leafy nighttime. I imagine a pastoral, breezy continuum with thousands of these bubbles drifting about with lives inside them. The bubbles are fragile structures that reflect the paradoxical nature of Black life that is constantly under scrutiny, “policed and praised in the same breath”.

“I explored how we as Black people live within these structures and how that informs our reality. […] Although we are alive in this same wild time, we have experienced two very different positions, because there are two different Americas, there are two different judicial systems.” Singleton’s Future Memories draws attention to the oppressive membrane that discerns these two realities. Like the thought clouds erupting from the temples of comic-strip characters, envisioning a wish or a memory, Singleton’s paintings surf the spectrum of past personal experiences to imagined futures, now and then, existing in both realms at once. Future Memories is on view until June 12th at Turn Gallery NYC.

Complete the Cycle // Memorial Service Choir, 2021, oil on panel, 30x 40 inches

You Never Know What You Got Until It’s Silent // GOLD MEDAL, 2021, oil on panel, 6×6 inches

Observation on Different Types of Grasses // Neighborhood, 2021, oil on panel, 20 x 20 inches