February James: We Laugh Loud So The Spirits Can Hear

Opening: Saturday, Jul 11, 2020 11 am – 6 pm
Saturday, Jul 11 – Aug 22, 2020

451 N. Paulina
Chicago, IL 60622

No appointment necessary. Limited capacity, masks required.

For the remaining duration of the exhibition, please contact the gallery to schedule an appointment.


moniquemeloche gallery is thrilled to announce tandem solo presentation of new works from artists Chase Hall and February James. Faced with navigating the new challenges introduced by the global pandemic, both Hall and James were offered a new entry point for intimate self-reflection, memorialized in these new bodies of work.


February James is a self-taught artist whose work is rooted deeply in autobiographical narrative, exploring the factors that influence identity formation and the human condition to expose the hidden emotions that exist between what we see and what we experience. Compelled by what she describes as the broken places, James meditates less on the physicality of her figures, instead aiming to capture their true psychological essence. Devoid of formal construct, each smeared, distorted, and seemingly hollow portrait is equipped with a confronting gaze that brings viewers to the nexus between the authentic self and the conflicted self. We Laugh Loud So The Spirits Can Hear represents an intuitive shift through which James developed soft portraits, evocative of family members and familiar figures whose memory offers a sense of sanctuary and comfort. Segmented lines serve as linguistic tools that offer space for a deeper exploration of fragmentation within the human psyche, while a daring color palette of deep maroons conjures the sensation of life, blood pulsing through the veins.  Each portrait feels like a memory charged with the oral histories and lessons their subjects passed along, while considering how truth is conditioned by the frameworks through which it is received. More specifically how our family legacies influence our everyday life, vulnerabilities, expectations, and experiences, and how we can achieve a sense of harmony with these inherited pathologies. 

While varied in their methodologies, each artist’s propensity for exploring the figure enriches the recent dialogues around identity, family history, and the human condition.  It is through this deeper understanding of the inheritances of our past and their resonance that we arrive at new insights and avenues of reflection.


February James (lives and works in Los Angeles) is an auto didactic artist from Washington, D.C. She works primarily in oil pastels with a penchant for watercolor and graphite powder. Recent exhibitions include Luce Gallery, Turin, Italy (2020); Jeffrey Deitch, Los Angeles, CA (2019); LatchKey Gallery, New York, NY (2019); Wilding Cran Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2019); Band of Vices, Los Angeles, CA (2018); Gregorio Escalante Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2017); and Papillion Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (2015).  Her work has appeared in various television broadcasts and print publications and has been acquired by institutions and private collections across the U.S. and abroad.


Image: February James, Pray That What You Lack Does Not Distract, 2020