Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Karyn Olivier at the Whitney Biennial 2024

WBKarynGrief and Loss 2023





Karyn Olivier

She who was born in Trinidad and Tobago, creates sculptures, installations and public art. This year, Olivier will participate in the Whitney Biennial (NY, NY), Prospect.6 Triennial (New Orleans, LA), and the Malta Biennale (Valleta, Malta). In 2024 and 2025, Olivier will unveil two memorials in Philadelphia—honoring a former slave at Stenton House, and commemorating more than 5,000 African Americans buried at Bethel Burying Ground. Last year Olivier presented her second solo show at Tanya Bonakdar Gallery. In 2022 Olivier participated in Documenta 15 and installed a permanent commission for Newark Airport’s Terminal A. (text website artist)

Karyn Olivier’s artistic practice merges multiple histories and collective memory with present-day narratives. Through the slight manipulation of familiar objects and spaces, such as coffee tables, playground slides, or grocery stores, the artist re-contextualizes the viewer’s relationship to the ordinary. Questioning what we presume to be the function or facts of an object or space, she asks us to reconcile memory with conventional meanings, ultimately revealing contradictions as well as new possibilities and ideas. Olivier’s work often reflects on public versus private space, recalling communal nostalgias connected to social and physical experiences and how those phenomena relate to inclusivity and acceptance.


How we interact with and dissect conflicting narratives and their representation in art are core elements of Olivier’s practice. Actively engaged in reinterpreting the role of monuments, the artist has created both temporary and permanent sculptures and installations for the public. With recurring themes of absence, invisibility and displacement, often embedded in the viewing experience itself, the artist intervenes in ‘blind spots’ — unseen and unconsidered spaces — drawing attention to the periphery. Tethering the formidable and fragile, melancholy and hope, Olivier’s work echoes the tension that exists in our shifting personal and civic lives. (text Tanya Bonakdar Gallery)

Olivier has exhibited at the Gwangju and Busan biennials, the World Festival of Black Arts and Culture (Dakar, Senegal), The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Whitney Museum of Art, MoMA P.S.1, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Contemporary Art Museum Houston, The Mattress Factory (Pittsburgh), SculptureCenter (New York), ICA Watershed Boston, among others. Solo exhibitions include Everything That’s Alive Moves at Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia (2020), and A Closer Look at Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis (2007).

Visuals: Grief and Loss, 2023/Fortified 2019, 2022 (works not in the Biennial)