Tyler Ballon: The House I Live In

13 Nov 2021 – 8 Jan 2022

Regular hours

10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00
10:00 – 18:00

Save Event: Tyler Ballon: The House I Live In1

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The House I Live In, an exhibition of new paintings by Tyler Ballon.


Ballon grew up in the New Jersey Pentecostal church, the son of pastors. His subject is the Black American home, his family, and the circle of people within the church and the local community in Greenville, Jersey City, where he spent his childhood and still lives and works.

Ballon’s imagery goes against the stereotype of people of color in the mass media. His work celebrates the love of family, partners, and one another that emanates from the Black Christian church. One of Ballon's primary subjects is the professions that members of his community were able to pursue within the white power structure, such as pastors, barbers, and hairstylists. He focuses on the careers that involve intellectual achievement and technical skill rather than the physical prowess of athletes. He strives to separate his celebration of Black community from the stereotype of slaves’ bodies. His work emphasizes love and spirituality as the path to advancement.
Ballon’s paintings are infused with his Christian faith. He views the Black church as a place of comfort and strength. It is a structure to pass down information, commemorating the accomplishments of the past and inspiring the present generation to change the future. His figures reflect his belief that this body of flesh is our temporal home on earth. His work is sincere in the representation of truth and spirituality. It tells the story of fortitude in life, breaking the stereotypes that have been placed on Black Americans.
Ballon’s painting Apple of my Eye (2021), reproduced above, depicts the special relationship between a mother, the artist's sister, and her daughter as she grooms her hair. The mother is teaching her daughter how to love herself, understanding her value on earth. The Black Lives Matter t-shirt shows the mother’s role in passing down social history. Ballon asks us to cherish moments like this.
Little Girls (2021) portrays four of the artist’s nieces but commemorates the tragedy in the church in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, in which four young girls were murdered. The work memorializes the lives that were cut short. It brings forth both the humanity of the girls and the potential for renewal.
Pastor (2021) is a portrait of the artist’s father preaching in his church. Ballon represents the central role of the pastor in the Black community. Often, the pastor was the only example of leadership that Black people could turn to who didn’t pose an outside threat. The pastor’s role was essential to the survival of the community and its ability to cope with external circumstances. Pastors help their congregants surrender to God and transcend from the earthly to the heavenly realm. Ballon’s father is depicted with his arms outstretched like a crucified Christ. The painting highlights the role of his father in the artist’s life.
Songs Flung To Heaven (2021) is one of the artist’s most ambitious paintings. It represents the act of singing as angelic, elevating the singers’ voices to a spiritual realm. The Black church is often represented as a broken-down storefront. Instead, Ballon wanted to show the choir in a grand, cathedral-like setting.
Barber Shop (2021) shows one of the central institutions in the Black community. Real Deal is the actual barber shop where the artist has had his hair cut since the age of four. The figure in the barber chair is Ballon himself. The artist explains that the barber shop is where he learned a lot about being a man. It was his first experience with men outside his household, and it is where he first heard men's speech without a filter. The barber was not just cutting his hair, he was cutting away the possible mistakes he could have made that would have destroyed his future. His visits to the Real Deal barbershop taught the artist how to deal with actual real-life situations.

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Tyler Ballon


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