Lines approach and recede from view in the effervescent compositions comprising Sugawara-Beda’s “I’ll Be There,” on view now through May 1, 2021, at the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts in Fond du Lac, WI. Tradition and expansion are present in the exhibit in equal measure, with the artist embracing traditional mounting techniques typically used to present Japanese paintings on paper on scroll format. This aspect of her exhibition, which exhibits work from her “KuroKuroShiro” series (the series title is Japanese for black-black-white,) has allowed the artist to approach new formats and avenues of collaboration. “For this exhibition, I incorporated tradition directly into my art by having my art mounted in a traditional mounting called Kakejiku,” remarks Sugawara-Beda. “This activity has become a collaboration with craftsmen and merchants and formed a new dimension in my art-making process.”
Collaborations notwithstanding, the artist’s work asserts its expansive presence through a dynamic sensibility that transcends the shades of gray it is composed of, seemingly eluding the two-dimensionality of the picture plane. Sumi ink is a medium that lends itself more readily to form broad, abstract washes, so it’s exciting to see Sugawara-Beda’s sharp use of individually distinguished lines and forms traversing the picture plane. While incorporating traditional elements, the artist’s work is anything but, sharing art historical space with the canon of Op Art and Abstract Expressionist painters as much as the traditional Japanese Sumi ink painting tradition.
Borrowing from the lexicon of seasonal paintings, which in Japan are often mounted on scrolls often related to the nation’s traditional 72 seasonsinforming the land’s literary traditions, and depicting landscape scenes relevant to each portion of the year, the artist here has provided elevated, abstracted pathways for visitors to construct their own relation to each ‘season’ on view. Whereas her KuroKuroShiro CI Sacred Lot – winter work provides the viewer with an expanse of space in which to lose their train of thought, much like a wind and snow-swept field, her work KuroKuroShiro CV Sacred Lot – summer seems to allude to the June rainy season in Japan giving way to the warm nights of summer and the kero-kero cries of frogs in the balmy air. Even visitors unfamiliar with Japanese traditions can find respite in these works, which provide a hypnotic assembly of overlapping and receding lines for viewers to ruminate over.
Meditative and idiosyncratic in equal measure, the artist’s work finds its own path to nature. The artist notes of the works mounted on Kakejiku that they allude to a higher, spiritual sense of nature and the seasons. “Even though [these works] are in a vertical format, they are still landscapes, and each generates a seasonal tone: spring, summer, autumn, and winter,” observes Sugawara-Beda in her work statement. Each work opens up a reverie for viewers to explore, with seasons mounted specific to the traditions of patterned fabrics as adopted for use in Japanese traditional painting presentation. The artist hearkens back to the highly developed appreciation for the season’s procession embedded within Japanese perspectives, while adapting a sensibility aligned with Western abstract painting traditions, giving way to a Third Space in which visitors can find their own framework for navigating the formal elements of her paintings. There is something ready waiting for everyone to find in “I’ll Be There.” Check back with the Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts for exact directions and visiting hours.
ArtistAlex Guofeng Cao is no stranger to pop culture: in fact, he’s examined many aspects of it down to the cellular, and celluloid, level. An avid admirer of American pop culture with a precise knowledge of photography, film and digital, Cao’s visions produce fantastically detailed hybrid portraits combining celebrity headlines and art history highlights, from the 20th century and earlier, for “Pixelation” at Fremin Gallery.
Artworks with titles such as “Modigliani vs. Marilyn” give some indication as to the artist’s method and artistic process. Through careful repetition of one particular image – for example, an artistic nude of Marilyn Monroe – the artist then creates a composition of another iconic image, such as a famed Modigliani painting. Fremin Gallery explains his unique vision through their show announcement. “Cao meticulously places each smaller image to form a dynamic gradient from dark to light which tricks the eye into seeing one image. This expertise in contrast is exemplified in all of his works, from striking black and white pieces to stunning explorations in high-definition color. He cleverly mirrors this visual contrast in his subject matter by subverting the main image and creating a dialogue between the macrocosm and microcosm.”
Where Cao’s work truly shines is in the detailed attention he allows not only the formal composition of the two interrelated artworks he presents, but also the conceptual license he takes in combining the imagery present in each artwork. Often commenting on social and cultural constructs, such as beauty, sports, and celebrity culture, these works serve as a provocative jumping off point for viewers to form their own connections to these themes. Paying careful attention to celebrities dominating the period of pop culture when Pop Art, with its luminaries such as Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein, both of whom Cao reference overtly, these works give deference to a period in which American culture was beginning to make its mark on the global stage. Cao’s works offer a new perspective on what it means to not only see the potential of art to digest images, but also the potential for the world to see American culture through fresh eyes – or, perhaps, a new lens.
On view at Fremin Gallery through April 10th, Pixelation is worth a visit as a potent reminder that there is definitely always more than meets the eye on view, particularly when viewing these extraordinary works. For more information, visit the gallery’s website: http://fremingallery.com/exhibitions/
On view now at The Yard: Flatiron South (234 Fifth Ave) through April 17th, Akeem Duncan’s curatorial magnum opus, “TOGETHER.”, takes center stage, featuring works byMarguerite Wibaux and Dhanashree Gadiyar. The interlocking, tightly executed hybrid of pattern and hue permeate the portraits painted by Wibaux, while Gadiyar’s works on paper astound in complexity and detail. The two artists complement one another in tone, temperament and preciousness. Whether outlining the marvels of the Aurora Borealis or probing the subtle corners of a subject’s smile, these artists focus on wonder, and the connections we seek out that make life meaningful and memorable.
Curator Akeem Duncan (Editor-in-Chief, Quiet Lunch) has come into his own intimate understanding of the space which he is curating, taking time to place paintings in contrast with specific architectural details and with the viewer’s relative position to each artwork in mind. Wibaux’s paintings in particular, with their ornate fabric pattern-inspired swaths directing the viewer’s eye across the canvas, present an interesting opportunity to contrast against white walls and brick in equal measure. Visitors to the exhibition encounter these works, imbued as they are with a playful yet precise air throughout the Yard’s space.
Wibaux’s intimate knowledge of her subject are on display in the captivating in which she paints their emotional state, ranging from anxious to assertive, self-assured to hesitant. The artist’s loose and fluid brushstrokes approximate the subject’s current state, while fabric-inspired patterning flanking each of these portrait subjects brings an alternate reading to the composition. Combined, these two elements create a striking balance in the portrait in an effect that Wibaux notes helps…” to focus on the human figure.” “Generally speaking, my art practice aims to challenge common representations, the way we look at ourselves as a society,” remarks Wibaux. “As an artist I don’t feel I can change the world, but I can help shifting representations. Getting your portrait painted in art history has mostly been a symbol of power. Through my portraits, I want to give power to our young and diverse youth, to give them a voice, to have people really SEE and LISTEN to them.”
Intimate framed paintings by Dhanashree Gadiyar are interspersed throughout the exhibition. Her works frequently depict figures immersed in resplendent landscapes, or brightly colored scenes also capturing bright and undulating patterns. Gadiyar readily reflects on the impact that pattern exerts on her work. “My love for patterning comes from my exposure to the folk art forms of India such as Madhubani, Gond and Patachitra,” explains Gadiyar. “I incorporate these traditional forms of mark-making as well as intuitive and automatic patterning. Also, as a trained embroidery artist, I tend to treat the paper like fabric, filling it in obsessively with my marks.” Also notable is the artist’s use of organic line, curve and color to create rounded and smooth compositions, seemingly expanding off into the distance of the picture plane.
The artist works with watercolor and acrylic on paper, as opposed to canvas, adding a precious quality: a feeling of delicacy. ” I love working on paper,” notes Gadiyar,” since it lets me let go off control and gives me the feeling of freedom.” This freedom is evident in the impression the artist’s works leave on the visitor, who feel emboldened to step into the composition and roam the surroundings themselves.
TOGETHER. is on view at The Yard, Flatiron South by appointment through mid-April. Please email curator Akeem Duncan to schedule a visit: email@example.com
““What makes the desert beautiful,’ said the little prince, ‘is that somewhere it hides a well…” ― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
The rich, fertile soil from which “Everyday Magic: Artistic/Gnostic Impulses,“ on view now at the National Arts Club on the south edge of NYC’s Gramercy Park, all began – as rich soil often does – with the consideration of what has been reclaimed to the earth and how it nourishes what comes after. The result of the combined forces of Rebecca Goyette and Jenny Mushkin Goldman, both of whom have cultivated significant artistic curatorial experience, respectively, in the NYC art world, “Everyday Magic” was given the right nourishment it needed to fully bloom into the rich and multi-layered experience that it embodies, welcoming visitors of all walks of life. On view from March 2- April 27th, 2021, the exhibition accepts guests via timed entry at the above link.
Show organizers Goyette and Mushkin Goldman, excited to embark on this joint quest to present an art exhibit engaging with themes around ‘magic’, envisioned this group show featuring over 20 artists as a platform for exploring aspects of magic and occultism, particularly through the lens of empowerment: seeking ways in which indigenous, femme/non-binary and queer practices in turn rise above and gain agency over colonial, patriarchal and gender-normative narratives. Mushkin Goldman noted this in her observation of how the exhibition has unfolded. “This is a diverse show rooted in many ways in a femme presence, or energy, a story that had to be told which isn’t the hegemonic dominant narrative but is still such a force in itself.”
Echoing the utterances of revered postcolonial critic Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, a woman’s position in society is tenuous at best, and artistic voices of women from the Global South are further suppressed. “For the ‘figure’ of woman, the relationship between woman and silence can be plotted by women themselves,”(1) Spivak notes, revealing the truth that the voices who notice this absence are most acutely those being oppressed, rather than the oppressor. Voices absent from a Western-centric, patriarchal-oriented art history make their presence felt in this powerful exhibition, with something for everyone to connect with especially along the root themes of community, ritual and heritage, nature and the Spiritual. Perhaps what this fully realized show impresses most on the viewer is the power of the unknown, or the unseen, and how this wealth of intuitive ‘seeking’ on the part of the exhibited artists can reveal a wellspring of power, resilience, beauty, understanding, and love.
Two very different aspects of this exhibition make it especially unique: first, the timeline, as the show was intended to open early Summer 2020 and was pushed to this March due to the pandemic. Second, and more importantly, the wealth of this exhibit’s treasures lies in the rich array of cultural forces that propel it forward in the viewer’s imagination, as rituals, traditions, and magical elements span a range of heritage evident on a global scale. “In the exhibition, artists who transmute personal struggles through their art practice are in dialogue with those who have traditional magical and occult practices,” observes Goyette. “Afro-Caribbean spiritual traditions, South American traditions, South Asian traditions, Nordic traditions and more are reflected from the artists’ many places of origin.” As Mushkin Goldman reflects, “This show isn’t about one thing, because for every person (who visits) it is their own. We wanted to create (an exhibition that approaches these topics) from as many perspectives as possible.” In this vein, spiritual practitioners of all backgrounds can take away potent reminders of the diversity of occult practices the world over, with a body of evidence laid out in “Everyday Magic” like a cornucopia upon which visitors can feast to their heart’s delight.
Returning to the roots of the exhibition, Goyette remarks upon the artists who spoke to her as her approach to the show became fully realized. “When I saw artist Tamara (Kostianovsky)’s latest series tree trunk sculptures, her work(s) resonated with me because of their sense of ritual and alchemy. The metaphor of the rings visible in the tree trunks is powerful.” Kostianovsky’s practice of adapting her late father’s clothing into art installations provides a nuanced reflection upon her own roots and the tactile presence our loved ones exert even after their departure from our lives. Similarly, Mushkin Goldman encountered the works of artist L, and was mesmerized upon learning that each these jars presented in the artwork she encountered contained a multitude of spells. With themes of transmutation, alchemy, and transformation of trauma and life experiences into whatever meaningful form the artist conceives, the power of “Everyday Magic” lies in the agency exerted by individual – and collective – artists to challenge accepted narratives and subsume existing power structures.
In addition to the power of ritual present throughout the exhibit, the influence exerted by community and, alternately, by nature are both strongly felt presences emanating from the exhibition. Both Goyette and Mushkin Goldman commented on the power of nature’s inclusion in such work as installations by Lina Puerta, Alexis Karl and Elizabeth Insogna as placing nature, and in turn, touch and healing central to the visitor’s encounter when entering the exhibition’s center where these installations are located. In addition, many artists’ practices, either spiritually or artistically, formed nexxus points linking them to other artists exhibiting in “Everyday Magic”: revealing interconnected links between practicing artists who were engaging with spiritual approaches to art-making. Artists such as Jesse Bransford, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, Alexis Karl and Courtney Alexander had all encountered one another in various ways prior to the exhibition’s unveiling, while artists such as Elizabeth Insogna and Kay Turner collaborate to produce performance work and art installations. Courtney Alexander’s “Offering to God Herself” presented the opportunity for gallery-goers to encounter her presence, embodying divinity, through a communal offer of deference, love and respect to the Artist.
Artists such as Genesis Breyer P-Orridge are known among audiences for the incisive, bold and alchemical work they created, while other artists bring their own unique perspectives to the ideas of alchemy and transformation to bear. Goyette highlighted the works of Abichandani and Najm as particularly powerful demonstrations of art’s ability to express artistic impulses that transcend societal pressures and expectations. Goyette reflected on the power these artists’ work possesses and how it upends societal norms. “Jaishiri Abichandani’s work alters views of Hindu goddesses by subverting patriarchal structures, incorporating people she knows into sculpture portraits in her depictions of these goddesses, including feminist and LGBTQ+ artists and activists. She also uses self-portraits in her work, as sculpture self-representation. Her work takes a feminist approach, challenging how goddesses are depicted in the canon of Hindu mythology, and how sculptures can be made to play with taboo. Meanwhile, Qinza Najm engages with Muslim traditions of her native Pakistan, particularly how patriarchal ideologies affect women. Her interactive installation, “Pleasure and Veil” utilizes spiritual (hijab/head covering) and sexual (Nara-trouser strings) textiles collected over the past 3 years from Muslim/Jewish communities (women, minorities and LGBTQ+ community) in the U.S. and Pakistan to explore the sacred and forbidden aspects of sexuality. In Pakistan, it is considered shameful for women to show or allow others to touch their Nara. Najm asked women close to her to reveal their Nara, and when she did, the women released shame and personal narratives. She asks viewers to engage with her work, gently touching a chosen Nara from her installation, in magical feminist solidarity to release shame. Both Abichandani and Najm engage ideas of what is taboo in dialogue with religion.”
Mushkin Goldman offered the works of Lina Puerta and Sahana Ramakrishnan as avenues by which visitors can engage with meaning around sexuality, feminism, vulnerability and fertility. “Lina Puerta explores the intersection between synthetic and natural, commenting on both consumerism and life’s fragility. Sahana Ramakrishnan in turn reflects on ideas of fertility as alchemy and means of transformation.” Artists use a range of synthetic and natural materials, of abstract and figurative approaches, to all reach the core of a reality which we can grasp through experience and intuition, rather than research and academia. “Everyday Magic” is an exhibition about the truths we grasp, the experiences we know, and the underlying hidden links that bring us back together as spiritual beings and root us to natural forces who remind us of who we are.
“Everyday Magic:Gnostic/Artistic Impulses” is on view to guests who RSVP via the show’s website through April 27th, 2021. The exhibit is on view at the National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park S in New York, NY. The show’s organizers Jenny Mushkin Goldman and Rebecca Goyette can be reached for sales inquiries or exhibition specifics via their respective emails, Jenny at firstname.lastname@example.org or Rebecca at email@example.com.
Founded in 1898, The National Arts Club is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit with a mission to stimulate, foster, and promote public interest in the arts and to educate the American people in the fine arts. Annually, the Club offers more than 150 free programs to the public, including exhibitions, theatrical and musical performances, lectures and readings, attracting an audience of over 25,000 members and guests. For a full list of events or to learn more, please visit nationalartsclub.org.
Spivak, Gayatri. “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988.
Since the exhibition has been extended through March 20th, 2021, make sure to set aside time to go check out the space (and check in on their hours via their Instagram – @the_border_project_space on IG.) The exhibit employs some tongue-in-cheek wordplay around the idea of art being incorporated into everyday life – and vice versa – a la the city’s laundromats: a ubiquitous presence around the five boroughs. Sculpture, installations, hybrid ready-mades and more confront the visitor to the puzzling yet provocative exhibit, with its cousin at Lower East Side’s Home Gallery offering its own delightful take on the show’s theme with an “advertisement” complete with faux quotes, faux-n numbers and more delectables.
In the words of Curator and The Border Project Space Director, Jamie Martinez, the exhibition at the Border allows a space to emerge where, “things don’t appear as they seem, but things, once unseen, begin to appear.” This quixotic phrasing makes the most sense when re-read at the doorway of the gallery itself, before engaging with the delightful, if deliciously manic, presentation of human torsos and limbs, clothing fragments, and laundry paraphernalia present within the space. A space for reflection on the types of abstract thoughts one might begin to descend into when waiting for the second round of heavy linens in the dryer, works in “Last Wash at Midnight” confound, delight and exceed expectations upon closer inspection.
Much like the lint that continually clings to a pair of just-dried socks, a strangely comforting smell envelopes the visitor to the space upon encountering the exhibition. If you ask the curator, you’ll find out this is the smell of laundry detergent (is it for sale?) just out of view in the gallery, complementing the show’s sudsy sensibilities. This lingers as a filter just out of reach for gallery guests perusing installations on view in dialogue with one another in multi-sensory and syncretic ways – Nicholas Oh’s floating amalgamation of upturned male human torsos just off center from the gallery’s entrance provides the expected ‘figurative’ element in an oh-so-unexpected way, as the viewer begins to admire the curvature of this installation unfolding toward the floor. Oh’s use of a range of skin tones of each torso becomes readily apparent as the artist draws from his Korean heritage to question cultural values and challenge systemic oppression. Directly opposite, in the line of sight of this composite topsy-turvy figure, a recreation of a washing machine lurks: figurative, yet surreal. Chelsea Nader’s trippy laundry ‘machines’ bring up domestic labor in a exhibit where artists are referred to as “night shift workers” and the curator, as “the manager.” Labor is intrinsic to the art world, with artists and creatives often working overtime to be able to afford the materials and space to create their work. Nader taps into the labor that women, in particular, are expected to perform: her sign/signifier style of presentation only reinforces the existing gulf between unrealistic expectations and reality. Nader’s work centers the space in a poignant alternate reality for the visitor.
Jamie Martinez, the night shift “Manager” exhibition curator and exhibiting artist, presents “Metamorphosing into an Owl”: the owl serves as a harbinger of death, being the first to notice death’s approach in Native American traditions, and Martinez is reflecting on this journey through the underworld, with a plea to native spirits he trusts to guide him on his journey after death. Martinez’ careful treatment of his material and attention to detail heighten the sense of psychological weight approached in these themes.
Finally, Jaejoon Jang’s works on view in both exhibits are both immediate and subtle. Material lends itself toward veiled references while the subject matter is straightforward, questioning reality and the limits of our understanding of what surrounds us. His subversive works are both humorous and nuanced, forcing a reconsideration of what we take for granted. Finally, Home Gallery presents a suite of works by these artists, curated and presented by Jamie Martinez in partnership with Home gallery’s Director William Chan, in dialogue with appearances – and how they can be deceiving, and/or invite further reflection. Chan notes of Home gallery’s unique street-facing presence that, “in a normal week, the window attracts hundreds of unique interactions among the thousands of passersby. I often have people come up to me and tell me how excited they were when a new exhibition comes out. People who wouldn’t go to museums or galleries. I hope to see more window galleries, especially after the pandemic, and more of these conversations.” A faux advertisment for a real show is certainly a compelling reason to reconsider where, and how, the boundary lines of art are drawn and how challenging – and rewarding – art can be when society is re-imagining new futures for a vibrant culture.
Don’t miss your chance to see “Last Wash at Midnight” at The Border Project Space, 56 Bogart Street, up through March 20th. The Lower East Side “Advertisement” portion of exhibit will remain on view at Home Gallery, 291 Grand Street through Sunday, March 14th – and hey, if you can’t make that, photographer/ videographer Andrew Littlefield made this dope video experience of encountering “Last Wash at Midnight” on its opening night at Home gallery.
Virtual Exhibition via Davis Editions: Instagram @DavisEditions
solo show of new works by Ann Tarantino
When describing the imagery present in her solo exhibit, Land Lines, with Davis Editions, artist Ann Tarantino recalls her time walking the streets of Kyoto during a trip to Japan. “I just remember power lines criss-crossing above the street while ambling through Kyoto,” the artist reminisces. “Seeing these overlapping lines made such a strong impression on me.” Works on view in the artist’s current solo show with Davis Editions evoke this sense of trajectory and overlap, with lines bisecting her compositions in translucent swaths of color. Slight hints of pattern and color gradients spread across the surface of these works on paper, forming a subtle shift in background that affects the manner in which the viewer absorbs the work. These shifting, nuanced colors muted beneath sharp lines cutting across the surface of these works form a strong contrast. This juxtaposition makes quite the impression, mirroring the artist’s own remarks about power lines crossing the Kyoto sky.
The dizzying dance of lines and colors across the surface of Tarantino’s works are achieved as an effect of her process. The artist works with a CNC machine to etch across the surface of each panel, creating an ethereal effect in the composition as a whole. This process is also a reason why the lines cut so clearly across such a complex background image, leading to the clear outline of specific elements which stand out so clearly against the patterns receding back into the picture plane. Tarantino’s works on view in Land Lines manages to capture clear, linear progressions, even within compositions so saturated with visual texture and such a vibrant range of color hues. Thus, minimal qualities of these works rises to the viewer’s eye first, emerging through the range of elements on view in each print.
With a range of public art projects, installation works and works on paper, Tarantino is an artist whose style is adaptable to multiple formats. Her flexibility and keen eye for composition serve her will in this stunning survey of recent works. Land Lines provides a window into the mind of an artist keenly observing her environment, breaking it down into its concrete components. Tarantino mines the sublime from the natural world, paying careful attention to gradations of light and repeating elements. The patterns crossing through urban cityscapes and the dappled shadows cast by a tree branches both find a home in equal measure in these evocative works Tarantino has produced in the past year. A meditative and rewarding foray into Tarantino’s practice for any who view the exhibition.
Land Lines is on the Davis Editions Artsy page and is visible on their Instagram, up through Nov 25, 2020.
Exerting a critical lens on our perceptive faculties, works on view entice the senses with a range of materiality and contrast between analog and digital, 2-D and 3-D formats. Mahboubian’s curatorial statement comments on the perceived interconnectedness of the artists present in this exhibition, along with our own inherent interconnectedness, noting that the exhibition creates an “…environment intended to stimulate and please the viewer’s senses, much as would happen if one were to take a walk in a beautiful garden. Each artist’s work is somehow connected to that of one or two others in the group, but not to all of them.”
Evocative textures, lines and materials greet the visitor arriving at “Forget What You Know.” Evocative portraiture spans a range of hues, suggesting the subject’s posture and gesture to the viewer. Painted portraits share visual space with juxtapositions of textured materials approximating the figure, alluding to the shared subject of figuration. Where some works on view share subject matter but diverge in medium, other artists display a similar approach in their process while tackling wildly different subject matter. Where artists McCannon and Nazari create depth and three dimensionality in their works, narrative processes and figuration permeate works by Moghaddam, Sharafshahi, and Turner. The breadth of stylistic and conceptual approaches on view in the exhibition makes it a stunning, not-to-be-missed exhibition for any and all attendees.
“Forget What You Know” is on view 12-6 pm tomorrow and Sunday, November 15th from 12-6 pm at Art of Our Century, 137 West 14th Street in Manhattan, NY.
My work gets called “Didactic” a lot, which I learned in grad school is often the white-elitist way of saying “I don’t want to learn history that is not compulsory Euro-centric history.”
Multi-disciplinary Xicana artist and activist Alicia Smith is the featured winner of our open call, and it is with great satisfaction that we are featuring her in a weeklong Instagram takeover she’s spearheading this week (if you haven’t seen her videos you’re missing out!) and in this special interview with the artist. The artist holds her MFA from the School of Visual Arts, and was featured at the art fair UNTITLED in San Francisco in Fall 2019.
Smith’s work spans video, performance, printmaking and sculpture to bring awareness to the existing, inaccurately romanticized tropes that deny indigenous women their individual complexity, simultaneously demonstrating their beauty and strength. We learned more from Smith’s perspective on the implications her practice has on the greater art world, as well as the lessons that she has learned from her ancestors and from the wider diaspora of indigenous nations that have informed her practice as an artist and activist.
(Featured Image: “Erendira”, image courtesy the artist.)
ANTE mag. Thanks so much for chatting with us today, Alicia! We recently learned about an artwork that you donated to raise bail funds for Black Lives Matter, can you tell us more about how this came about?
Alicia Smith. Thank you! That piece is “Molotov Hare,” and it was created really with Black and Brown solidarity in mind. A marriage of indigenous archetypes and anarchist imagery.
There are many indigenous traditions that involve the rabbit as a symbol of rights of passage for young warriors. The Aztecs had their Eagle Warriors walk through underground caves and emerge, ready to defend their tribe. There are jade sculptures depicting rabbits protecting men wearing eagle headdresses to illustrate this ceremony. Black Elk once said: “For the rabbit represents humility, because he is quiet and soft and not self asserting – a quality which we must all possess when we go to the center of the world.” The rabbit is also a trickster. The Anishinaabe’s Nanabozho in the North and Cherokee and Black communities in the South. Many stories of Br’er rabbit are in fact adaptions of West African tales of Anansi the spider. The trickster felt important in the piece because of his ceremonial role. He forces us to re-evaluate where we delineate societal rules and agreements. He does this through perpetually undermining them.
The image is about duty to your people, and that to change the rules you first have to break them. It felt extremely urgent: I cut the block in a day and started taking orders and I did use the piece to raise bail funds for Black Lives Matter OKC and Millions for Prisoners New Mexico. I’m really proud of this work and [proud] that people have been using that image when they protest police brutality.
ANTE mag. As a Xicana artist and activist, your work embraces themes such as decolonization, the Americas’ native nations and knowledge of the natural world such as plant life and medicinal practices. Can you tell us more about the origin of this journey for you as an artist to research and integrate the crucial, yet still too often overlooked, history of indigenous peoples in your work?
Alicia Smith. I feel like I didn’t have a choice, haha… when the ancestors come knocking you better stand at attention and that is sort of what began this path for me. I had always been a pretty feral child, bringing wild animals inside of the house, and I always had a real lust for knowledge, especially in the way of ecology. I feel like re-examining those complex relationships through that cultural lens has taught me more than anything else. My work gets called “Didactic” a lot, which I learned in grad school is often the white-elitist way of saying “I don’t want to learn history that is not compulsory Euro-centric history.” I know doing that kind of work might dissuade people from wanting to look at my art but I hope given the political climate at large that those same folks are at least taking a moment of pause as to why they don’t want to learn indigenous history of the land they are on. But above all else, if it isn’t for them – it’s not for them, and that’s fine too. I love encountering first-generation kids, folks who went through a diaspora, who immediately connect and resonate with the work. At the end of the day if all I did was preserve one inch of sacred knowledge in a piece, then I’ve done my job of being a good ancestor for those who come after me with questions.
ANTE mag. To expand on the above question, can you delve into the range of your practice – spanning video, installation, mixed-media – as relates to the themes such as native culture and traditions and decolonization in your work?
Alicia Smith. By foundation I am a printmaker. So all my work often starts as a relief print before it goes into the world of durational art. I like the idea of being a Tlacuilo: a scribe or codex painter, someone who is recording history, ceremony, etc. So I think my 2-dimensional work acts as a kind of codex and my performances and video are the ceremonies themselves.
I call my work “Secondhand Ceremonies,” inspired by Robin Wall Kimmerer, because these are partial reconstructions and partial innovations. When you are descended from people who survived genocide it means necessarily reconstructing the old with new innovations: Adaptations.
ANTE mag. You reflect on the words of Anishinaabe cultural ecologist Melissa K. Nelson in your description of your work, “Teomama.” Nelson remarked, “the Native Woman’s body [in so] many stories acts as a kind of meeting place.” Can you expand on how this reflection impacted the development of your work?
Alicia Smith. It’s cosmogeneology. In science it’s just evolutionary biology. The most seemingly innocuous Ant has been on this earth for 120 million years. And in indigenous ways of knowing we don’t look at the ecosystem from this sort of colonial scientific gaze. These beings are our siblings. Plants, animals, insects, fungi, they’re our older brothers. And to explain that ethic of kinship, rather than talking about primordial soup, we do it through these eco-erotic stories, where women are often at the intersection. In the Popol Vuh a woman becomes pregnant eating fruit from a tree. There are stories of women marrying stars, bears, becoming pregnant by the wind and on and on. It establishes an ethic of kinship. When I do these performances with Hawks, Wolves, Deer, Horses, Rivers, and so on, its so important to me to convey the medicines of these beings and their teachings as well as the metaphors I imbue them with in the work.
ANTE mag. How has the uncertainty of 2020 impacted your practice, and what current body of work are you focused on?
Alicia Smith. I am very fortunate because I have a government job where we were put on admin leave. I’m also very fortunate that I have been given some room to do what I love to do and share stories from my home, for the museum that I work for. This time at home has been really beneficial for my practice. Unfortunately people who are privileged who dont have to work a 9 to 5 job are usually the ones who can devote more time to their practices and end up rising in their art careers. But this time has allowed me to be so much more productive and to do what I really want to do which is engage with my community and in social justice causes.
On view at Paradice Palase(1260 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY) through Saturday, August 29th, Courtney Dudley’s transcendent “Sudden Relics”makes manifest a new body of work reflecting the natural materials and flashing screens that define our confined yet simplified lifestyle during quarantine. Composed of new works made made with clay and pit-fired in the artist’s own Kingston, NY backyard, these works – and the resulting video “Dig” on display – present this primitive process-as-creatively re-imagined practice.
Works titled “Burial” (and numbered 4-11) on display present a vision of the world through the lens of the artist’s own personal loss during the time of CoVid-19 in addition to the general anxiety and stress caused by the pandemic. The works elevate circumstances of chance and resurrection, borrowing from the sophisticated yet ancient Japanese concept of “Kintsugi”: an elegant means of re-evaluating how broken and re-assembled sculpture can be elevated through the process of applying decorative adhesive to resurrect the final artwork. This theme of resurrection buoys the exhibition, echoing the quarantine optimist’s belief in a better world post-CoVid19 pandemic subsiding.
“Nest,” a sculpture created from dried and twisted vines that are an invasive species in the artist’s local ecosystem, further complicate the concept of what is actually natural. The video documenting the artist’s practice that is mounted on display, titled “Dig,” flanks the “Curios” (1-5) series which consists of shadowboxes containing shards of the pit-fired ceramics that have been gathered and presented as artifacts: relics of a contemporary body of work borrowing an ancient process. This re-imagining of the primitive in the contemporary moment demonstrates the power of Dudley’s vision: by elevating the material and re-contextualizing this practice for a new audience, the artist makes more immediate connections to an abstract, historic process.
The presentation of this dynamic show firmly establishes the connections between the visceral quality of the material and the labor-intensive practice the artist employed to create works for “Sudden Relics.” The homage to those artists who have spent time creating those enigmatic, elegant ceramics and clay artworks of eras past whose names are lost to the sands of time. The artist’s dedication and enthusiasm toward this body of work infuses the exhibition with a timeless spirit that elevates and soars toward a hopeful future.
Encountering “Elements of Perturbation” atThe Border Project Space, a solo exhibition by Magdalena Dukiewiczcurated by Jamie Martinez, the materials forming this installation present a dizzying dance on the senses. From the earthy inhalation of sod greeting visitors to the visceral transluncency of the installation, the tent-like structure anchoring the space presents a show that serves as a veritable movable feast for the senses
Artist Magdalena Dukiewicz has presented that rare feat of marrying circumstance and concept: an installation based on the impossibility of permanence placed firmly in dialogue with a time of upheaval. This show arrives in the most ephemeral and mercurial time period in recent memory, when a viral pandemic has uprooted the lives of citizens of the world. Thus, an exhibition reflecting in part on the transient nature of immigration is placed in contrast to a time period holding citizens the world over in a shared uncertainty, yet clearly placing certain immigrants into situations of increased vulnerability (for examples, see increased vulnerability of immigrants held at detention centers in the US, and the recent announcement by the current US President that ICE willdeport students who do not attend in-person classes at universities this Fall.) The artist has managed to presciently respond to one of the most dire moments for immigrant rights in recent memory.
The artist herself reflects on the domestic and social roles prescribed to her as a child growing up in Poland. She recalls spending time in a temporary play structure she built with her sister when she was young. Dukiewicz notes, “The concept of a house is based on a portable playhouse made of textiles that I had as a child and explores how “playing house” and practicing social roles at an early age has been adapted in my adult life. ” She also reflects on how materiality is embedded, for her, within the conceptual realm they engage in dialogue with. Thus in order to create a conversation around uncertainty, materials like sod were incorporating – even surprising the artist, when seedlings of grass began to appear in the temporary installation structure.”The use of impermanent materials and incorporating and dissolving my DNA with and within them add to the idea of temporality and imperfection,” she reflects. “[Specifically] the house, like the other pieces, will transform, eventually collapse, then disintegrate and disappear, but the process and its traces are my way of leaving an imprint in the world. “
The Ph.D.-candidate artist, who holds an MFA from the Academy of Fine Arts (Warsaw, PL) and an MFA, Complutense University (Madrid, ES,) produces her works in a site-specific manner, considering how specific spaces and spatio-temporal considerations can demand necessary alterations and adaptations. Within this conceptual framework, the artist was also forced to reconsider the pandemic interrupting access to this solo exhibition. Confronting the pending feeling of hopelessness encountered by us collectively as a society, she provides a space that instigates a moment of rumination—an individual and collective reflection—for the human species to “regroup, rethink and adjust to a new reality.”
Closing on Saturday, July 11 at The Border Project Space in 56 Bogart, Brooklyn in socially-distanced visitation from 5-8 pm, “Elements of Perturbation” mounts a multi-sensorial dialogue around the places we are allowed to enter, inhabit, and exist, and how identity and location continually inhabit a relatioship of tension with one another.