Word Up! A Standout Moment for Text-Based Art at C24 Gallery


In an era rampant with political protest and 
the multitudinous voices of social media, Word Up!- co-curated by Sharon Louden at C24 Gallery, knows what’s up.

Installation view featuring installation “Moral History” by Karen Finley for C24’s Word Up!

Word Up! marks an exhibition that takes risks and is rewarded with a keen grasp of contemporary self-expression. Considering a contemporary art scene saturated more than ever with sociopolitical viewpoints, the time is more than ripe for this exquisite-and timely-exhibition. Featuring works by Liana Finck, Deborah Kass, Karen Finley, Meg Hitchcock and many more, this exhibit marks fearless departure into the diverse ways in which words infiltrate and emerge in contemporary art.

Spanning interdisciplinary artistic practices, this contemporary survey show featured video, photography, installation, painting and mixed media. Karen Finley’s incisive, provocative and genuinely humorous installation, located on the exhibit’s lower level, provides a stunning focal point from which to consider the contemporary art lexicon engulfing the viewer in Word Up! Comprised of archival materials assembled as a centrepiece – a la Judy Chicago’s Dinner Table, if you will – Finley has annotated the materials she has presented to create a thought-provoking work centered around representation, identity and exclusion. Clever illustrations by renowned artist Liana Finck and the inundating, undulating works by Meg Hitchcock also prove to be standouts in this stunning exhibition. Presentation is key, and visitors are grabbed at the entrance by a video work by artist David Krippendorff, whose work also inhabits space on the lower level near Karen Finley’s installation. Hrag Vartanian  and Deborah Kass, art critic and artist and notable public artist respectively, also have work on view in this carefully curated presentation of works written expressly into the social consciousness that forms the fabric of contemporary text-based artistic practice.

“Persephone” Meg Hitchcock, installation view in “Word Up!”

Word Up! is on view at C24 gallery from 9/26-11/9/2019.

 

 

Illuminating the “Unseen”: Collar Works in Troy, NY Elevates Contemporary Artists

Artworks on view in the deceptively subtle exhibition “Unseen” bring that which is frequently overlooked directly into the public eye. In a world in which most of what directs our behavior goes unnoticed, “Unseen” marks the clever, perceptive type of exhibit that we crave to focus our attention on. Curated by the MFA Boston’s Akili Tommasino for Collar Works, artists on view include Carris Adams, Tania Alvarez, Aurora Andrews, Jose- Aurelio Baez, Raina Briggs, Ryan Chase Clow, Matt Crane, Richard Deon, Carla Dortic, Deborah Druick, Mark Eisendrath, Rebecca Flis, Gigi Gatewood, Chet Gold, Victoria van der Laan, Jesse Meredith, Sarah Pater, James Marshall Porter, Jr., Anne- Audrey Remarais, Eric Souther, Susanna Starr, Paula Stuttman, and Sarah Sweeney. Works by Mark Eisendrath and Susanna Starr  in particular sweep into focus, with a distinctive attention to line and form. Spanning sculpture and painting with a hint of lyric poetry, “Unseen” follows those elements that both direct and elude our line of sight. 

The unseen can be that which is literally unresolved: that which exists up to a point, then inhabits the realm of both the unseen and the unknown. Artist Mark Eisendrath notes of his work Mysterioso, on view in “Unseen,” “Mysterioso existed only as an idea- not seen or felt. It did not exist, neither did the process I used to make it. It was quite literally- a mystery. ” That which cannot be seen or felt can still hold a palpable presence in our lives. As the curator of “Unseen” notes in her exhibition text, “…the complex algorithms that reinforce our behavior remain hidden to us. Our fear of being unseen makes us susceptible to manipulation.” By making that which is foreign to us palpable, “Unseen” offers the viewer a clever, nuanced portrait of contemporary society.

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“Mysterioso” by artist Mark Eisendrath (acquired by a new collector) “Unseen” at Collarworks, Troy, NY

Susanna Starr and Mark Eisendrath share a penchant for uncovering the sought for-yet undiscovered- form. Curves and delineated lines trace the patterns of our subconscious seeking that which we do not yet know. A mysterious, yet visceral, presentation of new works by contemporary sculptors, painters and mixed-media artists, “Unseen” is a careful selection of artworks that transcend the ordinary in search of a greater meaning beyond the immediately visible.

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Installation view of “Unseen” feat. “Bring It” by Mark Eisendrath

“Unseen” is on view at Collar Works art space in Troy, NY, through Dec 14, 2019.

Avant-Kitchen: Art for a New Dinner Party in the Spaghetti-O Incident

Produced by The Hive, an interdisciplinary art community based in Brooklyn, NY, “The Spaghetti-O Incident” dissects cultural references from Guns n’Roses to Martha Rosler in an examination of gendered expectations and hetero-normativity. Curated by Yasmeen Abdallah, Kathie Halfin and Ameta Wegryzn, the exhibit – occurring at 1218 Prospect Ave in Oct 2019 – features a range of interdisciplinary artists including Julia Blume, Victoria Calabro, Kat Cope, Pei-Ling Ho, Sarah Dineen, Vyczie Dorado, Ariel Kleinberg, Alison Owen, Muhajir Subuur Lesure, Jean Carla Rodea, Jordan Segal and Yasmeen Abdallah. Works on view range from performance to photography, installation to sculpture. Examining the expectations placed upon women – as artists, homemakers, cooks, and human beings – “The Spagetti-O Incident” doesn’t shy away from provocative and subversive works questioning and thwarting ideas of identity and performativity.

Sculpture by Jordan M Segal for “The Spaghetti-O Incident”

Gender is digested through performance that takes place in a residence: the living space provides a non-neutral scenario for the exhibit loaded with valuable context. The white cube is denied the privilege of sterilizing these powerful works on view by Kat Cope, Pei-Ling Ho, Sarah Dineen, Yasmeen Abdallah, Jordan Segal & more. The weight of the body and gender in domestic spaces, such as the kitchen, is keenly felt in this artist-curated show. Many artists reflect on ideas of food, meals, and the domestic sphere, with dishware by Jordan Segal seemingly dissolving into itself, reminiscent of cake frosting or, more morbidly, melted skin. Kat Cope’s work similarly addresses the topic of skin: specifically, clothing as a type of armor that adheres to and protects the skin. Cope notes of her fiber-based installations that “like layers of skin, layers of fiber are resistant to tearing and puncture.” Blending together elements of fashion, protection, and performance, Kat Cope’s work lies at the boundary of  representation and installation.

Intrinsically linked with these ideas of gender and inequity are the experiences of the body as a home one inhabits. Performances by Vyczie Dorado, among others, display the full force of yearning and attachment that artists have to the corporeal. Connection, longing and expectation cradle the exhibition, with “The Spaghetti-O Incident” proving a necessary, essential exhibition for our contemporary moment. Intersectional feminism and bold experimentation combine to make this exhibit one formidable presentation in this Fall New York Art season.

Sculpture by Kat Cope left of performance by Vyczie Dorado for The Spaghetti-O Incident

 

“Noise” by Pei Ling Ho for The Spaghetti-O Incident

 

 

Artist Y.R. Egon Translates Longing Into Paintings

Y. R. Egon (Ruchira Amare) cuts a stylish, erudite figure.

Based in Brooklyn, NY, the artist arrived on the New York scene from her native Mumbai with an artistic and creative practice balancing influences from Europe and her native India. Her creative leanings are underpinned by a formidable education background in Engineering and Fashion Design. Learning under established Mumbai-based artists while concurrently pursuing a degree in Engineering from the University of Mumbai, Egon distills a wide range of influences into her impressionist, yet geometrically balanced, paintings. The artist holds a Fashion Design degree from the Parsons School of Design.

The artist sat down with ANTE. to discuss themes running through her work and what’s upcoming for her on the heels of exhibitions at Dacia Gallery, Six Summit Gallery, Rochester Contemporary Art Center and The Greenpoint Gallery.

Painter Y R Egon

ANTE.: Your work shows formal qualities linking to modernist greats such as Piet Mondrian. Do you see your practice as continuing a dialogue with modern abstract artists from the mid-20th century? 

Y.R.: I agree – yes. I have always followed Mondrian, Kazimir Malevich, Mark Rothko and Wassily Kandinsky. As Mondrian once said, “Abstract art is not the creation of another reality but the true vision of reality.” I try to have my own language and to express my emotions through my paintings.

ANTE.: Color and shape are important aspects in your paintings. How has your approach in forming connections between color and shape evolved from your studies to the present moment?

Y.R.: I have always cherished the emotion that comes out of nostalgia and longing for the past. I attempt to capture and preserve these emotions through my paintings. Over time I realized that there is a word for this behaviour in Finnish; that word is ‘kaiho,’ meaning a hopeless longing in which one feels incomplete and yearns for something unattainable or extremely difficult and tedious to attain. I use colour and shape and geometric-like patterns which are not truly geometric: these (patterns) have evolved over time and show some traces of reality.

ANTE.: Your formative education in art occurred when you were learning from painters based in India. How do you see your work forming a bridge between the Indian art canon and the Western art canon?

Y.R.: I did not have a formal art education but I studied under great and successful artists in India. I learnt many techniques from them that helped me translate and formulate my ideas using the medium of painting. I try to use my knowledge, my ideas, my inspirations and life experiences to formulate my thoughts. In the process, unintentionally I end up using different techniques and practices that span both the Indian and the Western art canon.

ANTE.: As a full-time artist, you are dedicated to painting and making art constantly; what are some of your goals in terms of exhibiting your paintings? Do you have a dream gallery you’d like to show with and/or museum or similar venue to show your work?

Y.R.: Being an ambitious artist, my goal is to better my art practice and art technique, evolve as a person through enriched life experience and to then translate that into my art and paintings. I fell in love with Gallery Perrotin the first time I went there to check out a show. The space is beautiful and dreamy. My artworks have a lot of colour but come out of the concept of dreams and it would be a dream to be able to exhibit at this space.

Lost Journey, Y.R. Egon Gouache on paper, 16″ x 20″, 2019

ANTE.: You are a poet and have trained as an engineer, alongside your work as an artist and fashion designer. How do you unite all of these disparate elements in your painting? Has it shaped how you approach art-making?

Y.R.: Yes, I studied Engineering and graduated from the University of Mumbai. I write poems but only to express my ideas through another medium. I studied Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design. I am in process of launching some garments/apparel that are inspired from my paintings from the ‘kaiho’ collection. Hence, I feel that even though they all are separate fields, it all boils down to an expression of ideas as they come together in a product or in works of art. I try to carry the same romantic feeling and emotion in all my works including my fashion illustrations. I specifically use watercolours for these, and in my next series of paintings, I plan to experiment more with watercolour in order to capture the haziness of the lost memories.

ANTE.: How has working in fashion impacted your work as a painter? Do you work with a variety of materials as a result? 

Y.R.: As a fashion designer, I stand by the principles of creative construction and sustainability. I use only natural fabrics and natural dyeing on them. I also use fabric as a medium to paint and specifically natural dyed fabric which is dyed with the colours made from plants such as logwood, madder and flowers such as marigold and berries as well. I also plan to make my own natural pigments from these plants and flowers and natural materials to paint on stretched fabrics such as cotton and silk.

ANTE.: More specifically, does your work as a painter shift in scale due to your background in the fashion industry?

Y.R.: I actually am not that experimental or easily accepting to change. Hence, I try to usually paint in a certain style and on a certain size as well. But again, the scale changes a bit when it is translated on apparel or fabric paintings.

Colorful Houses, Y.R. Egon Gouache on paper, 16″ x 20″, 2019

ANTE.: You’re now based in Brooklyn, NY, and have exhibited with The Greenpoint Gallery and Dacia Gallery. How does living in NYC impact your practice as an artist?

Y.R.: NYC is very dynamic and inspirational, Brooklyn specifically is the epicentre for the modern, contemporary and experimental art that is not commercial. I recently exhibited at the ‘Space 776’ as a part of their Bushwick open studios which was covered by Hyperallergic magazine! I find Brooklyn as a very important factor of my stay in the city and is very inspirational and also motivational to see and meet other artists and their work. I have exhibited at various galleries in Manhattan and Brooklyn and that serves as a booster for myself and my art practice.

Performance is Alive x ANTE. Performance Picks at Satellite Art Show NYC Oct 3-6 2019

October 3-6 marks the inaugural edition of Satellite Art Show in Brooklyn, and along with that comes the most significant collection of live & recorded performance art ever presented by Performance is Alive.

ANTE. Mag is proud to serve as Media Sponsor for this groundbreaking performance art presentation by Performance is Alive – a survey of the most exciting emerging and mid-career performance/new media artists with an intersectional lens, representing a diverse group of bodies and identities. Don’t miss the full roster of Performance is Alive-curated programming, with two especially notable events occurring Friday, October 4th at 8 pm when notable artist Barbara Rosenthal discusses her work in tandem with a screening of “News to Fit the Family” and Saturday, October 5th at noon for “Queer Form: A Panel Discussion” centered around queer body politics in new media and performance – for full list of events, follow the Performance is Alive Schedule on their Facebook page and also available HERE.

AlisonPirie_PressImage2_PerformanceDocumentationbyLiaHanson - Alison Pirie
Alison Pirie for “Performance is Alive” Satellite Art Show NYC 2019

Now on to our Top 12 ANTE. Mag picks for Performance is Alive @ Satellite Art Show, October 3-6, 2019…

  1. Alison Pirie a juggernaut working across performance, installation, new media and more, Pirie juggles simultaneous explorations of gender, identity, language and sexuality: with a particular lens onto female sexuality and the concept of “female hysteria”. With past projects at LaMama Galeria in NYC and the Situation Room in LA, Pirie is a force of nature to be reckoned with in her powerful considerations of these contemporary themes. Make sure to experience her performance on opening night at Performance is Alive: she will be presenting her work Thursday, 10/3 at Satellite.
  2. Kathie Halfin – living and working in the Bronx, Russian-Israeli artist Halfin is an interdisciplinary artist working across installation, performance, sound and costume production. Her performances tease out the nuanced narratives attached to female objectification. Halfin holds an MFA from the School of Visual Arts, and is affiliated with Wassaic Project, Vermont Studio Center, the Bronx Museum and more.
  3. Amanda Hunt & IV Castellanos – a collaboration that has lent itself to a studied exploration in reciprocity through repetitive catching of one another’s bodies, Hunt & IV Castellanos sets the stage for a longed-for Queer and Feminist Utopia. The artists have performed in the US and abroad, creating a set of actions in tandem that seek to provoke audiences to re-examine social approaches to equanimity and labor.
  4. SUNGJAE LEE – based in Chicago, LEE is a multidisciplinary artist whose work investigates periphery and its relationship to center. An MFA Graduate in Performance from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, LEE has presented works in the US, Canada, and South Korea among other locations. The artist’s candid and perceptive responses to other-ing augment Performance is Alive’s 2019 programming.
  5. Wild Actions (Patience, Carley McCready-Bingham, Ginger Wagg) – Hailing from North Carolina, Wild Actions presents a sculpture garden for Performance is Alive that presents their focus on interactive performance installations. Their radical, performative and eco-conscious approach marks a breath of fresh air among the PIA presentations.
  6. Barbara Rosenthal – A conceptual artist working across (seemingly) limitless mediums, Rosenthal’s inclusion into Performance is Alive is a true coup. The artist will be present on Friday, Oct 4 for a screening – as noted above – and any true connoisseurs of performance and conceptual art should be in attendance. Based in the West Village, Rosenthal has influenced modern art and philosophy: influence which continues to exert its presence through her projects based in the present day.
  7. Nadja Verena Marcin – An artist working across borders in Germany and the United States, Marcin’s multidisciplinary work across photography, video, and more exudes a deceptive straightforward quality. The artist engages across a broad platform of eco-conservation, feminism, and sociopolitical inquiry. Catch her work while you can on view at Performance is Alive!
  8. Katina Bitsicas – Exploring trauma, crime and the psychological presence of architecture on the human psyche, “other”ing and the personal experiences driving overarching social justice issues. A new media artist who has shown in the US and abroad, Bistsicas’ work delves deep into issues that are driving contemporary political discourse in the United States.
  9. Tales Frey – A founding member of eRevista Performatus, Frey’s artistic practice explores elements relating to body and ritual. A multidisciplinary artist, works by Frey have been exhibited across Latin America and Europe and involve incisive visual constructions to form social commentaries.
  10. Sylvain Souklaye – A sound, video and performance artist, Souklaye contrats personal narrative with collective memory, identity and demographic. His works have been shown in Europe and Latin America, and involve performative acts by the artist as well as interaction with diverse populations in disparate urban centers.
  11. Cherrie Yu – Yu’s work mines pop culture and performativity in equal measure through a practice rooted in new media and performance. Ideals attached to assignations such as “queer” and “open” are interrogated through surveys of existing bodies of work by and by placing the spectator in a dissociative state in relationship to other “bodies” – such as in interdisciplinary performance and new media installation. Yu’s new media work will be displayed as part of “Performance is Alive”.
  12. Rachel L. Rampleman – Brooklyn-based artist Rampleman explores identity and spectacle – intimacy and grandeur – through a multi-disciplinary lens. With solo exhibits in the US and abroad, the artist’s work delves into the latent tension underlying masculine and feminine identities.

Clockwise from upper left: Artists featured at Performance is Alive include Kathie Halfin, Igor Furtado and Sylvain Souklaye.

ABOUT PERFORMANCE IS ALIVE
Based in Brooklyn, NYC, Performance Is Alive is an online platform featuring the work and words of current performance art practitioners. Through interviews, artist features, sponsorship and curatorial projects, we aim to support the performance community while offering an access point to the performance curious. Performance is Alive at SATELLITE ART SHOW is curated by Quinn Dukes (Founder + Director). | performanceisalive.com

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ANTE. Mag is dedicated to bringing under-the-radar contemporary artists to a wider audience. To this end, ANTE.’s Editorial team specifically focuses on highlighting works by intersectional artists and cultural producers to our readership. If you believe you are working on a project that fits this description and deserves wider recognition, please email our editor: audra@antemag.com

America’s Diverse Social Tapestry Shines with “IN/FLUX” on view at Pelham Art Center

by Elizabeth Barenis

 

On view at Pelham Art Center through November 2nd, “IN/FLUX” – co-curated by PAC Director Charlotte Mouquin and Gallery Advisory Board Member Victoria Rolett – features works by compelling contemporary artists wielding their perspectives on immigration as expressed through various mediums. Ranging from photography to painting, installation art to collage, artists on view don’t shy away from aspects of immigration – positive and negative – that have shaped the scope of their respective artistic practices. Artists on view include Corina S. Alvarezdelugo, Selin Balci, Nicky Enright, Jenny Polak, Alejandra Hernandez, David Rios Ferreira, Omid Shekari, Ruben Natal San Miguel, Natalia Nakazawa and Victoria-Idongesit Udondian. The works exude a sense that the wider narrative diversity brings to the table creates a more intriguing contemporary art experience.

The Republic of Unknown Territory by Victoria-Idongesit Udondian for IN/FLUX

Visitors to this unique survey exhibition are greeted at the entrance by sounds of immigrants reflecting on their experiences as captured by Victoria-Idongesit Udondian for her installation, “The Republic of Unknown Territory.” Various articles of clothing are scattered throughout the space, suspended in hidden narratives that allude to both the absence and presence of their owners.

Engaged with the macro, rather than micro, elements of immigration, artist Natalia Nakazawa creates a map of woven threads manifesting the journeys that immigrants have taken to start new lives for themselves in their chosen homes. Denoting trade and travel along immigrant pathways, Nakazawa creates her works by incorporating participation into her process. Similarly engaged with fabrics and mixed materials, this work contrasts with Udondian’s installation in its bird’s-eye view of the effects which immigration exerts on an international scale.

Our Stories of Migration tapestry by Natalia Nakazawa for IN/FLUX

Ferreira’s pop-infused postcolonial drawings peel apart the layers of mythology and truth that comprise each immigrant’s personal history as well as society’s response to immigration. The colorful hues spanning intricate drawings in Ferreira’s works speak to an overarching, allegorical immigrant experience: a wider narrative that embraces aspects of varying sociopolitical relationships and international transportation.

Similarly engaged with maps, travel and transportation, Corina S. Alvarezdelugo’s collage works meld imagery unpacking the emotional weight of what lays near and far, subjects both intimate and remote.

David Rios Ferreira with his Drawings for the opening of IN/FLUX

 

Corina S. Alvarezdelugo’s Pangaea for IN/FLUX

On view at Pelham Art Center from September 20-November 2nd, “IN/FLUX” will host a variety of immigration-themed programming over the course of its time at the Center. These events include:

Afro-Puerto Rican Bomba celebration with BombaYo! – Sunday, Sept. 22nd 2-4pm
Diwali the Hindu festival of lights – Sunday, Oct. 6th 2-4pm
Mexican Day of the Dead – Sunday, Oct. 27th 2-4pm
There will be additional performance art during ArtsFest weekend Oct. 4-6th

Jay Milder’s “Unblotting the Rainbow” Hosts Official Opening Sept 27

Friday, September 27th marks the grand opening celebration of painter Jay Milder’s formidable “Unblotting the Rainbow”, curated by Adam Zucker and on view at the Provincetown Art Association & Museum through Nov 10, 2019.

“Animistic Ark” (2015) Jay Milder

 

“Unblotting the Rainbow” marks a pivotal moment in Milder’s career: the painter, already a household name in Brazil, has an upcoming solo exhibition at the Casa de Mexico in Havana, Cuba in May 2020.

Born in Omaha, Milder exploded onto the scene alongside contemporaries Red Grooms and Claes Oldenberg, and his experimental approach to painting – focused through his intense reflections on spiritual mysticism – informing his changing artistic vision. At times abstract while adopting a scale of figurative elements over the years, the artist relies on elements such as Kabbalah and numerology to inform his compositions. A keen balance of formal qualities imbues his practice with a meditative presence. Works on view in “Unblotting the Rainbow” chart the artist’s continual progress from his roots as an emerging artist in the 1950s through today. As curator Adam Zucker notes, “(the exhibit) focus(es)…on his use of painterly Expressionism as a means to address physical and spiritual themes affecting the human condition. For Milder, it’s a return to exhibiting in Provincetown, a community that had a tremendous impact on his career.” The artist began an ongoing relationship with the Provincetown area in the late 1950s, maintaining links to the area and experiencing formative days and months learning from others in the close knit community. A homecoming of sorts for the artist, Milder continues to push artistic boundaries while maintaining his place as a premiere artist advancing American modern expressionism.

Noah’s Ark #1 (2002) Jay Milder


Along with an opening to the public on Friday, August 27 from 8 pm on, the artist will also be giving a talk on Sunday, August 29 at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum from 1 pm. See the PAAM’s website for more details: https://www.paam.org/exhibitions/jay-milder-unblotting-the-rainbow/

Joan Walton’s Transcendent Works Shine in “Montauk Love Song”

“Montauk Love Song” celebrates its opening on Thursday, Sept 27 from 6-8 pm at Atlantic Gallery, suite 540, 547 W 27th street NYC. The opening is free and open to the public and the artist will be present.

 

There is No Room for Colonizer, White Savior Mentality in Art Criticism – or Anywhere

This opinion piece represents the views of the Editors at ANTE. Mag. It was written as a direct response to the Whitehot Mag article, “Kill Your Darlings: The End of the White Male Ally” which in turn was a response to the NY Times’ “The Dominance of the White Male Critic”

-Ed.s, ANTE. Mag

 

There is nowhere to begin this article.

There is nowhere to begin – because the subject of this article is all around us, it is limitless, boundless. It affects what we say in polite society, what we talk about with museum funders, collectors – those in positions of power. But power is bounded by silence: the type of silence that reifies the entrenched systems of oppressor and oppressed that has persisted since the first Portugese slave ships set off from the island of Goree off of the West coast of Senegal, and long, long before.

It is wrapped in the embrace of those same systems of power that enable police officers to turn off their bodycams and plead innocence even while causing suffering to our brothers and sisters, like Eric Garner – it spans far and wide in underground networks, supporting entrenched inequality from homeownership and credit to college admissions, the use of public space, the right to assume a place in the art world. The right to have a voice – any voice, much less to assume a position of authority. The right to exist alongside and in spite of a culture rooted in hatred for the very autonomy of others. The right to not be questioned or accused of representing a “threat” to an established majority.

When allies demand to be recognized for their efforts, they undermine the very platform for marginalization they purport to support. When ego overcomes the hard work put in to empathize with those whose experiences in life have not been defined by the lines of privilege, they lose the ability to be true advocates.

What angry white men, whether in Congress or in Art Journalism, conveniently ignore is this: there will never not be room for white cis male writers in the art world: in every aspect of our world. By insisting otherwise, these critics undermine efforts to recognize and confront the persistent, inevitable influence of white supremacy continuing to determine the trajectory of our culture and the world at large.

By ignoring that the pathways are already uneven, that our very foundations are built upon the flawed premise of white supremacy, these “saviors” of cis, white male art critics everywhere deny a pervasive force – they may as well deny the existence of the magnetic field. Just because a force cannot be made manifest, and remains invisible, does not mean that it effects are not seen.

When hegemony exists – that-which-must-not-be-named, white supremacy – it is our duty collectively, as marginalized voices, as allies, to call it out. To provoke it, not to pacify it. To question it, not to submit to it. There is no reason to support a status quo that continually dampens the spirit of those bright voices who have always existed and who form our future – people of color, women and non-gender conforming folks, those of diverse sexual orientations, religions, backgrounds.

Too often, those who have privilege never understand the effects of everyday life that terrorize those who don’t “present” like them. Those who have experienced these effects are often silenced or disparaged when they present their truths to a wider public – they become Anita Hill’s, Christine Blasey Ford’s, the greater “radical other” in our collective consciousness. They become widely disparaged, threatened – challenged.

Demonized.

Here is a great barometer for equality: would this collective Shunning or “Other”-ing happen to someone who represents a white, cishet male member of the hegemony? Would they be run out of town, have their lives threatened, be demonized and disparaged for daring to stand up to a power structure that – oh wait, they are the power structure. The fiber of their own, elevated histories sustains and supports that same, buried power structure that subjugates those who do not subscribe to a white, colonizer patriarchal mentality.

This mentality feeds an endemic system of thought that silences voices from the margins, holds back new ways of seeing and processing: prevents new connections to form between underrepresented voices and those who represent them and – even more critically – prevents us all from reaching our true potential as a society by stifling voices of genius through fear, coercion or threat. This process is fundamentally de-humanizing to those who have keenly felt the piercing threat of white supremacy.

Venice Biennale Golden Lion Award-winning artist Arthur Jafa notes that his practice centers around the idea that empathy is key to his practice. “The people who are dehumanizing others are trying to maintain or hold onto the sense of their own humanity,” reflects Jafa. “Ultimately it comes down to the relative presence or absence of empathy. You cannot oppress people without expending a certain type of psychic energy, unless the whole mechanism, the whole superstructure is supporting that understanding of the other as being less human, less feeling than you are. I think you learn empathy. I think it has to be taught.”(1)

A self-appointed savior is not exercising empathy, and their remonstrations of justice or demands for consideration for the pitiable, cishet white male – those who have never tasted the angry steel of prejudice – smack of hypocrisy and egotistical protests. The measure of the threat they perceive is in direct response to the lack of their own ability to empathize with the internalized oppression that marginalized members of American society – of our world at large – have unfortunately learned to anticipate every day.

Colonizers and white saviors have no place in guiding us forward in a realm where ingrained prejudice is giving way at slow, small intervals to inclusion and diversity of opinion – so slowly that the monolithic cliff face preserving colonizers’ value systems is still firmly recognizable.

The perspicacity of artist Titus Kaphar’s insights in 2017 holds true today. He notes of the criminal justice system’s glaring inequalities that a careful and circumstantial examination of the realities of the existing system must be dealt with in order for evolution to have a firm foundation to rest upon. “I’m heartsick and sorry about it at the same time,” notes Kaphar, “because in the justice world it…a deeper investigation of the issues is standard. You dig deep to find out answers, and you look more into the issues, and you try to come to some conclusions. Then you try to work towards change.”(2)

Kaphar continues, “The art world is not like that, and that’s where my fear comes from. The art world can be extremely fickle. The art world is often about just what’s novel. I don’t want this to just become one of those issues that’s in fashion right now, and therefore we’re making art about it. That would be disheartening.” (2)

Too often, subtle changes and improvements in social justice for minorities are measured in relation to a majority: we ask, why there is a need to place distinct populations in direct opposition? Why is an increased presence of POC, non-male identifying, LGBTQIA+ art critics such a threat to an entrenched bevy of white cis-male art critics?

Where does the threat lie for a hegemony that feels happy to highlight artists and creators of diverse backgrounds, but suddenly chafes at the idea that they may not be in the best position to do so?

In seeking answers to this frequently occurring yet problematic phenomenon, I came across a formidable article written by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. – hardly an unrecognized voice in contemporary American culture. His reflection on the period of Reconstruction, a bright and shining moment between the defeat of the Confederate states and the rise of Jim Crow laws in the United States, merits particular scrutiny. “Reconstruction, the period in American history that followed the Civil War, was an era filled with great hope and expectations, but it proved far too short to ensure a successful transition from bondage to free labor for the almost 4 million black human beings who’d been born into slavery in the U.S., “(3) notes Gates. He continues on, tracing the rise of overzealous white supremacists who had suddenly found the foundation of their very existence shattered by the insistence of another population of American society that they were equal to them in every way despite the atrocities of bondage they had been subjected to in this country. Gates reflects on this period of promise in American history. “Reconstruction was fundamentally about who got to be an American citizen.”(3)

One wonders whether the same white men who had dominated American society to that point were protesting, ultimately, whether this was all too much. Were they wondering if they were being erased, much as contemporary white, cishet male critics now argue today?

Reconstruction is a particularly dirty word in the South, where I was born. As a white women descended from a firmly middle class, non-plantation owning family, it never occurred to me that I was heir to a force that was tearing apart the very fabric of what it meant for Americans to feel free. There were the hesitant looks of the older black man who worked with my grandfather, who kept his eyes bowed when I was around, as well as the firmly segregated church congregations that still (for the most part) continue to permeate Southern society. Born and raised part-time a stone’s throw from where Arthur Jafa is from  – Jafa, a Howard-educated, prize-winning, internationally recognized artist – I rejoice at the prominence of an African-American artist on the world stage who has known the darkness of suspect glances and long stares in the Mississippi Delta – and I find myself destroyed by the fact that he, or the millions of other descendants of Africans kidnapped by Europeans and brought to the new world, have ever had to inhabit a world that told them they were not good enough.

The world changes, but never soon enough.

Jubilant periods arrive – the era of Reconstruction, a black American president – and are followed by suspicion, threats to “whiteness”, perceived enmity.

The pendulum never swings one way.

Thankfully there exists a long legacy of cultural criticism of colonization. I won’t flatten it here for lip service, though it spans the many paradigm-shifting theorists ranging from Frantz Fanon to James Baldwin, to Deborah Willis, to Kellie Jones. Who is to argue that there wasn’t a need for cultural criticism and engagement with diverse art theories, for educated cultural theorists who are not white cis-het males, to comment on an expanded view of what constituted art and cultural heritage?

How poor would our legacy of cultural criticism be today without these formidable thought leaders! And who take up the mantle now to argue that there is “enough” now – that there doesn’t need to be an ever-expanding, level playing field for art critics and cultural producers of diverse viewpoints to continue to grow, engaging with a range of cultural contemporaries far beyond the prominently white, cis-het male artist-dominated era of, oh I don’t know, every century before this one?

I see color. I recognize the significance that two prominent cultural figures, Okwui Enwezor and Audre Lorde, have continued to influence how I approach cultural criticism and art theory. I appreciate the efforts it has taken for them, and other public figures of diverse backgrounds, to emerge on the international stage to a place of prominence.

But I recognize I am not the sole reference point of iconic thought leaders like these – there are rising, marginalized voices in art criticism and cultural theory who are able to learn from and identify with those who have come before and paved the way, seeing those who have come before – those who have achieved all this while looking like them. This is far more valuable than any tired platitude, repeated bon mot or expression of encouragement. This recognition that greatness has come before – this is even greater than the promise of tomorrow. It is, in fact, the proof that tomorrow can exist beyond the concept of “whiteness.”

In the words of the incredible Betye Saar, “It’s a way of delving into the past and reaching into the future simultaneously.”(4)

By confronting the past, present and our future with honesty, clarity and humility – and most of all, with empathy – we can recognize that as allies, it is only by taking the time to pause – taking the time to listen – that we can allow space for the tired epithet of “white savior” to finally wither away, crushed under the weight of its own bloated fallacy.

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1. Jafa, Arthur and Tina Campt. “Love Is the Message, The Plan Is Death.” E. Accessed July 09, 2019. https://www.e-flux.com/journal/81/126451/love-is-the-message-the-plan-is-death/.

2. Keller, Bill. “Titus Kaphar on Art, Race and Justice.” The Marshall Project. February 02, 2017. Accessed July 09, 2019. https://www.themarshallproject.org/2017/02/01/titus-kaphar-on-art-race-and-justice.

3. Jr., Henry Louis Gates. “How Reconstruction Still Shapes Racism in America.” Time. April 02, 2019. Accessed July 09, 2019. https://time.com/5562869/reconstruction-history/.

4. Artist Statement by Betye Saar. Accessed July 09, 2019. http://www.betyesaar.net/.

 

The Empowering Artistic Practice of Marguerite Elliot

There is much to uncover in the diverse and precise artistic practice of artist Marguerite Elliot. Her career spans decades of women’s art herstory along the faultlines of second-wave feminism on the West Coast. Elliot’s career incorporates a vibrant interdisciplinary practice as an artist, welder, author, curator and video producer. Previously based in LA, Elliot now lives and works in Marin County in the northern San Francisco Bay Area. She was a pivotal founding member of the renowned LA-based Woman’s Building, the premier center for Feminist art, that operated for 18 years beginning in 1973. Recently, the world-renowned Getty Research Institute was awarded funding to preserve archives related to the Building, and on April 22nd Elliot will be honored alongside other women pioneers at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles. In addition to her work teaching art at the LA Woman’s Building, she also taught at the Otis College of Art and Design. Her work has been included in exhibitions across the United States, including in a prestigious exhibition, Committed to Print, that dealt with about social issues – including feminism – at the renowned Museum of Modern Art in New York, NY.

 

“Saved for Eternity” Marguerite Elliot. Mixed media.

 

Elliot has been and continues to be a formidable artist spearheading developments in West Coast feminism while also serving as an incredible force for social critique and pioneering postmodern artworks created from metalworking and steel. Her vibrant presence as a Founding Member of the LA Woman’s Building informed the community’s incredible impact, exerting a presence that could be felt over the life and cultural scene in the greater Los Angeles area. A welder and sculptor, Elliot regularly creates large-scale artworks that require a precise and exacting skill set and complete mastery of metalworking methods. Working in steel from an early period of her practice, Elliot was a trailblazer not only for a cohort of women sculptors but she has also purposed her artwork into a means of addressing hot-button topics such as nuclear proliferation, environmental preservation and homelessness.

“Rift” Marguerite Elliot. Mixed media.
“Saraswati” Marguerite Elliot. Mixed media.

In addition to sustaining a demanding art studio practice, Elliot has steered feminist art history and theory with her incredibly thorough the comprehensive publication, “The Woman’s Building and Feminist Art Education, 1973-1991: A Pictorial Herstory.” Edited by Elliot and Maria Karras and published by the Otis College of Art & Design, provides an in-depth look into the remarkable influence the LA Woman’s Building sustained as a force for change as a part of the greater second-wave feminism movment. Outlining how the Woman’s Building steered the career trajectories of artists and changemakers such as Judy Chicago, Miriam Schapiro and many, many more, this tome holds a pivotal place in defining women’s impact in the Modern Art canon. Elliot’s position as a guest of honor at the Getty to honor her legacy as part of this group of powerful and unrelenting women on April 22nd is well-deserved and long overdue.

Elliot’s work is decisive and, frequently, physically demanding. With a carefully developed skill set that encompasses the punishing and technically precise requirements that welding requires, Elliot not only operates within a formally precise artistic lexicon, she applies her artistic acumen toward realizing socio-political change and working toward a common good.

 

“Where Did I Come From” Marguerite Elliot. Cast Bronze Rocks on Shelves.

 

Currently practicing across small and large-scale welded and mixed media sculpture, she exhibits a keenly psychological and insightful approach to her artworks. Elliot’s artwork titles, such as “Where Did I Come From” and “Saved for Eternity” also assume an autobiographical, yet ambiguous, approach. Continuing to pursue abstraction, Elliot continually digs deeper into her iconography to produce precisely rendered forms that resonate with viewers in an introspective and, often, personal significance. Viewers of Elliot’s work can ponder the meaning of eternity and the now within her practice: space and time seem to collapse under the significance of her keen and philosophical vision.

Elliot’s works have been shown in countless solo and group exhibits in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York City, and they are held in numerous public and private collections including New York’s MoMA. Elliot’s exhibitions have been reviewed in major art publications including the Los Angeles Times, the NY-based Village Voice, Art Week, and the Washington Post. She is a recipient of a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Elliot’s curatorial experience includes private, non-profit, and municipal galleries In Los Angeles and San Francisco and she is currently head of Elliot Art Productions, a company that works with artists to market their art and specializes in creative, promotional videos for artists. Upcoming exhibits include at North Bay Investment Partners in Berkeley, and the Sanchez Art Center in Pacifica, CA, and her studio in Fairfax welcomes visitors by appointment.

“Don’t Touch Me” Marguerite Elliot. Mixed media.