In 1966, Susan Sontag published her essay “Against Interpretation,” in which she argues for an evaluation of the oversaturation of criticism, and its causations to the interpretation of art. She contends that modern interpretations of art have been stripped and diluted of their sensuous abilities, thus becoming the “revenge of the intellect upon art.”1 In doing so, content becomes a primary focus of art, which then becomes fraught with afflictions that tame the sensual abilities of form. Sontag’s reflections on content and form still resonate in contemporary art; the compartmentalization of artists identity/ies presupposes forms – properties present in the artwork, and in return, the existence of their works become fixed to dominant ideologies of the mainstream. Examples of this relationship is with “outsider art,” has found entry into institutional settings with exhibitions such as “Outliers and American Vanguard Art” at the National Gallery of Art and most recently, Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. (Read more...)
Big, Red, & Shiny: The Social and Private Life of the Black Bourgeoisie: Toyin Ojih Odutola at the Hood Downtown
The Firmament is defined as a tangible dome between the heavens and earth in the Book of Genesis. The firmament was created by God to divide the waters below; the firmament became Heaven, and the spaces that the characters occupy in the exhibition are as ambiguous as this concept of heaven. When I asked the artist about the geographical location of the figures, she explained that these spaces could exist beyond geographical sense. Given the absence of geographical specificity, Ojih Odutula orients skin as a topographical map using the color black and varying media techniques to expand on the aesthetic qualities of Blackness in the field of drawing. In establishing a language for skin, she explores themes of migration and national identity, all of which originate from her personal experience. Born in Ife, Nigeria, Ojih Odutola immigrated to Berkeley and later to Huntsville, Alabama where her father would work as a professor at the University of Alabama. (Read more...)
Big, Red, & Shiny: Specters, Materiality, and the Presence and Absence of the Body: Kevin Beasley at the ICA Boston
Nike Air Jordan 1 shoes, durags, rain jackets, kaftans, mouth guards, feathers, fitted caps, microphones, sound effect processors, amplifiers, polyurethane foam, and resin are all materials Kevin Beasley focuses on to evoke the spectral traces of the past and present using sound, space, and signifiers of Blackness.
Upon entering the gallery, viewers are greeted by Strange Fruit (Pair 1), an interactive sculpture suspended from the ceiling comprised of ropes from which a pair of Nike Air Jordan 1 shoes hang -- a nod to the urban tradition of flinging a pair of shoes on overhead electric wires, known as “shoe tossing.” Smothered in blood red polyurethane foam and resin, the dangling shoes invite the viewer to speak into a microphone which echoes on an amplifier embedded in the sculpture. The reverb effect produces a ghostly remnant resulting in the temporal effect of how what once was, now is. Strange Fruit (Pair 1) possess its own spirit, a word derived from the Latin term spiritus, meaning “breath.” Beasley invites audiences to activate the sculpture’s “spirit” by means of their own breath by exhaling and vocalizing into it. Even when the work is static, the acoustic feedback from the microphone produces an eerie crackle and fizz that animates it. (Read more...)