In Pursuit of FreedomSept 13 - Nov 7, 2015
Curated by Meridith McNeal
334 Grand Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11238
Open to the public Sundays 12-6 and by appointment
- jc lenochan
- PJ Loughran
- Dread Scott
- Meridith McNeal
- Golnar Adili
- Jennifer Dodson
- Wangechi Mutu
- Rodicia Prato
- Tim Main
- Reg Lewis
- Alexandra Limpert
- Rachael Wren
- Claudia Alvarez
- Maho Kino
In the many nuances of meaning inherent in the idea of freedom there is always counterpoint — the state of being free rather than confined, exemption from external control, the release from ties, the power to act without restraint — this as opposed to that.
As I began to pull together this exhibition, which will kick off the Rush Education Year of FREEDOM, the range of possibilities in the topic swirled around my mind. But what really made a profound impact on my thinking is that freedom is in essence a theme that is, when enacted, a joyous one.
There are countless heroic historical acts which are fine examples of the fight to win freedom.
jc lenochan’s chalkboard-like drawing about the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation also takes inspiration from a quote from W. E. B. Du Bois, “Freedom is a state of mind, a spiritual unchoking of the wells of human power and superhuman love!” As the youngest marcher in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, Lynda Blackmon Lowery proved that young adults can be heroes. Jailed eleven times before her fifteenth birthday, Lowery fought alongside Martin Luther King, Jr. for the rights of African-Americans. Included in this exhibition are original illustrations by PJ Loughran from Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom, Lynda Blackmon Lowery’s memoir (Dial Books, January 8, 2015).
Perhaps the rules and symbols that have been set forth to protect our freedom are not quite as effective as they could be. In his suite of three prints Burning the US Constitution, Dread Scott presents documentation of a performance where the sole action was the burning of the U.S. Constitution. Just as Ai Weiwei’s Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn called into question culture, value, and worth, Scott’s artwork questions the success of our own Constitution in protecting Americans. My own series Liberty Clouded is a more specific critique. Liberty Clouded, a series of pale gray depictions of a barely-there Statue of Liberty, was painted for Without/Color, an exhibition at Figureworks Gallery, and is dedicated to all those suffering, as trial lawyer Norm Pattis succinctly puts it, “the gravest injustice of all: the imprisonment of an innocent person.”
Golnar Adili addresses her familial experience of exile in her sculptural text-based drawings. Adili explains that the imagery she has morphed into her art work “comes from the back of a plane ticket as the last itinerary of an eventual exit from Iran, found in my father’s papers. Having studied in the U.S., he returned to Iran in the wake of the revolution, but eventually was forced to flee.”
The idea of personal freedom can be threatened on a more intimate person-to-person level. Jennifer Dodson’s painting was created in protest of moments when women’s voices are completely disregarded and they are tricked into behaving in a way they would not willingly have done so. Wangechi Mutu takes on a broader trajectory of this topic. Mutu expounds: “A lot of my work shows these humanoid, animal-type creatures sitting/standing on top of each other, like the caste systems that we have. As much as we talk about democracy and freedom, we still have no problem mistreating and devaluing people.”
How does a human being muster up the strength to persevere? Across the top of Rodicia Prato’s illustration Flight of the Nez Perce in the children’s book Journeys for Freedom: A New Look at America’s Story, a Nez Perce survivor is quoted saying that by never surrendering she has “always been free.”
Somehow we can find ways to attain a sense of personal liberty. Tim Main’s Handmade Notebook Paper drawings appear at first glance to be printed loose-leaf paper gone wild. Main demonstrates how bending the rules to suit our own needs can be liberating. Reg Lewis and Alexandra Limpert teamed up to create a kinetic sculpture that looks at the need for the balance and mental equilibrium that can liberate us from the increasingly chaotic and pressure-filled modern world we inhabit. And now, time to meditate… Rachael Wren’s large abstract paintings hover, shimmer, and vibrate as you gaze upon them. The work invites viewers to slow down in front of it, just as one might stop and breathe more deeply in a natural environment.
Children seem to have their fingers on the pulse when it comes to the joyous reverie of a free spirit. Claudia Alvarez celebrates this in her series of watercolor paintings American Heroes. If we are lucky, or maybe if we really try, we can find a way to set our minds free. In Maho Kino’s prints, Mr. Peanut stands in for the two lobes of the human brain, either working alone sailing merrily merrily merrily along in a canoe, or in tandem bouncing colored orbs into the air or helping each other balance on top of a circus elephant. I like to think we have the power to set our minds free.
I hope once that happens we can address all the other areas in need of life, LIBERTY, and the pursuit of happiness.