united states July 15, 2012, to February 24, 2013 The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum
This publication brings together the twelve artist’s projects and one of the solo exhibitions included in The Aldrich Museum’s united states 2012–13 exhibition program. united states approaches both the nature of the United States as a country and “united states” as the notion of uniting separate forms, entities, or conditions of being. Timed to coincide with the 2012 American election season, this semester of solo exhibitions and artist’s projects is presented at a time when political and social divisions in this country are readily apparent, and polarization on many major issues is at an historical high. The United States is the oldest surviving federation and one of the most ethnically diverse and multicultural nations on earth; the idea of reconciling multiple points of view and belief systems is intrinsic to the notion of what it means to be American. The word “state” also connotes a condition of mind or temperament, and the present state in which we find ourselves is clearly one of uncertainty and unease, as reflected in much of the work included in this series of exhibitions. Subjects that are touched upon, among others, include history (and forgetfulness), unifying texts and phrases, war, political division, race, identity, the economy, immigration, competition vs. cooperation, mythology, the social contract, and consumerism. No selection of works of art can adequately summarize the complexity of the meanings inherent in the concept of “united states,” however the goal has not been to provide closure, but rather to echo the belief that disparate entities united to form a whole are hopefully greater (and more profound) than the simple sum of parts. I wish to thank the artists who have participated in united states for contributing a range of perspectives that greatly add to the cultural discourse during this year of heightened social and political debate. My special appreciation goes to independent curator Rachel Teagle, PhD, for providing the thoughtful and provocative essays included in this publication. Richard Klein, exhibitions director united states has been organized by Alyson Baker, executive director, Richard Klein, exhibitions director, and Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, curator, with the assistance of Tracy Moore, education director, and Kelly Taxter, curatorial consultant.
Jane Benson, Duet for Split Toy Piano: Mexico City/Bari, 2012 Courtesy of the artist
united states includes projects by Jane Benson, Alison Crocetta, Celeste Fichter, Erika Harrsch, Nina Katchadourian, Matthew Northridge, Risa Puno, John Stoney, Sui Jianguo, Frances Trombly, Rosemary Williams, and Jenny Yurshansky, as well as solo exhibitions by Pedro Barbeito, Jonathan Brand, Brody Condon, Brad Kahlhamer, Brian Knep, Erik Parker, and Hank Willis Thomas.
Jane Benson: The Splits: Red/Blue Performance on July 15, 2012 The Splits: Red/Blue is a performance about division and its opportunities, featuring a duet for one “split” instrument performed simultaneously by two musicians in different locations—in this case a “Red State” (Virginia) and a “Blue State” (Connecticut). “The work begins with the bisecting of various instruments,” Benson explains, “cutting them along their length, creating two separate instruments. The two halves must then be played simultaneously by pairs of musicians to complete a musical score.”1 For the Red/ Blue incarnation of The Splits project, Benson partnered with composer and cellist Alex Waterman2 to create music to be performed across a geographic and political divide, taking advantage of the electronic disruption typical of cell phones and Skype. While existing “nowhere” in the electronic ether, the music is designed to speak to place—the political identities of the two sites. The divisions in Benson’s work are manifold. She only splits cheap, mass-produced, “made in China” instruments, not wishing to violate the musician’s sense of duty towards fine, oftenhandmade models. In so doing she reveals a market divide. Literally cut, the instruments also refer to schisms within the music industry: the common practice of splicing tracks, using synthesized instrumentation, and thereby cutting out the instruments and the musicians who play them. At all levels, The Splits: Red/Blue is about the disruption of traditional aesthetic processes. Benson’s actions exclude the instruments from any traditional use, yet her rupture creates new arrangements, sounds, and ways to perform. She exploits these opportunities, and their means of conveyance, to address many kinds of conceptual categories. By extending her project to encompass physical distance and political landscapes, she suggests there may be different ways to evolve, new ways to find unity. Divided but synchronous, The Splits exemplifies that the whole is always greater than the simple sum of its parts. -RT 1 Benson artist’s statement. 2 Waterman performed in Connecticut while Loren Dempster performed in Virginia.
Brody Condon, To prove her zeal, one woman ate mud. (video still), 2012 Participatory performance, two-channel HD video, color, sound Special thanks to The Wassaic Project and On Stellar Rays, New York
Brody Condon: To prove her zeal, one woman ate mud. July 15, 2012, to February 24, 2013 Brody Condon’s work is concerned with what he sees as the over-identification with fantasy prevalent in American culture, and its current effect on the social and political atmosphere of the United States. Over the past few years, he has attempted to understand the relationship between fictional worlds, the history of radical Protestantism, and the political and cultural foundation of this country. With that in mind, Condon designs performances that utilize live action role-playing (LARP) techniques whereby he creates and populates temporary communes. While living at the fictionalized site, the group critically explores these issues in an experiential manner. For his exhibitions, Condon records on video these unscripted and often disorienting interactions, documenting them in an ethnographic style. To prove her zeal, one woman ate mud. took place on a small commune conceived specifically for this project, inside a seven-story mill tower and the nearby grounds of a working farm in the town of Wassaic, New York. The process combined elements from unorthodox 1940s American monastic communities like Trabuco College, group encounter techniques such as Gestalt Therapy, and contemporary science fiction. As the role players developed their characters, they engaged in daily group therapy sessions led by an abstract sculpture imagined to have unknown powers, which the artist inserted into the action as a non-human player. The video on view at The Aldrich presents the artist’s rendering of this fantastical world, while a second recording makes public for the first time Condon’s performance workshop procedures and process. -Mónica Ramírez-Montagut
Alison Crocetta: Bear in Mind (The Bill of Rights) July 15, 2012, to February 24, 2013 Foundational concepts of what it means to be an American have become abstracted through the veils of history and changes in vernacular language. Many of the artists in united states share a desire to give physical form to the essential documents of American political identity, addressing new ways to embody these core texts for the twenty-first century. Jenny Yurshansky and Celeste Fichter present projects similar in spirit to Bear in Mind (The Bill of Rights), but Alison Crocetta’s work explores a different tack, utilizing multiple acts of translation to define our experience of the first ten constitutional amendments—the Bill of Rights. Crocetta’s video records the Bill’s transformation into American Sign Language. Her first concern was to stress how important it is that all Americans—including the deaf community— understand and have access to the rights and freedoms available to them. Unlike most ASL translations that are paired with the exact spoken text, here the audio is a reading of the “gloss” used in ASL to facilitate a recitation of the Bill of Rights. (An ASL interpreter writes a gloss as a guideline when preparing to sign a complex legal or technical text.) The differences between spoken English and the conceptual order of the gloss are immediately apparent, and startlingly foreign to anyone unfamiliar with ASL. “The various translations at work highlight the threshold between the abstract idea of civil rights and the reality that we each carry these rights with us as self-evident,” writes art historian Nell Andrew.3 While Crocetta’s work is ostensibly about making the Bill accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing, it is as much about the translation every citizen must do to make sense of the amendments’ intentions and meanings. “Understand. Remember.”— commands repeated in the ASL gloss—bring home how important it is for all Americans to recognize their freedoms. -RT
Alison Crocetta, Bear in Mind (The Bill of Rights), 2006 Production photo: Bradley Olson, ©Alison Crocetta Courtesy of the artist
3 Nell Andrew, essay in Moving Images|Alison Crocetta (catalogue published in connection with an exhibition at the Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery, Cincinnati, June 17–August 28, 2011).
Celeste Fichter: Pledged July 15, 2012, to February 24, 2013 Celeste Fichter is fascinated by funny mistakes—slips of the tongue, visual puns, moments of absurd incongruity—and they often become the starting point for her art. For Pledged she applies this approach to one of the canonical texts of American identity. We hear a child say “I pledge my lesions to the fag,” and another recites “won nation, under guy.” The sweet voices of children are immediately humorous, but the accumulation of mistakes and how, exactly, they misspeak belies prejudices encoded into definitions of American political and social identity. Pledged is about language, how it is learned, how it evolves, and how it conveys meaning. To create the piece, Fichter adopted contemporary society’s most universal language—the common parlance of the YouTube mashup video. She edited her video from clips of children enacting the common practice of starting the school day with the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance. These young children, like most people who were raised in an American school system, learned the Pledge phonetically without understanding complex words and concepts such as “indivisible,” “republic” or “allegiance.” The children’s mistakes question how much any of us actually understand the words we recite by rote memory, or the promise that we make with these words. What is the nature of our political education in the United States—did any of us ever learn what the Pledge means? Or, is the daily recitation simply a form of political indoctrination? By recording the children’s versions, Pledged challenges notions of patriotism and what it means to be an informed citizen. -RT
Erika Harrsch, United States of North America—Passport, 2009–10 Courtesy of the artist and Artgate Gallery, New York
Erika Harrsch: United States of North America—Passport Performances on November 2, 3, and 4, 2012 Nature and the human body as the interface of our experience with the natural world are central themes in Erika Harrsch’s work. For several years she has explored the Monarch butterfly as both symbol and subject of her investigations into our subjective experience of the sublime. Her interactive project United States of North America expands upon these interests, initiating a dialogue about nationality, immigration, and identity.
Celeste Fichter, Pledged (video still), 2012 Courtesy of the artist
On November 2, 3, and 4, 2012—immediately preceding the presidential election—Harrsch will open a passport office at The Aldrich. Her installation offers visitors the chance to secure a fictitious passport that allows safe passage through the three North American Free Trade Agreement countries—Canada, the US, and Mexico—or what she calls the “United States of North America.” By spinning a wheel of fortune, visitors can try their luck in getting a passport, a reference to the arbitrary process of the US green card diversity lottery. Possible outcomes of the spin include winning, being declined, or being identified as an illegal alien. The playful nature of the game underscores the emotionally charged, often anguishing experience of navigating these bureaucratic procedures. Her passport tracks a world in constant mobility, where the idea of nationality is both incomplete and outdated, as, in the artist’s view, is the NAFTA treaty. Harrsch explains that the installation was influenced by a four-year project filming the sanctuaries of the butterfly. “The Monarch,” says Harrsch, “follows a mysterious progression that takes several generations to complete; they take advantage of each nation’s landscape for its life’s purposes.”4 The Monarch’s is a multi-national, multi-generational migration between Canada and Mexico, mimicking the cyclical flow of people along the same path. While seemingly driven by economic imperatives, the human migration is not so different from that of the butterfly. Each defies the geopolitical to obey the biological imperatives of procreation and sustenance. -RT 4 Harrsch artist’s statement, 2012.
Nina Katchadourian, Monument to the Unelected (detail), 2008 Installation photo: Scottsdale, AZ, 2009 Courtesy of the artist and Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco
Nina Katchadourian: Monument to the Unelected July 15 to November 11, 2012 Like most of Nina Katchadourian’s art, her plastic lawn signs look absolutely natural clustered along Main Street in front of The Aldrich’s historic white administration building. Only a second glance confirms something is not quite right. Who is Wendell Wilkie? Reelect Bush/Quayle? “A lot of things I’m attracted to are like that: close, but not quite. The way they mismatch is often a starting point for work for me,” says the artist. “Misunderstanding is a very fertile point for making art. When things aren’t quite right, that often makes them funny, or awkward, or poignant.”5 Monument to the Unelected consists of fifty-six signs that display the names of candidates who have run for and lost an American presidential election. Each sign, created by the artist within the traditional political lawn sign design vernacular, is a direct historical reference, not an actual artifact, as many of the candidates pre-date the lawn sign. The accumulation of so many signs—a cacophony of messages—calls attention to their function as political advertising and that lobby’s powerful role in the American political process. Some of the names are familiar, but most are long forgotten; Katchadourian likes the fact that the signs test our knowledge of the history of American politics. The work could be seen to suggest potential alternatives to our current system—for example, Wendell Wilkie’s approach. After he ran a failed bid against FDR in 1940, he went on to become one of the President’s closest political allies. History, the signs seem to say, is full of examples of other ways to move forward. But the signs are not just about history, they also slyly question if the viewer knows who is running this year. Katchadourian describes the politically ambiguous project as “a visual record of our collective road not taken.”6 -RT 5 Leah Ollman, “A little bit baffled,” The Los Angeles Times, May 22, 2008. 6 Katchadourian artist’s statement, 2012.
Risa Puno, Good Faith and Fair Dealing, 2012 Courtesy of the artist
Risa Puno: Good Faith and Fair Dealing July 15 to September 30, 2012 Risa Puno plays upon associations common to us all, familiar childhood games and everyday objects. Although always object-based, Puno’s art focuses on fomenting engaging experiences. Her installations encourage viewers to play and it is through this interaction that her work generates meaning as an experiential exchange. She states that the work is “participatory in nature, and often incorporates multi-sensory methods to trigger feelings of nostalgia, desire, comfort, elation, or even frustration.”7 In Good Faith and Fair Dealing, Puno has upped the ante on her artistic gambit. Not only is viewer interaction required, in this work Puno’s game can only be successfully completed when two players compete on matching labyrinths. Together, the players cooperatively guide a ball through a dual maze. A crucial part of the game is finding a partner, one who is willing to collaborate and negotiate an outcome that requires concessions from both parties. The title of the work is a phrase common in contract law, specifically the “implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, which requires both parties to treat the other party fairly, and to give at least as much consideration to the other party’s welfare as it gives to its own.” 8 Obviously, “good faith and fair dealing” is an ideal condition and one rarely achieved, especially in politics. Puno’s mazes are included in the united states exhibition as a metaphor for the political process; they demonstrate a practice that, although not currently at play in American politics, should be aspired to as the means to solve the most vexing puzzles. -RT 7 Puno artist’s statement, 2012. 8 Puno artist’s statement, 2012; citation from Barron’s Law Dictionary (2nd Edition, 1984), p. 204.
Matthew Northridge, Mississippi (detail; installation view of related work at KANSAS gallery), 2011-12 Courtesy of the artist and KANSAS, New York
A long fissure insinuated down the length of a high wall. A deep crack gouged into the Museum. A minimal gesture displayed as art. It is difficult to immediately discern in Matthew Northridge’s sculptural installation what might be accidental, what is site-specific, and where the artist has intervened in his subtle process of creating meaning. The title is critical to this installation. Rio Grande literally gives shape to the line Northridge routed into The Aldrich’s sheetrock wall and tinted with gray paint. Northridge often plays with geographic recontextualization and extreme shifts in scale. In his aerial studies, a body of work from the last decade, he carefully removed all architecture from aerial photographs and relocated it within the confines of a blank page. This effort to conjure vast geographies with economical gestures is both literal and metaphorical in intent. But Rio Grande references more than nature. The river’s 1,900 mile length defines the border between the US and Mexico. This highly contested natural divide is a place of dangerous exodus for the many illegal immigrants who risk death to cross its currents. It is what the artist calls “an American Rubicon.”9 Northridge, however, eschews an overly political interpretation of his work. He is open to the viewpoint each visitor brings to bear upon his art. The Rio Grande, like Niagara Falls in John Stoney’s work on the opposite side of the Museum’s atrium, is always changing. The natural boundaries of both bodies of water constantly shift, and with them the contours of our national boundaries. Both artworks speak to the passage of time and a state of flux that is not often associated with the idea of national borders. Together they engage dialogue about the evolution of the United States itself, geological time, and its long slow process of nevertheless dramatic change. -RT 9 Northridge artist’s statement, 2012.
John Stoney, You Can’t Go Home Again, 2005 (Scale model of the American side of Niagara Falls with Moby-Dick) Courtesy of the artist
Matthew Northridge: Rio Grande July 15, 2012, to February 24, 2013
John Stoney: You Can’t Go Home Again July 15, 2012, to February 24, 2013 You Can’t Go Home Again is a scale model of the American side of Niagara Falls, America’s most famous natural monument in the days before the discovery of the great western wonders that supplanted it as a symbol of the United States. As in many of his previous works, John Stoney has focused on a place important to nineteenth-century Americans. He uses these emotionally and historically charged locations to expand our experience of the passage of time. Stoney not only selected a subject well known to Americans in the nineteenth century, but he has depicted the Falls with stylistic reference to the Hudson River School. His chosen vista, for example, affords a commanding view of the entirety of the American border, including both the American Falls and the smaller Bridal Veil Falls. Just as Thomas Cole did before him, Stoney synthesized his composition from multiple points of view to create an awesome experience of simultaneity for the viewer. His vantage is, in other words, focused on the sublime. The modern-day guard rail around the observation point locates the Falls in time, and the stand-alone tree attests to the rendering’s accuracy. But a whale floundering on the rocks below—identified by Stoney as Moby-Dick— obviates the artist’s careful attention to detail. The enigmatic white whale deliberately challenges the viewer with his, and by extension the sculpture’s, inscrutability. The Falls and the whale are good bedfellows—Melville’s eponymous book was published in 1851, just before Frederic Edwin Church painted the most famous image of Niagara Falls in 1857. Yet Moby-Dick is more than coincident with the Falls’ cultural history. Like the dead tree stumps found in the foreground of so many Hudson River School paintings, the whale is a reference to an experience of the naturally sublime that already felt lost to Americans in the nineteenth century and has today slipped yet farther away. -RT
Sui Jianguo, MADEINCHINA, 2011 Courtesy of the collection of Greg Smith, Short Hills, NJ
Sui Jianguo: MADEINCHINA July 15 to September 30, 2012 “MADEINCHINA,” Sui Jianguo explains, “is an effort to move toward universality.” As such, the sculpture is a reference replete with the many prerogatives that define his artistic practice. Throughout his career, Sui has explored symbols that define China as a cultural export; he first created an empty Mao suit as a reproducible sculptural sign, moved on to exploit the panda, and is now well known for giant, plastic-looking red toy dinosaur sculptures with “made in China” stamped on their undersides. In these repeated excavations of imagery, he is looking for a symbol of enduring national identity. MADEINCHINA is an evolution of this ongoing process to develop a personal, and therefore national, symbology devoid of all selfsignification. In this, his most recent project, the artist is moving away from an inward analysis of China to look out to embrace the country’s impact on a globalized world. Sui Jianguo asks, “Can an artist’s identity be freed from the need for self-expression and rather gladly embrace a concept of oneness; of universality?” Working in Warhol’s vernacular of maximum reproducibility, the artist has created the perfect “multiple”—a mechanically reproduced sculpture with the open edition size of a commercial object. The sculpture can be custom ordered in any size, from hand-held to the eight-foot-long version on view at The Aldrich to one the size of a shipping container. Select the size that fits. As he says, “MADEINCHINA is an artwork which has been made by all of us; one which would not have been possible without the activity, the hopes and aspirations of the world at large. Place it where there will be something else which you will see which will have been made in China. In other words, place this artwork anywhere in the entire world.” -RT
Frances Trombly, American Flag (detail), 2012 Courtesy of the artist
Frances Trombly: American Flag July 15, 2012, to February 24, 2013 A white flag flies overhead. Is this a rustic sign of surrender? To what and for whom? Frances Trombly is an artist who surrenders herself to multiple conflicts, none more polarizing than what the art world has positioned as the opposing poles of Minimalism’s “high” art and the base concerns of women’s domestic craft. American Flag evolved out of Trombly’s series of “painting/sculptures”—apparently untreated, stretched canvases set on the ground to lean against the gallery wall. These strangely blank objects, exhibited oddly, focus attention on their means of fabrication. It is their apparent “blankness” (are these readymades?) that draws the viewer in. Upon close inspection irregularities, small inflections (are they mistakes?), identify the fabric as hand-woven. With prolonged viewing, intentional patterns emerge. Stripes and herringbone designs, for example, are embedded into the warp and woof of her “painting/sculptures.” Here she has embroidered white stars onto the flag’s field of monochromatic handmade fabric. Trombly’s art embraces varied inspirations. The hidden designs recall Navajo weavers’ ch’ihónít’i, the tiny blips women intentionally wove into textiles for commercial sale. The aberrations broke the design and allowed weavers to separate themselves spiritually from a product created for sale. But her monochromatic objects simultaneously refer to Rauschenberg’s all-white paintings, as well as his use of readymades drawn from the detritus of everyday life. Her handmade frames cite Richard Tuttle as another Minimalist influence; the list could go on. Trombly’s deceptively simple white flag recombines rich arthistorical references into a contemporary object that questions our very definition of art, posits questions of value as either inherent or extrinsic, and champions the handmade as a powerful mode of generating meaning. -RT
Rosemary Williams: Supermarket July 15 to September 30, 2012 Rosemary Williams is a conscientious shopper, empowered by her camera as she endeavors to make evident what is hiding in plain sight on the shelves of every American supermarket. “Supermarket,” she explains, “is a seven-panel, large-scale photographic map of a typical American big-box grocery store. Created by compositing hundreds of photos of each aisle together, this work documents every shelf, laying the aisles out in a grid at dollhouse scale. Each item on the shelves is then annotated by hand with the name of its corporate producer.” Straightforward in its presentation and alarming in the information it conveys, Williams’s installation suggests that perhaps the most common ground we share as citizens of the United States is what we eat and what we buy. The repetition of corporate names actually illuminates how little variety exists for an American consumer who looks for alternatives to buying food from the same large-scale packaged-goods manufacturers. Supermarket calls attention to the extent of corporate influence over even this most mundane aspect of our lives. In Williams’s world, entire systems of social and economic commerce are embedded on the shelves of our markets. Her tentative pencil marks remind us these systems exist in constant flux. “Items sell out; new products are placed; a small organic producer is bought by a mega-corporation; some items are put on sale; other companies raise their prices; people move through the store constantly, altering its stock and impacting this system through their capitalist ‘votes’ for one item over another.” If we are what we eat, and we are clearly all fed by the same corporate providers, then Williams suggests it is our patterns of consumption that unite us as Americans. -RT
I Have A Dream Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the ﬂames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and ﬁnds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.
Jenny Yurshansky, Projection (I Have a Dream) (detail), 2008 Courtesy of the artist
In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magniﬁcent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufﬁcient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufﬁcient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the ﬁerce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges. But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone. And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead. Jenny Yurshansky: Projection (I Have a Dream) We 15, cannot turn back. July 2012, to February 24, 2013 There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisﬁed?” We can never be satisﬁed as long as the Negro is
the victim of the unspeakable horrorsProjection of police brutality. We cananever be satisﬁed as long as our bodies,Barack heavy withObama the fatiguewas of travel, Jenny Yurshansky created (I Have Dream) in the days before cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisﬁed as long as the negro’s basic mobility elected president. At the time she felt in the zeitgeist a belief “that we had come to embody is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisﬁed as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their a sign stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisﬁed as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New alldignity thatbywas asked of us by Dr. Martin Luther King in his iconic ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.”10York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisﬁed, and we will not be satisﬁed until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” She often engages what she calls “intangible moments,” and “the immediacy of time and space,” to collapse multiple interpretations—numerous truths and points of view—a practice I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some you particular have come fromwork areas where quest for freedom leftas youabattered by the storms of persecution and staggered which in ofthis she your seesquest as –defining the US united state.
Rosemary Williams, Supermarket (detail), 2008 Courtesy of the artist
by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums andconsists ghettos of our The piece of reproductions of the speech available for every Museum visitor to northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.
take home; the mementoes invite us to remember King’s dream. Instead of offering his Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. inspirational words, however, Yurshansky gives us only the spaces they would occupy on the And so eventhe though we face the difﬁculties today and tomorrow, I stillnow have afamous dream. It issentences. a dream deeplyItrooted in the American page and punctuation marksof that shaped these is the points ofdream. emphasis, exclamations, pregnant pauses—in short King’s delivery and skill as an orator— I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created that define the equal.” remarkable power and lasting poignancy of the speech. She seems to suggest that the speech could words, because itthe was himself who I have a dream that one day onhave the red used hills of different Georgia, the sons of former slaves and sonsKing of former slave owners willbrought be able to sit down together. And her auspicious timing projected the same question onto Obama. Would people together at the table of brotherhood. he be the one to unite America?
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
Yurshansky often relies upon negative space and acts of erasure as a means to call attention I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the tocontent the simultaneity of their character. of meaning. Her punctuation reminds us of the speech’s power, while her presentation reduces it to nothing more than rhetoric. The repeated absences on her I have a dream today! blank page evoke the impossibility of ever achieving what the words convey, be it for King’s I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interpogeneration or Obama’s. sition” and “nulliﬁcation” – one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. -RT I have a dream today!
10 Yurshansky artist’s statement, 2012. I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all ﬂesh shall see it together.”
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Board of Trustees Mark L. Goldstein, Chairman; Eric G. Diefenbach, Vice-Chairman; John Tremaine, Treasurer/Secretary; Annadurai Amirthalingam; Richard Anderson; William Burback; Chris Doyle; Linda M. Dugan; Georganne Aldrich Heller, Honorary Trustee; Neil Marcus; Kathleen O’Grady; Donald Opatrny; Gregory Peterson; Peter Robbins; Martin Sosnoff, Trustee Emeritus
Larry Aldrich (1906–2001), Founder
The O’Grady Foundation
Nina Katchadourian, Monument to the Unelected, 2008 Installation photo: Scottsdale, AZ, 2009 Courtesy of the artist and Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco
look. look again.