Tuesday, July 12, 2016

'Between Worlds' at Arc Gallery

Michael Yokum of Arc Studio and Gallery and Jack Fischer of Jack Fischer Gallery have curated a thoughtful show, this one dealing with the alienation of those who consider themselves "others" in the America of today. Both black people and immigrants from mainstream American society can feel suspended between two worlds - the world of their birth (often seen in memory as a paradise, although now most destroyed by civil war) and the world they are currently trying to survive in. Originally conceived as a response to the Syrian refugee crisis, the exhibition expanded its range to look at all varieties of being a “stranger in a strange land,” an experience perhaps more wide spread than ever before since the end of WW II. The pieces work on three levels - as art based on a "simple" visual experience, as concept based on the dual language wall texts which are in the all the artists native language and English and as installations as many of the pieces are also three dimensional.

Rodney Ewing: I felt this was one of the most powerful pieces in the show. Rodney's installation is about a slave who was able to escape his masters by building a box and mailing himself North to freedom. Given the murders of black men in the last month, I felt a sadness close to tears, remembering the long bloody struggle for "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" of the black citizens in our country.

The four revolving doors represent African Americans’ continual fight for their rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" in a country where their ancestors were brought by force and worked without mercy. The other piece is “Left Handed Magic,” work based on the life of Henry “Box” Brown who escaped to freedom at the age of 33 by arranging to have himself mailed in a wooden crate in 1849 to abolitionists in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Wanxin Zhang. "Gas Mask." This terracotta warrior, brooding in all his multicolored glory over the studio, is both a homage to China's terracotta warriors and a powerful comment on China's toxic pollution, the cost of China's pursuing modernization and success without thinking of the ethical and ecological consequences. The catastrophe, both potential and present, of destroying the very air we breathe, the breath of life for all beings on the planet, is not limited to China; every industrial nation is facing the same problem - some more successfully than others. The gas mask originated as a response to the use of Mustard Gas in WW I which destroyed the lungs of those exposed to it. As Zhang's warrior so graphically demonstrates, that danger did not end at the armistice of WW I. The Quin warriors, while beautiful, also are a testimony to China's first Emperor, whose tomb was filled with members of his court, his women, grave goods and toxic mercury. He may have taken it with him but our search to do the same will end in destruction that even the most efficient gas mask will not prevent.

Michal Wisniowski. Polish born Wisniowski's posters reference the political posters that were plastered all over Communist Poland, extorting the citizens to even greater effort to build a Communist society. As we know know, what was called Communism was totalitarianism, gray, faceless and oppressive - as well expressed in this work.

Carlos Cartagena came from El Salvador in 1989. The "formative years of his youth were in the 1980's, when his country was beginning to bleed incurably from the wounds of war. Cartagena's “Estatuas de Sal” is part of a "work in progress" called "Silhouettes". The four figures in his painting are a chilling representation of the lives lost in that war, people lost in the maelstrom of that strife, lost to life but not to the memory of those who loved them.

 Maja Ruznic. Bosnia. Woman Washing Feet.

Participating artists: Carlo Abruzzese, Nanci Amaka, Jason Bayani, Natalya Burd, Carlos Cartagena, Rodney Ewing, Michal Gavish, Taraneh Hemami, Golbanou Moghaddas. Maja Ruznic, Michal Wisniowski and Wanxin Zhang

July 9 - August 13
Gallery hours: Weds, Thurs 1-6 pm; Sat 12-3pm or message me to see the exhibition by appointment.

Arc Gallery
1246 Folsom St., SF


Another look at immigration and immigrants by James Fellows (Atlantic Monthly)

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