This is a Huffington Post year-end review by art critic Mat Gleason of the top 11 art shows in Los Angeles in 2011. He ranked Colonialism: The Collective Unconscious, which I solo-curated, at #5
NUMBER 5: COLONIALISM: THE COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS
Group Art Show Curated by Lili Bernard
at William Grant Still Arts Center
December 20, 2011
Far from a knee-jerk political sob-festing guilt trip, this group show (curated by painter Lili Bernard) was a potpourri of sensual reconciliation delivered in diverse styles and attitudes. It wouldn’t be like the mainstream art press in this town to make it down to South Central, so while the LA critical press was wallowing in the mire of the 1960s nostalgia shows, artists weren’t waiting for written permission to explore a deep part of their identity.
From Lavialle Campbell’s sculpted throne of an afro to Stephanie Mercado’s dresses of colonized mappings dominated by the dark blue sea, the message here was that an autonomy from anyone and everyone’s narrative but their own gives one the strength to create; and in that autonomy might be the course an artist takes to get to his or her deepest truths fastest and best.
Curator Lili Bernard, Left Foreground, poses with Amitis Motevalli, Right Foreground, Director of the William Grant Still Arts Center. To her right is a painting by Ms Bernard that violently welcomed everyone to the “Colonialism: The Collective Unconscious” exhibit. — MAT GLEASON. Photo © 2011 by MAT GLEASON.
Artists Willie Middlebrook, Lili Bernard and Lavialle Campbell gather around Campbell’s sculpted Afro Throne. I was just dying to sit on that thing but nobody was allowed to. — MAT GLEASON. Photo © 2011 by MAT GLEASON
GENERAL INFORMATION ON COLONIALISM: THE COLLECTIVE UNCONSCIOUS
Colonialism: The Collective Unconscious, curated by visual artist Lili Bernard for the William Grant Still Arts Center, Department of Cultural Affairs, Los Angeles, October 8, 2011 – November 19, 2011.
ARTISTS IN THE SHOW (Click on face to visit artist online. Scroll down for press release.)
EXHIBIT DESCRIPTION (from Press Release) – The exhibit includes Asco co-founder HARRY GAMBOA JR.’s avant garde video “Fire Ants for Nothing,” where a man (text and performance by RUBEN GUEVARA) tries without success to affirm that he is not an ant, before extinguishing himself.
Chicana artist BARBARA CARRASCO offers her comic strip interpretation of colonialism via ”Undiscover 500 Years (Columbus 1492-1992),” while 3D glasses are available to view the sarcastic cartoonish commentary of half Native American/half African-American artist STEVEN J. BROOKS on the conqueror’s coiffeur via the artist’s Conkaline’s Glam-O-Rama. Contrastingly, the African American collective psyche resisting assimilation as expressed through natural hair styles is vividly explored in the sculpture, “Throne,” by LAVIALLE CAMPBELL, the great-granddaughter of a slave who came to the New World from Africa through the Middle Passage. WILLIE MIDDLEBROOK reveals the impact of colonialism on his slave ancestors through his digital photographic collages.
New Orleans native MARK BROYARD takes us back to Katrina in his assemblage series which he composed of objects found in the wake of the hurricane, while JOHN OUTTERBRIDGE ink drawings of the Watts Towers evoke memory of when the City of Los Angeles attempted to demolish the vernacular assemblage architecture built by Italian immigrant Simon Rodia.
Tel Aviv-born DORIT CYPIS uncovers a “self-knowledge that better recognizes otherness within” through a very personal conceptualization of colonialism in her native Israel, while XILOMEN RIOS explores her Jewish-Latino identity through collage.
Zimbabwe native RAKSHA PAREKH uses sugar and cotton to conceptualize the historical impact of those trade industries upon her native Africa and her East Indian ancestors, while Cuban native LILI BERNARD flips Eugene Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People painting to tell the true story of a Cuban slave revolt lead by the African slave woman, Carlota, of the Triumvirato sugar plantation. ZEAL HARRIS tells the story of the Congolese woman, Kimpa Vita, who lead a peaceful rebellion on the continent of Africa, when she attempted to Africanize and reform Catholicism, around 1704 AD.
Finally, Chicano artist RAUL PAULINO BALTAZAR offers a photographic contemporary reenactment of the Mexican Revolution while first-generation American-born-Mexican artist STEPHANIE MERCADO uses maps, real-estate, ships and classical European high-fashion to explore the affects of colonialism from a historical perspective.
The opening reception features a live performance of Christopher Columbus 1992 by award-winning and critically acclaimed actor/writer/director ROGER GUENVEUR SMITH. Live music will be played by jazz musician MARCUS MILLER and his FREEDOM JAZZ MOVEMENT.