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Visual Art

Unflagging

2 Oct 202018 Feb 2021

Venue

Marfa, Texas
Free

Exhibition

Lisa Alvarado  |  Pia Camil  |  Jeffrey Gibson  |  Byron Kim  |  Kameelah Janan Rasheed  |  Hank Willis Thomas  |  Naama Tsabar  |  Cecilia Vicuña


This fall Ballroom Marfa presents an outdoor exhibition from October 2, 2020 through February 18, 2021 that features new commissions from eight noted artists. Each artist has created a flag accompanied by a sound-based work that will be on view individually for two weeks, rotating through each artist in the series from October to January. Artists include: Lisa Alvarado, Pia Camil, Jeffrey Gibson, Byron Kim, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Hank Willis Thomas, Naama Tsabar, and Cecilia Vicuña.

The exhibition unFlagging reconsiders flags and their symbolic meaning in our collective consciousness and country, today. Flags communicate beliefs and values in the public landscape. They are inherently performative–they declare, demarcate, and signal. As citizens, we learn to raise them, lower them, fold them, sing to them, and respect them.

The customary use of flags as vehicles to uphold and perform established principles can be challenged. The recent ruling to remove and reexamine Mississippi’s state flag, which displays confederate iconography, for example, reveals not only the power and importance of these symbolic objects, but a shift in consciousness. In this time of social transformation, we invite artists to rethink the immutability and nature of flags. How is meaning constructed, produced, and perpetuated? Can we invent new ways to make symbols and meanings?

Animated by the wind, rain, and light of West Texas, these artists’ flags reflect change and challenge constancy. Visual elements of design, color, and shape are all considered in each flag to create a multiplicity of readings. Additionally, the accompanying sound works are not a singular song sung in allegiance; rather, each artist creates a sonic environment that further activates Ballroom’s courtyard to engage with their particular flag. There is a shared experience around sound, reminding us of the multitude of voices that create space for public discourse. 

This exhibition is organized by Laura Copelin, curator-at-large, Sarah Melendez, programs director, and Daisy Nam, curator.

Schedule of Flags

Each flag and sound installation will rotate every two weeks

Oct 2: Cecilia Vicuña
Oct 16: Byron Kim
Oct 30: Hank Willis Thomas
Nov 13: Pia Camil
Nov 27: Jeffrey Gibson
Dec 11:  Lisa Alvarado
Dec 25: Naama Tsabar
Jan 22: Kameelah Janan Rasheed

While Ballroom’s indoor gallery spaces remain temporarily closed, audiences can engage with unFlagging from a safe distance, outdoors.

Watch

Kameelah Janan Rasheed

With each passing breeze, Rasheed’s words on all things are organized as uncertainty (2021) reshuffle and recombine meaning, reminding us that flags are inherently mutable. On one side we read the words and phrases “all things are organized,” “as strange flutters of uncertainty,” “time is structured thick” each encircled in white spheres. On the reverse we see “strange flutters,” “behind this cosmic verse.” These words and spheres float atop graphics reminiscent of geological or cosmic renderings. Black and white strokes gesture towards movement and gather form with layers of pink and fuchsia circular patterns. These changing arrangements allow us to read the flag in different ways and reveal new meanings from what is visible and what is hidden, presenting a poetic gesture in motion.

As a self-described learner, Rasheed’s practice uses text and form to reveal a cosmology in constant flux. Her work uses the generative qualities of incompleteness and poetic play to help the viewer form synapses and uncover new meanings. With all things are organized as uncertainty, 2021, the statements in motion provoke the reader to pause and reflect on what it means to read effectively, thoroughly, closely.

“If the words never settle and we are consistently engaged in acts of [un]learning, then that means I must stay attuned to generative and interdependent Black storytelling methodologies that nurture us in ways of reading, writing, speaking, listening, archiving, and knowing that challenge finality, enclosure, fixed meaning, and the death of capture.” – Kameelah Janan Rasheed

Kameelah Janan Rasheed (b. 1985) is invested in the shifting ecosystems of Black epistemologies, and the agile relationships between the varied modes of reading, writing, archiving, editing, translating, publishing, reflecting upon, and arranging narratives about lived Black experiences. With interests in the generative qualities of incompleteness, leakage, dispersal, syncretism (spiritual and otherwise), and choreography (of movement, of learning, of affect), Rasheed works across an ecosystem of iterative and provisional projects. These projects include sprawling, architecturally-scaled Xerox-based collages; large-scale text banner installations; publications; digital archives; lecture-performances; library interventions; poems/poetic gestures; and other forms yet to be determined. Rasheed has exhibited at the 2017 Venice Biennale; CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco; Institute for Contemporary Art Philadelphia; Pinchuk Art Center, Kiev, Ukraine; Mass MoCA, Williamstown; Brooklyn Museum, NY; Queens Museum, NY; New Museum, NY; Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; Bronx Museum, NY; Brooklyn Public Library, NY; Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NY, and The Kitchen, NY, among others. She is the author of two artist books, An Alphabetical Accumulation of Approximate Observations (Endless Editions, 2019) and No New Theories (Printed Matter, 2020).

 

Installation images

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