Ballroom Marfa Art Fund


Like Shards From Some Vanished Civilization: An Introduction to Space Is the Place

29 May 2013

Space Is the Place screens at 8pm on 29 May 2013 at the Crowley Theater in Marfa, Texas as part of Ballroom’s New Growth Film Program, co-curated by Rashid Johnson and Josh Siegel, MoMA. Admission is free and open to the public.

Like Shards From Some Vanished Civilization: An Introduction to Space Is the Place

In the 1970s, Sun Ra wasn’t yet recognized as the eccentric genius that he is understood as today. He’d been leading bands for almost three decades, placing ecstatic chanting alongside percolating synthesizer pieces, using improvisational percussion and cosmic expansions of big band styles to create a voluminous if obscure repertoire that placed classic jazz and swing in an extraterrestrial timeline. This destabilized polyglot sound was too conspicuously wacky to fit in with the jazz establishment or its free jazz fringes, and though he’d already graced the cover of Rolling Stone in 1969, his music seemed as equally confusing for the Anglo psychedelic music scene.

His canonization as one of the pioneers of Afrofuturism would have to wait until later in his career, though of course his work now looks right at home next to similar explorations from Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, and would help set the stage for Funkadelic’s Afro-cosmic psychedelia, MC5’s liberation rock, Sonic Youth’s deep noise grooves and the Boredoms’ melted drum ensembles.

One place where Sun Ra did find a home was as an artist-in-residence at the University of California at Berkeley, where he delivered a series of lectures in 1971 under the heading “The Black Man in the Cosmos, Hyperstition and Fast-Forward Theory.” The course’s now legendary syllabus included the King James Bible, the Tibetan Book of the Dead, work from 19th century occultist Madame Blavatsky, poetry from Henry Dumas, as well as texts about the pagan roots of the Catholic Church, Egyptology and African American folklore.

Someone in the Berkeley AV department had the foresight to record one of these lectures — archived at — wherein Sun Ra holds forth in such a way as to indicate that he’s both serious about his cosmological thinking, while at the same time deliberately provoking laughter from the gathered students as he tsk-task-tsks his chalk across the blackboard.

Starscapes and Cosmic Slop Workshop

1 May 2013


Images from yesterday’s starscapes and cosmic slop workshop, inspired by Rashid Johnson. The good times were organized by Rosa McElheny, Ballroom’s Exhibition & Programs Coordinator.





Virtual Ballroom

23 Apr 2013

View Larger Map

Just in case you’re not joining the army of 60 Minutes tourists who are expected here in our quiet Far West Texas town any day now, you can now take a virtual tour of our gallery space and Rashid Johnson’s New Growth solo exhibition via Google Maps.

And if you do come by IRL, just a reminder: New Growth is on view until 7 July 2013 — and the Ballroom gallery is open with free admission Wednesday through Saturday, 10a–6p and Sunday, 10a–3p.

Whitewall Talks to Rashid Johnson About Curating Sam Gilliam

16 Apr 2013


From Whitewall‘s recent “Curator Q&A” with Rashid Johnson. Sam Gilliam: Hard-Edge Paintings 1963-1966, curated by Johnson, is on display at the David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles until 11 May 2013.

“WW: What do you feel is the currency and the relevancy of these works from the mid-‘60s, these Hard-edge paintings. Why did you want to show them?

RJ: I was interested in, and continue to be interested in, Sam’s entire body of work. I think the reason that I reached into these particular works is that they’re even less familiar than the work that people are familiar with, if they are at all familiar with his work. The Hard-edge paintings were works that I was less familiar with.

I think they’re relevant in a couple different ways. There are some artists functioning in similar ways today. If you get a chance to go to some young artists’ studios today, you’ll see that there’s an interest in Frank Stella, an interest in Barnett Newman, and a lot of young artists are exploring similar directions as these painters. Also, there’s this idea of the escapist tactic that’s been employed in Sam’s work. If you think about the time in which he’s making these paintings—Kennedy gets assassinated, Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated shortly after that period—and you have a guy living in Washington, D.C., right in the heart of a lot of this discourse, choosing to avoid it. It’s, in its own way, a form of protest. As an artist, as a person considering their environment, from my generation, you would look at the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, and how do artists function and build bodies of work that don’t necessarily address those issues specifically, but are somehow happening at the same time as those things are.”

Keep reading at Whitewall.

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Sam Gilliam on Rashid Johnson

18 Mar 2013

Rashid Johnson will curate Hard-Edge Paintings 1963-1966, an exhibition of Sam Gilliam’s early work at the David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles, scheduled to be on display from 28 March through 11 May 2013. The Wall Street Journal has more details, plus commentary from both artists on each other’s work, including the following from Gilliam on Johnson:

“I encourage young artists to know what’s in books but to go beyond books, to see what is going on outside of school, because that’s what you’re actually training for. To see the variables. The fact is, I’m still the same, perhaps, as I was when I was younger. The idea of the work is still the same. You see something as an extension of a certain time or a certain date, rather than the observation that the optimism of the ’50s and ’60s still continues—quieter but still the same. I see a kind of optimism when I talk with Rashid.”

Keep reading at

More info about the exhibition at David Kordansky Gallery.

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New Growth en Español

14 Mar 2013

Rashid Johnson New Growth

Many thanks to Ballroom Marfa intern Cristina Garcés for this translation

Ballroom Marfa está orgulloso de anunciar la inauguración, de New Growth, una exposición
individual del nuevo trabajo de Rashid Johnson, el 8 de mayo. En ella, Johnson combina desde
un punto de vista personal e histórico materiales de la tierra, como manteca de Karité y jabón
negro con otros objetos como pueden ser portadas de discos y libros en complejas instalaciones
que confunden la uniformidad de la identidad colectiva y la representación multicultural.
Partiendo de la pregunta, “Qué pasaría si Sun Ra, George Washington, Carver y Robert Smitth
crearan una comunidad juntos en el desierto?” New Growth’s juega entrelazando cosmología,
evasión e irrigación en una recontextualización de las líneas entre el pasado, presente y futuro
en el desierto de Marfa.

La manipulación física del biomaterial en una forma abstracta y estetizada es un concepto que
se manifiesta a través de las obras expuestas, con referencias a la constante transformación y
rehabilitación de los cuerpos, los paisajes y las identidades incrustadas en ellos. Esto se aprecia
de manera más dramática en la instalación al aire libre en la que se riega la arena bañada por el
sol del patio con manteca de karité: la terraformación de Arrakis funciona en miniatura aquí en
los pastizales del desierto del lejano West Texas.

En consonancia con los objetivos de Ballroom Marfa, New Growth, contará con un nuevo trabajo
comisariado que incluye el vídeo Samuel in Space y Shea Butter Irrigation System -ambos
producidos durante la estancia del artista en Marfa. Obras en cera, madera quemada, azulejos y
espejos así como sillas de metal, madera y alfombras completan la exposición.

Un programa de cine comisariado por Rashid Johnson, en colaboración con Josh Siegel,
comisario del MoMA, se proyectará a lo largo de la exposición. Este programa contará
con Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song (1971) de Melvin Van Peebles, Space in the Place (1974)
de John Coney y Sun Ra y The Brother From Another Planet (1884) de John Sayles
además de una noche de cortometrajes.

Para inaugurar New Growth, Ballroom Marfa será la sede de un fin de semana de festejos,
incluyendo una noche de apertura, el 8 de marzo de 6 a 8 pm. La recepción también cuenta con
la actuación de multi-instrumentista y leyenda de la música El’Zabar Kahil y saxofonista Hamiet
Bluiett, cuyos estilos musicales van desde el avant-garde al bebop. Inmediatamente después de
la recepción de apertura tendrá lugar una cena abierta al público en el Capri. Además, el sábado
9 de marzo a las 11:30 am el artista hará una visita guiada de la exposición.

Todos los eventos son gratis y abiertos al público.

New Growth, ha sido posible gracias al apoyo de la Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual

Arts; la National Endowment for the Arts: Brown Foundation, Inc., Houston; Texas Comission
on the Arts, Meyer Levy Charitable Foundation y Hauser & Wirth Gallery que generosamente
contribuyen como socios de Ballroom Marfa.

The Seen on New Growth

13 Mar 2013

The Seen, “Chicago’s International Art & Design Blog,” reviews Rashid Johnson’s New Growth

“… The extreme dry landscape led Rashid to create his largest sculpture to date, The Shea Butter Irrigation System, an altered irrigation system, like those found in agricultural fields. Heated by the sun, the large cubes of shea butter slowly drip onto the ground. Shea butter is a moisturizing emollient derived from a plant native to West Africa and it has become one of Rashid’s signature materials for its multivalent associations with his own life, Afrocentrism, and healing properties. As the shea butter drips onto the rocky, dry Texas earth, the work questions what will metaphorically grow, with the introduction of a foreign substance such as the shea butter. The immense scale and location of this work outdoors in the Ballroom Marfa courtyard veers Rashid into the territory of land art and earthworks akin to that of Richard Serra, Robert Smithson, and Robert Morris, opening up an entirely new dialogue around his work.”

Keep reading at The Seen.

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Alex Marks strikes again

11 Mar 2013



The Polaroid series continues, with Alex Marks‘s portraits of jazz legends Hamiet Bluiett and Kahil El’Zabar. TRULY THEY ARE LEGENDS. (Once we get the file, be sure to check out Dan’s and my cursory half-hour history of their music on Marfa Public Radio, which will make you a believer.)

Bluiett and El’Zabar were kind enough to make the 7+ hour trek to Marfa to play at the New Growth opening last Friday, which was electric, and quite emotional (for me) (which I still can’t articulate fully, but was tied to how the set reflected and inspired and informed Johnson’s work), and ended with a call-and-response (!), followed by Bluiett and El’Zabar leading everyone to the community dinner (a longer walk than we anticipated).

DOn Friday morning a man slept on the wet sidewalk, one shoe on, one shoe off.

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