Curated by Sarah Fritchey with Titus Kaphar & Leland Moore
This exhibition brings together a group of artists who seek to uncover the often-overlooked patterns of racial disparity in the U.S. Criminal Justice system. The urgent need to explore indicators of intentional and unintentional discrimination arises in the aftermath of the Ferguson verdict, the Baltimore riots, the killings of Eric Garner and William K. Scott, and the Charleston Church Shooting. These events have produced collective frustration around the question of whether every citizen is protected equally under the law, and have lead to a call for a more transparent dialogue between citizens, law enforcement agents and policy makers.
The selected artworks use serial repetition as a strategy for showcasing how one action, repeated over time, may accumulate, spread or evolve into another version of its original self. The show situates repetition as an aesthetic arena within which artists can show difference within a shared experience, or pursue its opposite, replicating an image in perpetuity until it is emptied of meaning. Read through this critical lens, the works produce a variety of effects—pacifying, enraging, seducing, neutralizing and leaving the viewer on inconclusive ground. The show focuses on repetition and replication in order to recognize how a system might evolve into a new version of itself over time.
Artspace is working with New Haven-based painter Titus Kaphar to develop the historical, curatorial and educational portions of this exhibition. Visitors will encounter a timeline of the history of racial violence in America that begins in the 1700s and focuses on events that took place in New Haven. Kaphar's series of chalk on blackboard drawings from The Jerome Project sparked the idea for the numbers-driven framework of the show. This project started when a search for his father in the U.S. prison system turned up 99 incarcerated African-American men with the same first and last name. Those Federal Registry images put in stark relief the racial bias in our judicial system, giving visual form to the notion that the sentencing policies over the past 40 years have transformed the nation's prison system into a modern equivalent of Jim Crow. In an attempt to make sense of these images, he painted each of the mug shots in the Byzantine icon style of Saint Jerome. The works in Arresting Patterns similarly demonstrate how artworks might act as surrogates for standard data visualization charts and graphs.
A companion exhibition displays the work of local high school students who collaborated with Kaphar and the Collective Consciousness Theater to create new work inspired by The Jerome Project. The exhibition includes a reading room with texts, essays and archival clippings on the impact of the criminal stereotype on prisoners, their families and entire communities. A related two-day conference at the Yale University Art Gallery takes place Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, September 13, 2015. Support is provided by the Surdna Foundation's new Artists Engaging in Social Change initiative, the Seymour Lustman Fund, JANA and Andy Warhol Foundations, Friends of Artspace, and other generous funders listed below.
Artists include: Jamal Cyrus, Maria Gaspar, Titus Kaphar, Iyaba Ibo Mandingo, Adrian Piper, Laurie Jo Reynolds, Dread Scott and Andy Warhol.
For thirty years, Artspace has championed the ideas and artistic concerns of local artists and created space for exhibitions on some of the most urgent issues of our time. These topics have spanned the AIDS Crisis (with the group exhibition Interrupted Lives, in 1991), the War on Terror (Between Fear and Freedom, 2002), Immigration (Mythical Nation, 2003), Globalization and the loss of manufacturing jobs in Connecticut, (Factory Direct, 2005), Climate Change (Futurecast, 2012) and, in 2015, racial bias in the Criminal Justice system.