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Because We Are

Submitted by admin on June 20, 2010 – 7:39 pmNo Comment

Leon casino, The art exhibit Because We Are demands attention as an important series of installations focused on gender issues, gay marriage, sexuality and AIDS. The art of ten artists, each of whose work could stand alone on its own merit, makes Because We Are memorable as each artist makes an unforgettable impact.

Because We Are will be on display at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art (www.stationmuseum.com) until September 19, 2010. Located at 1502 Alabama (at LaBranch) the museum looks inconspicuous in that stretch of Alabama mostly occupied by sparse apartments and office buildings on its way to the Hwy 288 underpass. But you know you’ve arrived someplace special if only due to the small airplane and vacant old gas station across the street, itself a self-contained installation.

From the moment you walk into the room containing a giant towering figure made entirely of different AIDS medicine bottles and surrounded by needles, all revolving and suspended by wires, you feel the specter of horror that surrounds the subject of disease. Medicine Man by Daniel Goldstein provides one of many stunning moments from this show. Another room contains portrait-sized photographs of transgender people, shot, mounted and with commentary by Arthur Robinson Williams. Williams is one of two medical doctors whose work is part of this exhibit. Adjoining this room is another room of photos, by Zanele Muholi, that conjures images of erotica with a kind of social observation that could only be the synthesis of an artist influenced by events in post-apartheid South Africa.

Walking past Muholi’s photos you enter a room inscribed with the poetry of Stacyann Chin. One sentence declares “Christ was a Middle Eastern Rastaman.”

Next door to this a multi-media installation by New York artist Conrad Ventur fractures the image of Nina Simone with a spinning crystal in front of a video projector lens. You’re immersed in a web of kaleidoscope images, enforced by the treble heavy music through the projector’s small speaker. “I am looking for a feeling of sincerity,” Ventur says about his project. “There’s enough irony in the world.”

One artist has his art both in a room and in the bathroom. Eric Avery’s “Male and Female Condom Wall Paper” adorns the men’s restroom. Avery points out that this is the same design that caused an outrage when it was part of the wall decoration in a restroom at coffee house Brasil (and a parent complained in 1997). Avery’s room contains a group of paintings that depict victims of sexual and institutional abuse. In black against white the images are framed by separate images that tell stories in fragments. The horrors etched in the subject’s faces are reminiscent of the internal terror of Munch’s The Scream. Avery created these paintings by carving the image on plywood and then embossing them on thin paper. Individually they each create a distinct impression and grouped together they conjure thoughts that won’t be easily forgotten.

Patricia Cronin remarks that her marble sculpting Memorial To A Marriage is surrounded by a series of her erotic watercolors for the first time. Certainly the juxtaposition of the several ton carved marble on the floor is honored by the images that adorn the surrounding walls. Cronin describes the three-year process of sculpting MTAM. Using grant money, Cronin bought a 25-ton block of Carrara marble from a quarry in Italy, shipped it to her studio in New York and starting with miniatures made of clay evolved the models of two sleeping women into a life size statue. Cronin notes that the quarry is the same place that Michelangelo obtained his marble. “It’s meant for the viewer to walk around and observe the figures in 360-degrees,” notes Cronin.

As moving as anything I’ve seen are a group of posters that were inspired by the shotgun art of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Brian Kenny found an outlet that sold 1970s-era posters, used as target practice by police agencies, and drawing on them, and framing them with thick automobile windshield type glass, Kenny fired a pistol point blank through the bulls-eye in the middle. Hung as a group, Kenny’s collective imagery at once overwhelms your senses even while toying with perceptions of self-protection and violence in modern culture. Alongside these surreal targets on the far wall are erotic male photos framed against a background of newspaper clipping depicting economic charts (from the New York Times or Wall Street Journal) by expatriate Russian photographer and activist Slava Mogutin. Mogutin explains that he’s the first Russian gay dissident who was allowed political amnesty in the United States because of sexual persecution (in 1995). Mogutin’s books of erotic photography Lost Boys and NYC Go-Go are prime examples of gay erotica.

Because We Are also features art by James Morrison and David Wojnarowicz. Because We Are is a must see show, and for art aficionados a must see twice experience.

- Michael Bergeron

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