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Mark Bloch on White Anxieties at White Box

Exhibition view. including "Izquierdazo" by Tania Candiani, "White House is Broken"  by Charlee Swanson, "Pence in Space (Space Force)" by Martha Rosler, "Fire From the Protest Series" by Bradley McCallum and "Post Hot Point" by Shahpour Pouyan. Courtesy of White Box.

White Anxieties

White Box

Curated by Raúl Zamudio and Juan Puntes

With Peter Wayne Lewis

September 21–October 13 , 2018

By MARK BLOCH, OCT. 2018

Those of you who never listened to vinyl probably don’t know or care that the normal speed for a long playing record on a turntable is 33 1/3 RPMs which means 33 1/3 revolutions per minute. In 1988, LPs, which stood for “long playing” records, were outsold by the CD which, 4 years later, in 1992, became the top-selling format, passing cassette tapes. Today LPs are enjoying a renaissance but now we just call them “vinyl.

One of the most memorable LP records of all times would have to be, pun possibly intended, The White Album, a two-record set by The Beatles, which officially was titled, The Beatles, but nobody, anywhere, ever called it that. Regardless, at a speed of 33 and 1/3 RPMs per minute, the needle goes around the record’s amazing 24 1/2 minute Side Four slightly more than 816 and 1/2 times. The side begins with the song, Revolution, (also known as Revolution #1, because there happen to be a few more versions. If you really wanted a revolution, you had to listen to Revolution #9, a little later on that same side 4 of The White Album.) But what’s important here is that this Revolution is a 4 minute and 16 second song and in that amount of time, the needle goes around the spinning disk 141.5 times.


Installation view. Work by Tania Canadian, Charlee Swanson, Martha Rosler, Jordan Eagles. Courtesy of White Box.

But what would happen if an artist in 2018 put a sticker right on the vinyl, causing the needle to continually jump, always at the same place?

Well, if the song is called “Revolution” he would have created a clever piece of conceptual art. This is precisely what Javier Tellez, a Venezuelan artist living and working in New York City did for the show White Anxieties, a mixed media extavaganza, an international group exhibit with a mission of taking the pulse of what it might be that is currently haunting the conservative, American psyche.

One thing I can tell you is that what is not haunting either you or the conservative, American psyche is the fact that CDs outsold vinyl in 1988. Or that vinyl is still making a comeback thirty years later. But come to think of it, white anxiety may have had some of its current origins in such topics. After all, Public Enemy, Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick and Eric B & Rakim were top “rap” artists at that time when hip hop was still flying below the radar, laying the foundation for what was to come, with the West Coast’s N.W.A. on the rise. If we only knew then what we know now. But you could say the same thing about the subterranean anxieties of 1968, the year The White Album came out (which had nothing to do with being white.)(And still two years before "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" appeared, a song by Gil Scott-Heron that had less to do with being white, or even black, than you'd think, but everything to do with power.) And you could say the same things about the anxieties of 1948 or 1848 for that matter.


Installation view. Work by Alicia Grullion, Sobel Uribe, Sol Sax. Courtesy of White Box.

Anxiety has never sat well with many of the white, heterosexual, and male set or at least the It Boy In Power set and who can blame them? Surely you might feel the same if you were the It Boy when suddenly the purported dominant culture and its traditions were being usurped. But it’s been a long transition of usurping old traditions. Other languages than English have long been spoken here (Think: Forever) and People of Color have long openly expressed their own cultural traditions as “real” Americans. So move over, white boy. Assume nobody is hating on you, we are just living in a different America than in the past and other historically marginalized communities are asserting their rights. Can’t we share? Can’t we all just get along? as Rodney King asked. In 1991, King was violently beaten by LAPD officers during his arrest for speeding. After the courtroom acquittals of the officers, sparked by outrage among African Americans over longstanding social issues, the 1992 Los Angeles Riots began.

But the accelerated social transformation of an America historically uncomfortable reflecting on at its race issues has been a cause for unease, if not alarm, for many of every creed and color. Barack Obama’s election as America’s first African-American president seems to have created a new reactive era of intolerance and exclusivity. Hence, the need for White Anxieties, a show at White Box.


Installation view. Work by Patrick Hamilton, Bradley Mc Callum, Shahpour Pouyan, Amy Stoker. Courtesy of White Box.

The curators, Raúl Zamudio, Juan Puntes and Peter Wayne Lewis have selected works by over 60 artists who collectively push back against xenophobia, a desire to “Make America Great Again,” the repulsive David Duke and his acolytes who now proudly run for political office supported by the general socio-political regression that seeks but fails to normalize a racial supremacist ideology. Despite good old fashioned American denial, the dismantling of Confederate monuments that memorialize hate will continue, Latinos/Hispanics will eventually become the largest demographic in the U.S. and the LGBTQ+ community will continue to assert that, yes, it was here all along. White Anxieties offers a diverse glimpse into a diverse and sometimes predictable country at war with itself.

Installation view. Work by Lorenso Pace. Courtesy of White Box.

Jean Pierre Muller is a Belgian Neo-pop artist with work upstairs near the front door but also in the basement. Both show police in riot gear printed on a thin white veil hanging over an image also on white of a KKK scene—ten men in hoods in black and white—then the same image on blood red.

Dr. Lorenzo Pace has a doctorate in art education from Illinois State University. His installation that the viewer sees upon entering includes "The Original Miss America", "Miss Black New York" and three or four other elements that together create a glitzy, sparkly shrine from ceiling to floor, complete with his own books that show Frederick Douglas and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King on the cover and a standard greeting from the Obama family wishing the viewer all the best. It all revolves around a central portrait of an African American male.

 

Installation view. Work by Lazaro Juan. Courtesy of White Box.

Lazaro Juan attended the Colegio de San Juan de Letran, a Domincan school in the Philipines. His installation, also quite vast, explores the various fates of people of color displayed in a wild montage. Everything from self generated cartoony drawings reminiscent of Richard Pettibone or Phillip Guston to a Patti Smith album cover intersect, creating an amusing 3D mural of visuals, slogans and aphorisms.

Tania Candiani’s work exists at the complex vortex of language systems —phonic, graphic, linguistic, and symbolic, Here, Everlast boxing gloves mysteriously  but expertly adorned with teeth punched in as well as perfect teeth hang from the ceiling above a sophisticatedly hideous still from a video "Pence in Space (Space Force)" by Martha Rosler of our well-behaved vice president behind a Presidential seal, waving multiple arms like Kali and with the new branch of the military coming in behind him.

Nearby is a Charlee Swanson, who works with glass and steel which he breaks or alters, creating fractures or rust. “When I break glass I destroy its intent and assign it a new identity,” Swanson has said, “I see this as a form of alchemy.” Here, one sees the slanted roof of a small white house built from cracked industrial windows with barbed wire protruding from the edges.

Installation view. "Everything Will Be OK" by Martin Durazo; "Agayu-Sola No.2015," Kinetic sculpture with industrial materials by Arnaldo Morales; "The Revolution Will Come In Every Direction" by Tomas Vu and Rirkrit Tiravanija; canvases by Pablo Helguera. Courtesy of White Box.

A wall of posters curated by Thomas Vu and Rirkrit Tiravanija contain among them the Unabomber, Julian Asange, Edward Snowden and Johnny Cash flipping the bird but not the current President who is thankfully missing. At the opening the artists painted “The revolution will come in every direction” at the left hand end of the wall. Nearby Javier Tellez’s aformentioned “Revolution” record makes it’s repetitive single revolution providing audio accompanyment.

Arnaldo Morales creates industrial-organic hybrids that he calls electro-objects or “electrobjetos.” In this case, Morales has created a machine that threatens to literally whip the viewer. A long, thin black whip-like extension is attached to a motor powered by compressed air. If the viewer stands behind a dotted line, they barely avoid being struck but if they cross the line and masochistically turn their back on the gizmo, they will receive a lash that definitely stings.

Elan Jurado an SVA grad and a New York-based performance artist proposes that the body is just another type of machine who shows a projection of himself being shot with white rubber paint bullets that make a red blood spot underneath.

 

Installation view. "International Body Repair Shop: In Memory of Vincent Jen Chin, 1955-1982" Interactive installation with car parts by Chin Chih Yang. Courtesy of White Box.

Chin Chih Yang created an installation for this show called "International Body Repair Shop: In Memory of Vincent Jen Chin, 1955-1982" made completely out of imported vehicles that visitors are invited to bash with baseball bats hanging from the ceiling.  The interactive piece is a tribute to a Chinese-American man, Chin, severely beaten with a bat in a Detroit suburb in June 1982 leading to his death four days later at the hands of a layed off auto worker and his step-father, the superintendent at the auto plant where all three were employed. Chin was discriminated against  at a time when car manufacturing was being exported to Japan, blamed for the economics behind it while mistaken for being the “wrong” kind of Asian. The lenient sentencing  of the two violent perpetrators who never went to jail created an outrage at the time.

One of the collectives who created work for the show, "WE WILL NOT BE SILENT" asks “Does America have a conscience?” and states, “Love is Amongst Us and “The Moral Fiber of this Country is Torn to Shreds.” Throughout the gallery, their familiar signs are almost comforting with their increasingly familiar repetitive themes of moral outrage. One, “White supremacy is terrorism” on the front door, resonates with the title of the exhibition.

Mexico City artist Pablo Helguera’s work states “All proceeds from the sale of this artwork will go to the Refugees International” or to “the National Hispanic Education Coalition.” A variety of these self-explanatory works adorn the space.

Installation view. Work by "WE WILL NOT BE SILENT", Braco Dimitrijevic, Bradley Mc Callum, Ferran Martin, Pablo HelgueraCourtesy of White Box.

Bradley Mc Callum’s "Nationalist - Slobodan Milošević” and "Cultural Terrorist - Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi” address trauma, struggle, and racial identity by painting almost glorifications of the Serbian mass murderer and of the attacker of ten religious and historical buildings in Mali, respectively, in glossy painted treatments in color and then in black and white—but reversed in negative.

Enrique Jezik’s Egyptian eye superimposed graphically on an automatic firearm reflects both his interest in the use of weapons and the manipulation of information by mass media in his work.

Chilean multi-media artist Julia san Martin’s juxtoposition of the NYC twin towers, on the left, and Augusto Pinochet attacking Salvador Allende’s “Presidential Palace” turned sideways, on the right, are a conversation between past and present. The 1973 Chilean coup d'état ordered by US President Richard Nixon unseated and killed the socialist Allende in favor of his appointed army chief, Pinochet, who eventually rose to power and was recognized by the United States. Both events are considered CIA inside jobs by some and both happened on September 11, 28 years apart. Two figures in a curious but mutual fellatio type mechanical relationship are painted over top of it.  

Installation view. Work by Renee Cox, "WE WILL NOT BE SILENT", Richard Humann, Bradley McCallum. Courtesy of White Box.

Renee Cox is an African-American artist using her own body, nude and clothed, to celebrate black womanhood and criticize a racist and sexist society by using new digital technologies. In "The Signing" Cox suggests or imagines…what if the U.S. Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta and other documents are the result of Africa giving philosophy to the Greeks via ancient scriptures. In her 15 x 7 foot photo, all black people, family and friends from The Bronx are shot in a mansion across from the Bronx Museum in period gear looking a bit like a postmodern Dutch Masters painting.

Paris68Redux is the collective alias for a paste up project, conceived by two UK artists; Dominic McGill and Michael Collins. The project aims to re-present the Paris Student Uprising of 1968 and use agit prop to further present day struggles. Social issues remain the same in “Fifty Years and Nothing Has Changed,” as a crouching man is turned into a meat chart with corporate logos accompanied by a video and bulletin board with other complex iconography.

Installation view. Eric Ramos Guerrero, Joseph Delappe, Paris 68 Redux, Courtesy of White Box.

Joseph deLappe, a professor of Games and Tactical Media at Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland offers a monotone chocolate chess board, a collision of Yoko Ono and Janine Antoni.

Iranian born Shahpour Pouyan’s paints objects of interest until he releases the feeling of anguish they create. In "Post Hot Point" the US Capitol dome has been turned into an Islamic architectural wonder by removing the familiar neoclassical design and carefully replacing it with Islamic elements.

Amy Stoker who grew up in South Georgia and does work with food to question what, how, and why we eat, shows a tall, stacked up pile of Lily White brand flour. 

Avelino Sala From northern Spain, a curator and editor, transforms the shields of Spanish riot police with colorful, painterly abstract interactions.

Federico Solmi has created a drawing of George Washington, Pope Francis and Christopher Columbus holding the world as well as a glass of wine and other props. Solmi investigates the contradictions and inaccuracies of historical narratives, scanning his paintings into a game engine to combine past and present-day events.

Installation view. Work by Avelino Sala, Joaquin Segura, Martin Durazo. Courtesy of White Box.

Finally, Alicia Grullon creates work that transforms how community and history are experienced, questioning power relations, identity and  issues of race, class, gender, and activism. In her video here, she works between reality and theatricality, the staged and the documented which gave me a unique perspective as a person who could have experienced white anxiety but instead felt very much at home, attuning my listening and viewing skills to what was being presented in this thought provoking show.

The exhibition’s icon was provided by Joaquin Segura, a copy of Obama’s first inaugural address bound but with a knife piercing it, a knife adorned with a confederate flag.

White Anxiety lives but so do single grooves of revolution that are but a small, reoccurring part of a larger whole. WM             

Mark Bloch


Mark Bloch is a writer, performer, videographer and multi-media artist living in Manhattan. In 1978, this native Ohioan founded the Post(al) Art Network a.k.a. PAN. NYU's Downtown Collection now houses an archive of many of Bloch's papers including a vast collection of mail art and related ephemera. For three decades Bloch has done performance art in the USA and internationally. In addition to his work as a writer and fine artist, he has also worked as a graphic designer for ABCNews.com, The New York Times, Rolling Stone and elsewhere. He can be reached at bloch.mark@gmail.com and PO Box 1500 NYC 10009.

 

 

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