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Artist and writer James Hannaham puts the sign in meaning

By on February 16, 2021 0

Over the past four years, America has had a good look at its cracked mirror: The President of the United States has called white supremacists “good people” who should “steer clear”, just in case. (insert ethnic insult / demeaning political characterization / genre insult here) attempted to rob the country.

In addition it changes. In his exhibition “Jim Crow Hell No”, James Hannaham looks back at a time when billboards across the country blatantly enforced segregation in water fountains, bathrooms, lunch counters, schools, neighborhoods. and elsewhere in the American dream. While Trump has occasionally used coded (albeit coarse) language – the ‘Wuhan virus’, ‘shitty countries’ – even him (though those ‘even him’ goalposts are always on the move, in what concerns POTUS 45) has never put “Whites only”. ”On any White House bathroom door.

As the Hannaham show’s press release points out, at the time, black activists organized “funerals” for Jim Crow and hoisted signs denouncing racism at protest rallies. But it was not the permanent signs of wood, metal, or neon that sharply divided the races. Hannaham knows the words well, having written for many publications (including the Voice of the village) and won a PEN / Faulkner Prize for his novel Delicious food. But he also understands that words can merge into powerful images and that a sign can mean more than the sum of its text.

An overturned urinal titled “Colored Fountain” (2021) may at first glance seem more offensive than a “Whites Only” sign from the last century. But anyone who has traveled the history of art 101 knows that Hannaham sends a centerpiece of modernism, the work of Marcel Duchamp. Fountain – a game changer as to what might be considered “fine art” in 1917. Hannaham’s incarnation in 2021 indicates a shift in cultural power, for, as the press release notes, at the time of Jim Crow, such a “snark would almost certainly prove fatal.” “

Hannaham’s art, like her writing, is full of humor. I challenge anyone not to laugh – okay, in fact there are about 74 million people in the United States who might not laugh – at their enamel on an aluminum plaque asking them, “Did you? already kissed our black asses? Try it out today! “

Like the German painter Anselm Kiefer, whose massive canvases of crumbling Nazi architecture attempt to grapple with his country’s vicious past, Hannaham uses all kinds of materials – charcoal, wood, oil, milk paint, fire. , paste wax, gold leaf, found objects, dirt – to evoke an ugly and abraded history.

Only this time, the righteous have the last word. ??

What: Jim Crow Hell No
When: February 18 to April 1, 2021
Vernissage: Thursday February 18 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Where: Open Source Gallery
306 17th Street, Brooklyn