Monument is an exhibition that explores the various ways artists reference literal and metaphorical monuments within their practice. The show, which features works from the galleries at Minnesota Street Project—with additional works from San Francisco’s Catharine Clark Gallery, Guerrero Gallery, and Creativity Explored—is installed in the Project’s atrium and can also be viewed online at Minnesota Street Project Adjacent.
The show takes inspiration from Elizabeth Bishop’s poem “The Monument,” in which the narrator, in conversation, describes a specific but unseen monument in detail, noting the shambolic, temporal nature of its construction, while revealing its aspirational qualities in more anthropomorphic terms.
The monument’s an object, yet these decorations,
carelessly nailed, looking like nothing at all,
give it away as having life, and wishing;
Wanting to be a monument, to cherish something.
Bishop’s poem inspired the galleries to consider the notion of a monument more abstractly, and how works of art and metaphorical concepts of monuments are interconnected. Their responses yielded works that draw ingenious and often irreverent references to traditional—and often problematic—notions of monument, as well as works that consider the structure of a monument using imaginary terms to examine formal possibilities.
On the entrance wall of the exhibition is Lava Thomas’s “Freedom Song #2,” an installation of pyrographic calligraphy on tambourines with leather, grosgrain ribbon, and mirrored acrylic surfaces (courtesy of Rena Bransten Gallery). The wall opposite highlights the work of Creativity Explored artists Evelyn Reyes, Daniel Li, James Miles, John Patrick McKenzie, Hung Kei Shu, and Roland Record, installed so they overlay a site-specific painting by the artist Alicia McCarthy. James Shefik (represented by Jack Fischer Gallery) leverages playful humor—via an oversize “push puppet” sculpture of a toppled Robert E. Lee—to confront the enduring socio-political harm wrought by romantic confederate mythology, and Bovey Lee’s “Power Plant – The Butterfly Dream,” a large cut-out piece on Chinese rice paper, highlights the delicate tension between harnessed energy and the environment (courtesy of Rena Bransten Gallery).
Also included on the ground floor of the atrium are “Rune XXXVI,” a glazed ceramic architectural sculpture by Nick Makanna (courtesy of Guerrero Gallery); Joan Wulf’s “Drift,” made from carbon soot on paper (courtesy of Themes + Projects); “Surfaces: Gibi,” a unique mixed-media collage piece by Vik Muniz (courtesy of Rena Bransten Gallery); a pair of photographic prints by MacArthur Fellow Dawoud Bey (courtesy of Rena Bransten Gallery), and a series of photographic compositions from Aida Muluneh’s Memory of Hope series (courtesy of Jenkins Johnson Gallery).
Lining the second-floor walls of the atrium, Catharine Clark Gallery has provided a survey of drawings and gravures from the artist Sandow Birk’s acclaimed series “Imaginary Monuments,” depicting historical texts contextualized within proposed monuments, and conveying through words and images the complex and often fraught histories behind our most basic social contracts and the disparities between intent (justice, capitalism, trade, good governance) and reality (incarceration, slavery, inequality).
Catharine Clark Gallery has also lent “Oval O,” a collaborative video by Deborah Oropallo and Andy Rappaport that will be on view in the first-floor media gallery. The video features the American presidents of Oropallo’s lifetime posing with the Frederic Remington sculpture of a bucking horse that has been a constant presence in the Oval Office since the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. Oropallo has layered hundreds of found images into a montage that reflects the difficulty of consuming and reflecting on visual information in a time when geopolitical events and crises occur with astonishing frequency, with Rappaport’s complex sound design of original compositions, found sounds, and adapted versions of popular songs providing a critical analogue that is both familiar and unsettling.
Artists included in Monument: Zarhouie Abdalian, Wesaam Al-Badry, Judd Bergeron, Dawoud Bey, Sandow Birk, T.J. Dedeaux-Norris, Jacob Hashimoto, Mildred Howard, Bovey Lee, Daniel Li, Nick Makanna, Alicia McCarthy, John Patrick McKenzie, James Miles, Aida Muluneh, Vik Muniz, Deborah Oropallo and Andy Rappaport, Gay Outlaw, Roland Record, Evelyn Reyes, Hung Kei Shu, James Shefik, Lava Thomas, and Zio Ziegler
Exhibition Dates: October 28 – December 12, 2020
Minnesota Street Project
San Francisco, CA