Taking its title from the late 1970s bilingual sitcom of the same name, ¿Qué Pasa, USA? is a group exhibition of eleven national artists that considers a broad spectrum of experiences reflecting and responding, specifically through humor, absurdity, and joy, to what it means to be a citizen in this country today. In the ethos of culturally specific sitcoms, the artists in this exhibition challenge dominant narratives through lightheartedness and candor to highlight nuanced experiences of difference, and expand definitions of identity in relationship to our American citizenry. Informed by their lived experience in the U.S., each artist in the exhibition presents a different approach to addressing and deepening identity. Through abstracting and translating cultural symbols and materials they reflect on the “Other” in a society that values and privileges Whiteness above all. From video installation to site-specific fiber works, the exhibition weaves a range of narratives together to complicate our collective story.
Damali Abrams the Glitter Priestess (New York City) and Jacquelyn Carmen Guerrero (Chicago) create immersive spaces of celebration and healing influenced by Afro-Caribbean culture and mythology. Abrams constructs experiences of fantasy and myth, using video installation and performance, that explore Black Utopia through the lenses of Afrofuturism and Afro-Caribbean religions. Similarly, Guerrero studies and uncovers the complexities of Afro-Caribbean heritage and reclaims a space for queer bodies of color through ornate fiber installations and performance.
Melissa Leandro (Chicago), Victoria Martinez (Chicago), Carlos Ortiz-Gallo (Kansas City) dissect and piece together material culture and imagery from their respective Latinx cultures, such as candy wrappers, plastic table covers, and family photographs, to commemorate the histories and cultures that inform their identity. Leandro produces deconstructed narratives of hybridity by embedding cultural cues associated with nostalgia, family history, and tradition within experimental textile surfaces that use jacquard weaving, heat fusing, and embroidery. Harnessing the social role of craft, Martinez sews and weaves repurposed pattern-based textiles and found everyday materials from urban environments, discerning the undiscovered value of commonplace objects found in latinx communities and neighborhoods. Ortiz-Gallo translates family photographs and appropriated magazines images through a range of analog processes that result in collaged prints and installations, where he emphasizes the loss, separation, and nostalgia experienced as an immigrant in the U.S.
Dominique Carella (California), Maya Grace Misra (New York City), and Enzo Antonio Moscarella (New York City) use satire to identify and subvert the symbols and language that construct cultural identity. In her text-based installations, Carella points to absurd social constructions of gender, race, and ethnicity while calling attention to the daily microaggressions and oppressive language experienced by Women of Color. Misra transforms symbols and emblems of Western master narratives by merging imagery and language that evoke cynicism and humor using painting and sculpture. While Moscarella assembles icons and symbols from popular culture with visual and material representations associated with cultural identities, such as rice and beans, that examine stereotypes and cultural assumptions.
Silvia Beatriz Abisaab (Kansas City), Kayla Quan (San Francisco), and Michelle Lee Delgado (Philadelphia) interpret and share untold, or rather unheard, stories—whether their own or of those close to them—of individuals existing and surviving on the fringe. Using video performance, Abisaab investigates the visibility of mixed race individuals in post–9/11 America and challenges viewers to acknowledge the hostility and violence experienced by ethnically ambiguous People of Color due to societal standards of appearance. Derived from conversations with loved ones, mentors, and strangers, Quan captures human resiliency in the face of trauma through the lighthearted illustrations and facetious narration in her drawings, paintings, prints, and zines. Through photography, printed matter, and installation, Lee slowly excavates and examines complicated familial history through a feminist and intersectional lens, informed by her experience growing up as a bicultural person.
Informed by their lived experience, each artist in the exhibition presents a different approach to addressing and deepening identity. They use satire, humor, and joy as strategies for survival and self-preservation in a society where difference is at best a tolerable nuisance and at worst a condemnable offense. The exhibition catches every artist at a different moment of examination, and some of the younger artists, at critical moments of unlearning. ¿Qué Pasa, USA? expands on the notion that American identity today is based on plurality and through a critically conscious approach each artist presents work that broadens our definitions of that identity.
By Olivia Clanton
By Camile Messerley
By Drea DiCarlo
By Sam Stevens
By Camile Messerley
By Amy Hixson
By Natalie Spicker
By Mary Kuvet
By Issac Logsdon
Silvia Beatriz Abisaab investigates the visibility of mixed race individuals in post–9/11 America through documentary photography, video performance, and socially engaged projects. Abisaab challenges viewers to acknowledge the hostility and violence experienced by ethnically ambiguous People of Color due to societal standards of appearance based on whiteness, making space for critical exchange as well as compassion. In 2016, she received a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute where she studied photography and video and developed a passion for collaborative practices. Abisaab has exhibited at the H&R Block Artspace and is the Documentation Specialist at 50/50, an alternative contemporary art gallery in Kansas City.
Damali Abrams the Glitter Priestess constructs spaces and experiences of fantasy and myth, using video installation and performance, that explore Black Utopia through the lenses of Afrofuturism and Afro-Caribbean syncretic religions. She examines folklore and contemporary popular culture, placing them in dialogue with one another to create a site of liberation for the Black imaginary, rejecting tragedy as the sole, dominant narrative of the Black experience. Based in New York City, Abrams holds an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, as well as a BA from New York University. Her work has exhibited at The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art (New York), The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (New York), and BRIC Rotunda Gallery (New York), among others. Abrams was a 2015-2016 Whitney Museum Independent Studio Program participant as well as an Artist-in-Residence at the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Governors Island Process Space.
In her text-based installations, Dominique Carella points to absurd social constructions of gender, race, and ethnicity while calling attention to the daily microaggressions and oppressive language experienced by Women of Color. Her work ranges from using the language of advertisement to vernacular discourse and plays with tone through the text’s form, challenging viewers to consider their positionality within these constructs. Carella, a San Francisco native, is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, with a Bachelor’s degree in Visual Arts and Sociology. She recently exhibited work in Exotify Elsewhere, a group exhibition at Hands Down Gallery in San Francisco.
Michelle Lee Delgado enters psychological spaces and performs acts of imitation by slowly excavating and examining personal history. Delgado considers mimicry as a tool for discovery, a stepping stone towards understanding the incomprehensible. Through the forms of photography, text, replication, and reinvention, she explores empathy, disagreement, and critical evaluation through a feminist and intersectional lens, which is informed by her experience growing up as a bicultural individual. Based in Philadelphia, Delgado received her degree in Fine Art from Illinois State University and was a recipient of the Ellen Battell Stoeckel Fellowship for the Yale Summer School of Art and Music in 2012. Her work has exhibited in different venues across the U.S. including the Detroit Center for Contemporary Photography, McLean County Arts Center, FJORD, New Boon(e) and Bridgett Meyer Gallery and has been published in Capricious Magazine. She is an educator at the Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, where she teaches photography to high school students.
Jacquelyn Carmen Guerrero (aka CQQCHIFRUIT) studies and uncovers the complexities of Afro-Caribbean heritage through ornate installations and captivating performance that create a space for queer bodies of color. Her practice centers on (re)discovering and reclaiming the cultural, spiritual, and artistic legacy informed and inspired by her queer Afro-Cuba-Rican identity. Originally from Miami and based in Chicago, Guerrero is a DJ, musician, performer and visual artist, who received the Mark Aguhar Memorial Grant for Feminine-Spectrum Artists of Color in 2012. She is also an organizer of Chances Dances, a Chicago DJ/artist collective dedicated to building safer spaces for all gender identities, and a co-founder of TRQPITECA, a nightlife event in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago featuring artists working with queer and tropical aesthetics.
Melissa Leandro produces deconstructed narratives of hybridity by embedding cultural cues associated with nostalgia and tradition within experimental textile surfaces that use jacquard weaving, heat fusing, and embroidery. Collected through travel and family exchange, she captures the silhouette of everyday domestic objects, trinkets, and mementos and transforms them into abstract representations that mimic topographical spaces, systems of map-making and landmark images. Leandro is an MFA candidate in the Fiber & Material Studies department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she also received a BFA in 2012 and has participated in artist residencies including ACRE, Roger Brown House Residency, and TextielLab in The Netherlands. She has exhibited work at galleries across the country, including the Chicago Cultural Center, Efrain Lopez Gallery, the Chicago Artists Coalition, the Bridgeport Art Center, the Arts Incubator at the University of Chicago, and more.
Harnessing the social role of craft, Victoria Martinez sews and weaves repurposed pattern-based textiles and found everyday materials from urban environments, discerning the undiscovered value of commonplace objects found in latinx communities and neighborhoods. She creates new narratives that are responsive to site through interventions and installations that use screenprinting, painting, and collage. Martinez, based in Chicago, has exhibited at Northwestern University, Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago Cultural Center, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, and Chicago Artists Coalition. Upcoming projects include group exhibitions at Heaven Gallery and the Franklin in Chicago and a solo exhibition at Washington State University.
Maya Grace Misra transforms symbols and emblems of Western master narratives using painting and sculpture that merge imagery and language, evoking cynicism and humor. Influenced by the institutional critique of artists such as Adrian Piper and Andrea Fraser, as well as written works by Trinh T. Minh-ha and Howard Zinn, Misra examines the role of symbols in constructing cultural identity and analyzes their impact on assimilation and displacement in American culture. Misra earned a BFA in Studio Art from New York University in 2014 and continues to live and work in New York City.
Enzo Antonio Moscarella assembles icons and symbols from popular culture associated with cultural identities that examine stereotypes and cultural assumptions. Moscarella transforms everyday items such as rice, beans, and phone books, into material for large-scale, process-heavy installations and sculptures that juxtapose the boldness of his graphic style with the ephemerality of his materials. He received an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a BFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. In 2005, Moscarella co-founded Casualiving, an artist collective focused on collaborative exhibitions taking place in the apartment of its members as well as other nontraditional spaces. He is currently based in New York City.
Carlos Ortiz-Gallo, a Peruvian-born and American-raised individual, questions the boundaries and intersections of hybrid cultural identities and reexamines the role of family history, traditions, myth, and religion within the first-generation American experience. Ortiz-Gallo translates family photographs and appropriated magazine images through a range of analog processes that result in collaged prints and installations. The fragmentation and reinterpretation of contrasting images are reduced and flattened, emphasizing the loss, separation, and nostalgia experienced as an immigrant in the U.S. Ortiz-Gallo received a BFA in Printmaking and Art History at the Kansas City Art Institute and is currently a 2016–2017 resident at the Charlotte Street Foundation Studio Residency.
Kayla Quan, a Filipino and Chinese, third-generation American, captures human resiliency in the face of trauma through the lighthearted illustrations and facetious narration in her drawings, paintings, prints, and zines. Quan’s work combines word-play and text derived from conversations with loved ones, mentors, and strangers, as well as her own inner dialogue, with lighthearted illustrations that tackle feelings of discomfort and disempowerment. She transforms shame and humiliation by displacing her chosen subjects using absurdity and irony. Based in San Francisco, Quan received a BA in Community Studies and Art from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2016, 6:00 - 8:15 pm
Glitter Priestess Mad Tea Party | Damali Abrams the Glitter Priestess will lead a demonstration on making lavender honey for soothing anger and self-care. Visitors will learn about the properties of this herbal remedy and sip on lavender and oat straw tea.
Curatorial Remarks | Lynnette Miranda, 2016-2017 Curator in Residence
Madre Que Sangre | Jacquelyn Carmen Guerrero’s movement and sound-based performance reflects a narrative of creation, destruction, and rebirth through specific references to Taíno Indian myths, the processes of colonization-assimilation, and Afro-Caribbean spiritual practices.
In the beginning, the shape-shifting artist embodies a universal mother giving orgasmic birth and burying her eggs in the sands of a utopic beach rainbow beach, to the sound of waves splashing and angelic voices. They find a mirror and become enthralled in the reflection; by powdering their face and body white, they shift into a demonic entity: a "white devil."
The demon is parched and starving, emaciated; snakelike in their movements, they sniff out the nest, and begin to devour the eggs. Their pace becomes frantic as red juice begins to splash and drip from their mouth and body, and the demon begins to choke and cry, finally coming back to a sense of human awareness. Using an urn of water that has been enriched with herbs, the entity cleans itself, shedding its layers. The artist shifts into the present and will invite the audience to join in a call-and-response based musical experience using acoustic instruments and music.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2016, 9:00 - 12:00 am
¿Qué Pasa, After Hours? @ The Drugstore | Organized by Madeline Gallucci, ¿Qué Pasa, After Hours? was a collaborative late-night-event in tandem with the opening reception of ¿Qué Pasa, USA? hosted at the Drugstore Studios in Kansas City, MO. Constructed living room scenes paired with a dance floor, allowed space for attendees and visiting artists to connect post-exhibition. DJs included DMT and DJ Fat Sal from Kansas City and CQQCHIFRUIT from Chicago, IL. VHS tapes generously donated by Cry Now Video Rental. Visuals and decorations by the installation artist BOIBOY.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 3, 2016, 2:00 - 5:00 pm
GATHERING • POC Arts Alliance, Meeting #1 | An ongoing monthly for self-identifying POCs working in creative fields to address critical issues at the intersection of art and social change, share resources, support one another, and grow community together.
LISTENING / ROUNDTABLE • Survival Beats: Experimental Narratives within Music, Poetry, and Craft | There are narratives and histories embedded in music, poetry, and visual art that create a space for storytelling that is not simply about expression but about resilience and survival. Join us for an open-format conversation and record listening around the collective, yet unseen underground spaces for marginalized voices established through the experimental lineage of sound, word, and image. Led by Pat Alexander, Nedra Bonds, and Jose Faus. Facilitated by Lynnette Miranda.
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 10, 2016, 3:00 - 4:30 pm
ROUNDTABLE • Visibility / Invisibility: Issues Around Representation | The culturally-specific sitcom uses lightheartedness and humor to subvert the contentious issues of its time, but it can also reinforce the same assumptions and stereotypes it’s pushing against. Participate in a dialogue about the representation of “The Other” in media and popular culture. We will sample clips from culturally-specific sitcoms of the 1960s thru today, and consider the importance and problematics of representation. Led by Lynnette Miranda and Silvia Beatriz Abisaab.
SATURDAY, JANUARY 7, 2017, 2:00 - 5:00 pm
GATHERING • POC Arts Alliance, Meeting #2 | An ongoing monthly for self-identifying POCs working in creative fields to address critical issues at the intersection of art and social change, share resources, support one another, and grow community together.
CLOSING POTLUCK + ROUNDTABLE • On Place and Belonging | Join us for the closing of ¿Qué Pasa, USA? We will host a potluck lunch along with an informal roundtable on place, shifting communities, immigration, and belonging. Artist Rodolfo Marron III will share his family history and experience as a resident of the Westside (Kansas City), where he was born and raised, reclaiming this currently gentrifying neighborhood that informs his identity and artistic practice. Born in Lima, Peru and raised in Miami, Florida, ¿Qué Pasa, USA? artist Carlos Ortiz-Gallo will discuss the immigrant experience, its impact on his art making, and his process of translating personal narratives into nuanced accounts of collective displacement. Led by Rodolfo Marron III and Carlos Ortiz-Gallo. Facilitated by Lynnette Miranda.