Lynnette Miranda

Sensible Disobedience

March 10 – April 22, 2018 | La Esquina | KANSAS CITY, MO

ARTISTS: Lyndon Barrois Jr. (St. Louis), Brandon Forrest Frederick (Kansas City), Christopher K. Ho (New York), Alex Savage (Kansas City), Oli Watt (Chicago), and Jordan Weber (Des Moines).

Curated by Lynnette Miranda

Exhibition Map + Titles

 

In 1982, James Q. Wilson and George Kelling published an article titled “Broken Windows: The police and neighborhood safety” in The Atlantic Monthly that posits the urban city’s biggest problem is disorder in public spaces [1], asserting that the abandonment of property in public spaces leads to public disorder, such as begging, drunkeness, prostitution, and so forth. Furthermore, the Broken Windows Theory claims that this behavior leads to fear, then the destruction of communities, and eventually crime. Wilson and Kelling write:

“ Untended property becomes fair game for people out for fun or plunder and even for people who ordinarily would not dream of doing such things and who probably consider themselves law-abiding […] But vandalism can occur anywhere once communal barriers—the sense of mutual regard and the obligations of civility—are lowered by actions that seem to signal that “no one cares.

We suggest that “untended” behavior also leads to the breakdown of community controls. A stable neighborhood of families who care for their homes, mind each other’s children, and confidently frown on unwanted intruders can change, in a few years or even a few months, to an inhospitable and frightening jungle. A piece of property is abandoned, weeds grow up, a window is smashed. Adults stop scolding rowdy children; the children, emboldened, become more rowdy. Families move out, unattached adults move in. Teenagers gather in front of the corner store. The merchant asks them to move; they refuse. Fights occur. Litter accumulates. People start drinking in front of the grocery; in time, an inebriate slumps to the sidewalk and is allowed to sleep it off. Pedestrians are approached by panhandlers.” [2]

The Broken Windows Theory was adopted, along with the term “quality of life,” in 1993 by former Mayor of New York Rudy Giuliani and his administration [3] to enforce authoritarian policing style in poor neighborhoods, particularly in communities of color.

* * *

Text exchange with curator Anthony D. Stepter about Broken Windows theory.

Text exchange with curator Anthony D. Stepter about Broken Windows theory.

Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4G7TTDEHl5o

Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4G7TTDEHl5o

After two pivotal studio visits with artists Brandon Forrest Frederick and Alex Savage, I began researching for Sensible Disobedience: Disrupting Cultural Signifiers in a Neoliberal Age with the Broken Windows Theory in mind. In my visit with Frederick and Savage, who are both included the exhibition, we discussed the inundation of images and objects in daily life and the manner in which individuals either absorb them without question—marketing, news, entertainment—or tune them out without consideration—an unregarded buildinga functional object, or even a piece of trash. Our conversations led to critical dialogues around the insidious nature of capitalism and the impact of images (and other forms of representation) on our worldview, bringing me back to the Broken Windows Theory. The theory incorrectly reinforces the idea that the disenfranchisement of poor communities is the fault of its individuals, rather than of its government and broader systemic issues in education, housing, healthcare, and so on. It is a theory and practice based on an image and a preconceived notion that broken windows in (poor) neighborhoods signify “fear” and “danger.”

Today’s social and political climate is focused on perception, of each other and of ourselves. From political correctness to “telling it like it is,” individuals build their sense of identity based on signs and signifiers that are ultimately poured into our everyday by corporations and other systems of authority and power. The appropriation and co-optation works both ways: the liberal safety-pin as a sign of being an “ally” and the slogan “Make American Great Again” as a sign of nationalism. In reality, none of these objects, words, or images do anything tangible, but their actual meaning lies in how they are subjectively instrumentalized by people to affirm their identity.

Sensible Disobedience considers the way images, words, symbols, and signs—forms of representation—inundate public and private spaces and shape personal experience in the age of neoliberal capitalism. More specifically, the exhibition investigates semiotics, the study of how meaning is created and communicated through signs and symbols, and the politics of representation in contemporary society. It invites audiences to look critically at the images and objects that surround us and to identify the systems of influence and power. Through interdisciplinary practices, the artists in Sensible Disobedience consider what is represented in contemporary media and how cultural assumptions inform the navigation of a world heavily mediated by the screen.

The works of Lyndon Barrois Jr., Brandon Forrest Frederick, Christopher K. Ho, Alex Savage, Oli Watt, and Jordan Weber examine the relational and social role of representation through subtle modes of interruption and disruption. Responding to the inescapable amount of images to enter the collective consciousness, the artists present analytical and formal works that shift the viewer’s experience of an image, while finding the humor, futility, and urgency in the human condition. Alex Savage’s profound knowledge of mainstream and obscure comics and cartoons along with his astute understanding of politics and power, result in works that reveal the humor, sometimes dark, and futility in everyday living. He simplifies, edits, and fuses information to produce minimal recreations and absurd assemblages through intuitive line-drawing, loose painting, farcical tweets, and satirical writing and performance. In RABBIT SEASON / DUCK SEASON (2017), referencing a bit from Looney Tunes, viewers are encouraged to take a sheet from an alternating stack of screen prints on the wall, which are inscribed with the phrase “rabbit season” or “duck season.” Savage points at the absurdity of our current partisan government, acknowledging the role of the citizen, and ultimately asking: what is the real danger looming?

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Oli Watt’s interventionist works question the validity and authority of the invisible systems that surround us through displacing the form and function of commonplace objects found in urban and suburban spaces. Watt creates slightly absurd knockoffs of familiar objects—such as traffic barricades, business cards, and a college degree—through printed media and examines the impersonal ways people interact with the unnoticed, and by shifting the scale, manipulating the material, and altering the functionality of his source objects.

In his installation projects like Dear Prudence (2001) and Pennants (2017), Watt expands beyond replicating the familiar and instead uses multiples to interrupt space and perception. He makes the implicit barrier between the viewer and the institution explicit in Dear Prudence, an installation where hundreds of miniature barricades line the gallery perimeter. The tiny striped orange barriers facetiously and impractically control potential foot traffic while signifying the inherent hierarchies within institutional public and private spaces. The artist’s newest installation Pennants features a collection of screen-printed felt pennants inscribed with various synonyms to the word “Loser,” responding to the “winner versus loser” rhetoric propagated by the current President of the United States while reclaiming the importance of underdog in society. In both works, Watt offers a lighthearted space where he infuses confusion and humor into the mundane at the same time undermining power and challenging notions of progress.

For Brandon Forrest Frederick, photography is a mode of consciousness that promotes democratic ideas and processes around information sharing and accessibility. Every project begins from the perspective of making an image, whether or not its final embodiment is a photograph, and eventually results in a moment that slows down the viewer into a contemplative and reflective state. Frederick’s piece With Castles and clothing and food / for all / All belongs to you (2016–17) allows the viewer to connect with the mundane universal narrative around people’s relationships with everyday objects, highlighting the futility of living within a capitalist structure. He pinpoints the overlooked objects and images that surround people—the text on bottom of a tray, a pizza box logo, or the debris on the street—and reinterprets them into photographs, videos, and sculptures that offer viewers an optimistically critical perspective.

Similarly, Lyndon Barrois Jr. investigates the formal, conceptual, and social aspects of making images, prioritizing nuanced representations of marginal identities through printed works, installations, and video. Barrois Jr. complicates the lineage of Western art history in search of a black formalism, a space where artists of color can access a psychological and technical freedom from traditional European discourse. In To Paint Oneself with No Mirror (2017) and Neuland, Neuform (2017) from his series Stereotypography, Barrois Jr. reframes found anthropological imagery from Africa [4] with printer diagnostic test results and the Neuland font, a font problematically associated as primitivist and most known for its use in the film Jurassic Park and on American Spirits packaging. The Stereotypography series constructs new narratives that question the relationship between reality and its representation—a space where Barrois centers an African American perspective on aesthetics and asks “How can matter be doubly conscious?”

Approaching representation from a relational perspective, Jordan Weber challenges the capitalist constructs around sentient bodies and resource-laden lands, often focusing on places where bodies of color are contested such as Ferguson, Missouri, the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, and Palestine. Weber conflates objects with social histories related to the body of color, like the police car or the Home Depot bucket, and composes sustainable structures in the form of installation that propose utopian possibilities for People of Color. In Cherokee White Eagle, DONK (2017), his latest installation, Weber transforms the iconic Chevy El Camino Donk into a temporary greenhouse that contains Cherokee White Eagle corn potted inside of orange Home Depot buckets. The branded buckets represent the narrative of black and latino men desperately seeking work inside the corporation’s parking lots across the country. In this way, he links back to the historic relationship black, brown, and indigenous communities have with nature, land, and labor, which is recurrently erased by the dominant culture.

Like Weber who identifies oppressive structures of control, Christopher K. Ho dissects and examines the hidden social forces that implicate contemporary art within capitalist society and underlines its complacency. Ho’s focus on process, transparency, and care counters reactionary politically oriented art and offers avenues for understanding the interconnectedness of power, individualism, and privilege. Informed by identity politics of the 1990s, Ho links Western art history, the social conditions surrounding artists from affluent backgrounds, and the values from Chinese culture and Confucianism as a starting point for dismantling the mechanisms of contemporary art. These values drawn from Chinese culture—such as discipline, commitment, sacrifice, and pragmatism—are fundamental to Ho’s investigations toward new interpretations of engaged or critical art. In his latest video installation The Syllabus (2017), Ho asks “Can growing up revitalize engaged art by recasting radical art as responsible art? If so, responsible to what, and to what end?” By posing this question, Ho shifts art from its comfortable place at the periphery where the stakes are lower, asking us to consider the responsibility of art at the forefront.

Sensible Disobedience offers a reflexive space that acknowledges the power of images and narrative, especially within public perception, and reimagines the role of contemporary art in challenging the systems of control that affect society. With the recent surge of protests, activism, and organizing in the mainstream, the exhibition urges audiences to consider the meaning of terms like “disobedience” and “resistance” through a critical lens and asks viewers to define how we resist and defy on a daily basis. How do we begin to see the world in its true form? In what ways are we complicit? What is our individual and collective responsibility? How do we practice sensible disobedience? 

ESSAYS…


PROGRAMS…

THURSDAY, MARCH 23, 2017, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm

Always Support the Bottom with Brandon Forrest Frederick | Make a collaborative Rube Goldberg machine with Brandon Forrest Frederick. Join a discussion about trickling down, and learn about his interdisciplinary practice as an artist, educator, and organizer. 

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SATURDAY, APRIL 8, 2017, 3:00 pm – 5:00 pm

What's Good? with Alex Savage | Come celebrate the five year anniversary of What's Good? – a late night talk show in the mid-afternoon hosted by Alex Savage featuring many special guests.

SPECIAL GUESTS: Juila Haile, Brandon Forrest Frederick, Desirée Monique, and Clam Simmons from the Clam Simmons Audiobook Podcast. With tunes by Natural Man and the Plastic Wrap Band.

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[1] It is important to note that the authors were specifically writing about the Bronx, serving as an example of urban decay in the 1980s.

[2] James Q. Wilson and George Kelling, “Broken Windows: The Policy and Neighborhood Safety” in The Atlantic Monthly,March 1982: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1982/03/broken-windows/304465/

[3] Rosalyn Deutsche, “The Threshole of Democracy,” in Urban Mythologies: The Bronx Represented Since the 1960s (New York: The Bronx Museum of Art, 1999)

[4] Nyangatom people from the Omo Valley tribe in Africa.

 

ABOUT THE ARTISTS…

Lyndon Barrois Jr. (b. 1983) complicates the lineage of Western art history in search of a black formalism, a space where artists of color can access a psychological and technical freedom from traditional European discourse.

Barrois Jr. investigates the formal, conceptual, and social aspects of making images, prioritizing nuanced representations of marginal identities through printed works, installations, and video. He constructs new narratives altering reproductions, reframing found imagery—both anthropological and from popular culture—and intentionally pairing miscellaneous objects and images together. His works abstract the idea of the image through processes of transference, duplication, and editing, and by presenting the multiple parts that make up a whole image, Barrois Jr. challenges the conventional ways viewers associate. His installations claim a physical and intellectual space that questions the relationship between reality and its representation, where Barrois centers an African American perspective on aesthetics and asks “How can matter be doubly conscious?”

Barrois Jr. has exhibited nationally including solo exhibitions at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, the University of Illinois Springfield Visual Arts Gallery, Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts (St. Louis), and group exhibitions at the Chicago Artist Coalition (Chicago) and Blackburn 20/20 Gallery (New York), to name a few. He received an MFA from the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Art at Washington University in St. Louis. Barrois Jr. was a teaching artist at the Stony Island Arts Bank in Chicago and a faculty member at Washington University and Webster University. He is currently the Museum Educator at Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. 


Brandon Forrest Frederick (b. 1988) pinpoints the overlooked objects and images that surround people—the text on bottom of a tray, a pizza box logo, or debris on the street—and reinterprets them into photographs, videos, and sculptures that offer viewers a new way of seeing: optimistically critical.

For Frederick, photography is a mode of consciousness that promotes democratic ideas and processes around artmaking, information sharing, and accessibility. Every project begins from the perspective of making an image, whether or not its final embodiment is a photograph, and eventually results in a moment that slows down the viewer into a contemplative and reflective state. Frederick suspends conventional perception and presents poetic and humorous moments in the world through manipulating time, scale, light, and material. His works allow the viewer to connect with themselves and each other by focusing on a mundane universal narrative around people’s relationship with everyday objects, but ultimately they highlight the futility of surviving within a capitalist structure.

Frederick is the Co-founder of Archive Collective, a regional fine arts photography collective that celebrates and contributes to the democracy, versatility, and ever evolving critical discourse of photography and related media. He received a BFA in Photography and Digital Filmmaking from the Kansas City Art Institute, and currently works as the Program Supervisor and Community Arts Specialist at Imagine That!, an innovative non-profit art studio for adults with developmental disabilities.


Christopher K. Ho (b. 1974) dissects and examines the hidden social forces that implicate contemporary art within capitalist society, moving beyond institutional critique and calling artists, curators, and scholars to action.

Ho carefully analyzes the trends and movements within art and connects them to politics, social history, economics, and popular culture through site-specific artworks, new media, and writing that reveal the complacency perpetuated by the art world. Instead, he proposes a focus on contemporaneity in art, where it takes an active stance on the realities and issues of the present time. Ho’s focus on process, transparency, and care counters reactionary politically oriented art and offers avenues for understanding the interconnectedness of power, individualism, and privilege.

Informed by identity politics of the 1990s, Ho links Western art history, social conditions surrounding artists from affluent backgrounds, and values from Chinese culture and Confucianism as a starting point for dismantling the mechanisms of contemporary art. These values drawn from Chinese culture—such as discipline, commitment, sacrifice, and pragmatism—are fundamental to Ho’s investigations toward new interpretations of engaged or critical art. In his latest video installation The Syllabus (2017)Ho asks “Can growing up revitalize engaged art by recasting radical art as responsible art? If so, responsible to what, and to what end?” By posing this question, Ho shifts art from its comfortable place at the periphery where the stakes are lower, asking us to consider the responsibility of art at the forefront.

Ho has exhibited nationally and internationally including several solo exhibitions venues including Y Gallery (New York), Forever & Today (New York), Winkleman Gallery (New York), FJORD, (Philadelphia); and Galeria EDS (Mexico City). He participated in the Incheon Biennial, the Chinese Biennial Beijing, and the Busan Biennale, and produced site-specific pieces for Storm King and the Cranbrook Art Museum, where he was the 2010 Critical Studies Fellow. His work has been reviewed in the New York TimesArt in America, Modern Painters, Artforum, and ArtReview. His forthcoming solo show, Leadership, opens at Present Company (New York) in May.

Alex Savage (b. 1987) co-opts and deconstructs benign images and text from popular culture and media, like The Family Circus and Nintendo’s Yoshi, offering a subtle subtext that reflects the current sociopolitical climate.

Savage’s profound knowledge of mainstream and obscure comics and cartoons, especially comic strips, along with his astute understanding of politics and power, result in works that reveal the humor, sometimes dark, and futility in everyday living. He simplifies, edits, and fuses information to produce minimal recreations and absurd assemblages through intuitive line-drawing, loose painting, farcical tweets, and satirical writing and performance. Savage mimics the overwhelming stream of news and entertainment in his making process; where he collects, processes, and outputs data over and over using drawing, writing, and new media. Yet, Savage’s work introduces an enigmatic proposition that interrupts how viewers read visual cues and experience media, prompting a delayed reaction and urging them to make meaning independently and critically.

Savage received a BFA in Painting from the Kansas City Art Institute in 2010. He has presented solo exhibitions at Bahamas Biennale (Mukwonago, MI) and Front/Space (Kansas City), and participated in group exhibitions at H&R Block Space (Kansas City), 50/50 (Kansas City), Skylab Gallery (Columbus), and Bahamas Biennale (Milwaukee). 


Oli Watt’s (b. 1968) interventionist works question the validity and authority of the invisible systems that surround us through displacing the form and function of commonplace objects found in urban and suburban spaces. Watt creates slightly absurd knockoffs of familiar objects—such as traffic barricades, business cards, and a college degree—through printed media that plays with the concept of the multiple and the replica. His works examine the impersonal ways people interact with the unnoticed, and by shifting the scale, manipulating the material, and altering the functionality of his source objects, he invites viewers to reconnect with a constantly evolving social space. Watt blurs the tenuous line between fact and fiction, mirroring our contemporary relationship with artificiality and manufactured narratives.

In his installation projects like Dear Prudence (2001) and Pennants (2017), Watt expands beyond replicating the familiar and instead uses multiples to interrupt space and perception. He makes the implicit barrier between the viewer and the institution explicit in Dear Prudence, an installation where hundreds of miniature barricades line the gallery perimeter. The tiny striped orange barriers facetiously and impractically control potential foot traffic while signifying the inherent hierarchies within institutional public and private spaces. The artist’s newest installation Pennants features a collection of screen-printed felt pennants inscribed with various synonyms to the word “Loser,” responding to the “winner versus loser” rhetoric propagated by the current President of the United States while reclaiming the importance of underdog in society. In both works, Watt offers a lighthearted space where he infuses confusion and humor into the mundane at the same time undermining power and challenging notions of progress.

Watt is an Assistant Professor of Printmedia at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he has taught since 2003. He received a BFA from the University of Florida in 1990, and an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1998. Watt has exhibited nationally and internationally including exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Spencer Brownstone Gallery (New York), the Urban Institute of Contemporary Art (Grand Rapids, MI), La Band Art Gallery (Los Angeles), and Rocket Gallery (London). His work has been discussed in numerous publications including Art on PaperArt US, the New Art ExaminerConcrete Comedy, and Contemporary American Printmakers. He currently runs Free Range, a studio and exhibition space on Chicago’s Northwest Side.


Jordan Weber (b. 1984) conflates objects with social histories related to the body of color, such as the police car or the Home Depot bucket, and composes sustainable structures in the form of installation that propose utopian possibilities for People of Color.

Weber’s work identifies oppressive control mechanisms and challenges the capitalist constructs around sentient bodies and resource-laden lands, often focusing on places where bodies of color are contested like Ferguson, Missouri, the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, and Palestine. His work disrupts time and space by incorporating earth and live plants from these contentious sites, centering the body of color within the natural environment. In Cherokee White Eagle, DONK (2017), his latest installation, Weber transforms the iconic Chevy El Camino Donk into a temporary greenhouse that contains Cherokee White Eagle corn potted inside of orange Home Depot buckets. The branded buckets represent the narrative of black and latino men desperately seeking work inside the corporation’s parking lots across the country. In this way, he links back to the historic relationship black, brown, and indigenous communities have with nature, land, and labor, which is recurrently erased by the dominant culture and its systems.

Cherokee White Eagle, DONK, like all of Weber’s large-scale installations, critiques and dismantles supremacist ideologies to create a local, sustainable environment that offers non-violent counter tactics of resistance and emphasizes the resilience of marginalized peoples.

Weber is an artist-activist and curator primarily focused on socio-environmental activism. His work and public installations have exhibited internationally in galleries and museums including the Des Moines Art Center, The Soap Factory (Minneapolis, MN), White Box Gallery (New York, NY), Moberg Gallery (Des Moines, IA), Gallery 38 (Los Angeles, CA), Manifest: Justice (Los Angeles, CA), Smack Mellon Gallery (Brooklyn, NY), Moberg Gallery (Des Moines, IA), and Modern Arts Midtown (Omaha, NE), to name a few.