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Smack Mellon is pleased to present two solo exhibitions of Christine Sciulli and Nona Faustine. Both artists present work which conflates New York City's history within a unique and compelling contemporary lens. 

Christine Sciulli's installation, ROIL creates an immersive experience that transforms Smack Mellon's gallery space to reflect its historic function as a boiler house that created steam heat and energy for nearby buildings in the early 1900's. A multi channel video influenced by the generation of pressurized steam is projected onto sculptural fabric masses.

Nona Faustine's White Shoes is a poignant series of self-portraits that are at once autobiographical and a historical tribute to black women who were slaves. The locations in the White Shoes series are historical and geographical legacy of slavery in New York City. Faustine photographed herself standing naked in sites around New York City that were formerly associated with slavery. By exposing her own vulnerability, Faustine also calls attention to the past and present exploitation of black women's bodies.

 

Christine Sciulli
ROIL

“My most recent explorations have focused on the projection of plane geometries through various three dimensional networks to generate a dynamic mapping of solid geometries of light through space. In this installation, projected circles of white light expand and collapse through Smack Mellon’s cavernous space in a frenzy, which harkens back to the roiling steam that powered surrounding factories. 

Smack Mellon’s current home once belonged to Robert Gair, who patented his revolutionary design for a structurally sound three-dimensional lidded box folded from a single two-dimensional sheet of paper without adhesives in 1900. Industrialist Gair housed his widely varied paper product operations in several buildings concentrated in DUMBO. “Gairville” was fueled by tons of coal dropped through chutes carved out of the 4th and 5th floors of this former mill. Boilers in this vast hall superheated, churned and compressed water into hissing steam that pulsed through pipes and coursed into adjacent buildings supplying heat and energy.  Racing progress and rapidly expanding industrialization, made possible by the relatively simple kinetic expansion of water into a vapor that could provide so many uses, was the starting point for my immersive, site-specific installation, “ROIL.” My installation stretches through the industrial hall offering opportunities to inhabit it’s passages, caves, nooks, hubs and low overhangs which become clear to the viewer as dark adaptation takes place.” 

Christine Sciulli is a visual artist whose primary medium is projected light. Sciulli was selected for the American Academy of Arts and Letters 2014 Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts. Her installations have been shown in the Parrish Art Museum, South Fork Museum of Natural History, Frederieke Taylor Gallery, Edward Hopper House Art Center, and the Islip Art Museum where Janet Goleas described her installation to be “a quiet riot of controlled chaos.”Sciulli holds an Architectural Engineering degree from Penn State University, graduating as a Besal Scholar, as well as BFA and MFA degrees in Combined Media from Hunter College, where she was awarded the Esther Fish Perry Award, BFA merit award, and the Leutz/Reidel Travel Grant. Sciulli’s work is part of the New Museum’s Rhizome ArtBase (Rhizome.org). She is on the Artist Council of the Church Street School of Music and Art and has been adjunct faculty in the MFA Lighting Program at Parsons the New School for Design. In addition to her show at Smack Mellon, in 2016 Sciulli will present work at the Berkshire’s LABspace and will represent the United States at the 2016 Wadden Tide Festival in Denmark.

 

Nona Faustine
White Shoes

“Situated inside a photographic tradition while questioning the culture that bred that tradition, my practice walks the line between the past and the present. My work starts where intersecting identities meet history. While examining photographs of enslaved black women from the 19th century, and Daguerreotypes of slaves commissioned in 1850 by the naturalist Louis Agazzi and produced by J.T. Zealy, I became deeply involved in research about the pseudoscience of phrenology. Armed with the intention to return to the fundamental questions of race and history, self-portraiture allows me to respond to those images of people who were put on display as examples of inferiority. 
 
The “White Shoes” series consists of nude self-portraits at locations in the 250-year hidden history of slavery in New York City. Wearing symbolic white pumps. I document my body in places where the history becomes tangible; acting as a conduit or receptor, in both protest and solidarity, with people whose names have been forgotten and whose contributions remain unacknowledged. For a few moments I am standing between the curtain of time. The resulting images are both historical and anti-historical, as they pose questions to which the answers have been violently denied. Whose bodies matter and why? Coming out of that history how do I see myself? How do you make interpretations of your world with what you’ve been given? What does a black body look like today on display in the places where slavery existed?  How does photography inform the history of the black body? How to wrestle the power back, over our image? Can we ever do that? The fragility of the body, comprised of blood, skin and bone, juxtaposed against the hard concrete, steel and glass of the city create images that function as memorials that I make myself, one at a time with my body. The naked truth of its blackness braced against a cold city, reconstructs a narrative where the enslaved and free have dignity and are not afraid.”

Nona Faustine was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY and is a graduate of The School of Visual Arts and the ICP-Bard MFA program (2013). Faustine was selected by writer/curator Charlotte Cotton as a 2014 Honorable Mention in the Camera Club of New York Competition. Her work has received press in the Huffington Post, Hyperallergic, Greybook Magazine, the Village Voice, The Guardian, and Dodge and Burn Blog. Faustine’s work has been exhibited at the Schomburg Center for Black Research in Harlem, New York, NY; The Studio Museum of Harlem, New York, NY; International Center of Photography, New York, NY; and Mana Contemporary, Jersey City, NJ.