Ron Baron

First Thursday, October 5, 6-8pm: Ron Baron, Steven Ellis, Scott Williams
Blues Performance and Conversation

We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
We hammer wood for a house, but it’s the inner space that makes it livable.
-from the ancient Chinese Tao Te Ching 

Smack Mellon is pleased to exhibit Beyond-Beyond, Ron Baron’s expansive installation of nearly one hundred pairs of life-size cast ceramic shoes. Although each pair is small in comparison to the gallery’s vast space, their combined poetic and ghostly presences fill the significant void and evoke all that is missing.

In 2013, Baron’s family suffered profound loss. Until this tragedy, he had frequented yard sales and vintage shops, collecting the castoffs of strangers from which to create art objects. Only after he experienced tragedy did he truly recognize these items as signifiers of absence, full of layered meaning. The symbolism of objects inhabited by the spirits of their former owners took on great emotional depth. Shoes, in particular, became surrogates for people, vessels for souls, and triggers for memories.

Now, Baron collects shoes from the same yard sales and vintage shops with a new perspective on what it means when something lived-in is no longer needed, outgrown, or unwanted. The result is adult- and child-size cast ceramic shoes thoughtfully configured on the gallery floor. Some shoes stand alone while others crowd close together and even overlap, forming tender relationships. Left a haunting, unglazed white, they whisper beneath the large steel and concrete beams, drinking in the light and reminding us of what once was and what remains.

 Baron takes this opportunity to mourn and pay tribute to grief and loss. He reveals the generative energy that careful and deliberate contemplation can wrest from fracture and pain.

Born in Springfield, MA, Ron Baron received a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and an MFA from the University of California-Davis. Baron has shown his work nationally and internationally since 1989 and completed over 20 public projects. Some of his most prominent commissions are with the MTA and Long Island Railroad, Indianapolis International Airport, Board of Education NYC, Depart of Cultural Affairs NYC, Alaska International Airport, University of Oregon: Autzen Stadium, the Portland Regional Arts Council, and the Department of Cultural Affairs, San Jose, CA. He has won numerous awards, including from the New York Foundation for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Yaddo Endowed Residency, and the Lila Wallace Endowed Residency at the Monet Museum in Giverny, France. His work has been included in a variety of books, magazines, and newspapers including the New York Times, Art in America, and Along the Way: MTA Arts for Transit.  Baron lives in Williamsburg Brooklyn, NY, and teaches sculpture at the School of Visual Arts, NYC.



Karina Aguilera Skvirsky
The Perilous Journey of María Rosa Palacios

Smack Mellon is pleased to present The Perilous Journey of María Rosa Palacios, Karina Aguilera Skvirsky’s half-hour, performance-based film documenting her travel from Ecuador’s Chota highlands to the coastal town of Guayaquil. The expedition serves as a re-creation of her great grandmother’s 1906 journey and an exploration of identity, representation, and ever-shifting boundaries of place and nationhood.

Skvirsky’s bicultural upbringing made her aware of the impossibility of a fixed identity. Leaving the US to live in Ecuador as a 10-year-old in the late 1970s solidified her interest in the differences between cultures, but more importantly, the similarities and crossovers inherent in global identities. Her art mines this terrain through the lens of her own ancestry by questioning the concept of belonging to a specific region, race, or culture.

In 1906, Skvirsky’s 14-year-old great grandmother, an Afro-Ecuadorian migrant worker named María Rosa Palacios, left her home in the highlands of Ecuador to travel to the coast, to work as a domestic for a wealthy family. The railroad connecting the two cities was a few years from completion, so María travelled by foot and mule for an estimated 3 weeks to 3 months. In 2015, Skvirsky re-enacted the same journey, taking the route most likely used by her great grandmother. She worked with a team of five people to film the expedition.

The story of the railroad itself runs parallel to Palacios’ epic journey. She was one of the last migrants to travel the route before the railroad was completed in 1908, after more than 30 years of manual labor by thousands of indigenous workers from Ecuador and migrant workers from Jamaica. Skvirsky’s own course to Guayaquil is a study on early 20th century travel during which she walks, rides a mule, uses the section of railroad complete in 1906, and ends her travel by riverboat. 

Told through the backdrop of Ecuador’s breathtaking landscape, Skvirsky’s journey is a hybrid documentary-fictional tale, combining improvisational performance, interviews with relatives and historians, and research on early 20th Century travel. Coming to terms with her own racial ancestry, personal and collective memory, and socioeconomic disparities, she pays homage to her great grandmother. The physical awkwardness of Skvirsky’s performance exemplifies how someone with roots in a specific region is forever changed by the influence of time and other geo-political contexts.

Karina Aguilera Skvirsky is a NY-based artist. Her work has been exhibited internationally in group and solo exhibitions at venues including: The Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Philadelphia, PA (2016); Hansel & Gretel Picture Garden Pocket Utopia, NY, NY (2014); DPM Gallery, Guayaquil, Ecuador (2014); Instituto Cervantes, Rome, Italy (2013); The Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ (2013); Stephan Stoyanov Gallery, NY, NY (2013); DPM Gallery, Guayaquil, Ecuador (2012); La Ex-Culpable, Lima, Peru (2010); Scaramouche Art, NY, NY (2010); Galeria Proceso, Cuenca, Ecuador (2009); The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, CT (2007); El Museo del Barrio, NY, NY (2006); Sara Meltzer Gallery, NY, NY (2006); Jessica Murray Projects, NY, NY (2006). In 2015 she was awarded a Fulbright grant and a Jerome Foundation Grant to produce “The Perilous Journey of María Rosa Palacios,” to premiere in the 2016 Cuenca Biennale, curated by Dan Cameron. In 2010 she participated in There is always a cup of sea for man to sail, the 29th Sao Paolo Biennial. Artist in Residence programs include: Office Hours at El Museo del Barrio, NY, NY; LMCC Workspace, NY, NY; MacDowell Residency, NH; Smack Mellon, Brooklyn, NY; and others. Skvirsky is an Associate Professor at Lafayette College, Easton, PA and an MFA faculty member at The New School, Parsons School of Design, NY, NY. She is represented by DPM Gallery, Guayaquil, Ecuador.

This exhibition is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, New York City Council Member Stephen Levin, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and with generous support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, The Robert Lehman Foundation, Iorio Charitable Foundation, Select Equity Group Foundation, many individuals and Smack Mellon's Members.

Smack Mellon's programs are also made possible with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts and with generous support from The New York Community Trust, The Roy and Niuta Titus Foundation, Jerome Foundation, The Greenwich Collection Ltd, Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation Inc., Brooklyn Arts Council, and Exploring The Arts.

Space for Smack Mellon's programs is generously provided by the Walentas family and Two Trees Management.






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