Woman on the Run
Michael Paul Britto
November 21, 2009- January 3, 2010
Saturday, November 21, 5-8pm
Smack Mellon is pleased to present Tracey Snelling’s installation Woman on the Run and Michael Paul Britto’s new video works in Society’s Children. The two artists incorporate elements of pop culture, cinema, and reality to very different ends. Snelling uses architectural elements and multimedia effects to create fictional character and scenarios full of intrigue, while Britto uses personal observation and surveillance footage to emphasize the injustices of actual occurrences. In the tradition of a film noir femme fatale, Snelling constructs a three-dimensional narrative around an ambiguous female persona wanted for questioning in relation to a crime. The visitor becomes a player in the story, searching for the enigmatic woman. Boundaries blur between victim and violator, fact and fiction, feminism and outdated views. Britto’s harsh characters are more straightforward and urgent in both presentation and purpose, exposing pressing concerns in contemporary urban African-American culture. His video Verbal Assault shows the same actor portraying a father and son in a heated argument marked by mutual disrespect, while his video Daughters shows footage of a police officer brutally restraining a girl whose only crime is staying out past curfew.
Woman on the Run
“Woman on The Run is an installation that intricately mixes architecture, scale modeling, video, photography and 3-D story telling with a heady dose of Hollywood glamour and Hitchcock-like built-in suspense. A multimedia project, Woman on the Run explores a fragmented narrative about a fated woman. The main character, a combination of heroines and femme fatales from 1950’s and 1960’s film noir is trying to escape her fate. A crime has taken place, and she is wanted for questioning. Throughout the installation, different clues are given about what might have happened and who the woman is. Is she the victim, or the perpetrator? A study in feminism or an example of outdated ideas?
An alternate world of shrunken buildings, neon signs, and a life size motel offer a selection of clues that conspire to initially draw the viewer to the action and then help them thread together the disconnected story that just happened. The viewer quickly becomes a witness and to some extent an actor within the story, often assuming the role of a detective. Video plays in windows and conversations can be overheard. Reality becomes based more in perception than in absolutes. The blacks and whites of life shift to grey, and the truth becomes shrouded in mystery.
I have been interested in the idea of reality being something that continually changes, due to perception and according to an individual’s ideals and own subjectivity. I explore this viewpoint through shifting scale and presenting a particular subject in a myriad of ways. A large building can inspire a small sculpture of that building, which in turns becomes a photograph and eventually gets incorporated into another piece of art. Video is often placed in the sculptures – usually of people, sometimes doing mundane activities, repeated continually. Other times the characters might remain the same but the actions that are repeated change slightly and contradict each other. Influences in my work are heavily anchored in Americana and fed by post-war US popular culture from literature to cinema, while my work consistently and simultaneously celebrates, demystifies and re-interprets those cultural clichés with the view to making them both timeless and fresh.”
Tracey Snelling is an internationally exhibiting artist living and working in Oakland, California. She graduated with a BFA in Art Studio from The University of New Mexico in 1996. She explores reality and scale through sculpture, photography, and video. Her works are featured in numerous collections, including the Baltimore Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, de Saisset Museum, and The West Collection, Pennsylvania. Her work has been exhibited internationally, including Gemeentemuseum Helmond in the Netherlands, Selfridges in London, solo exhibitions in Brussels, Amsterdam, London, and Miami, and at Art Basel. She recently returned from a 4 month art residency and solo exhibition in Beijing.
Michael Paul Britto
“Much of my work is about being a person of color in America and the misconceptions and assumptions that go along with that. My art allows me to use the customary as metaphor to raise political and cultural awareness. By manipulating images taken from popular culture I aim to illicit feelings of rage, happiness, sadness and empathy to make viewers rethink mass medias’ depictions of people of color, and what is deemed as acceptable behavior by society.”
Verbal aggression has been determined to be more damaging than physical aggression. There are many sources to blame for verbal aggression including human nature, ethics, victimization, abnormal psychology, and the mass media. In the video Verbal Assault, the role of father and son are juxtaposed to show the son’s aggression as a mirror image of his father’s. While the father cares for his son, his abusive approach contradicts his intention to help his son. Frustration is sensed from both characters as the overlapping dialogue focuses on their fears and mutual desires for acceptance and achievement.
In the video Daughters, a dashboard video-camera recording of a white police officer’s assault on a 15 year old African-American girl, is paired with John Mayer’s song “Daughters” giving a timely and important alternative meaning to the lyrics of this pop song, posing the question “will this girl love like she’s been loved?”
Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Michael Paul Britto received his BA from the City College of New York. His work ranges from video to digital photography, sculpture, and performance. Britto has had residencies at the New Museum, Smack Mellon and The Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation (NYC). His work has been featured in shows at El Museo del Barrio, The Studio Museum of Harlem, The Zacheta National Gallery in Warsaw and the Victoria and Albert Museum in England. Britto has been written about in The New York Times, Art In America and the Brooklyn Rail.