Of the people
Curated by Erin Donnelly
June 17 - July 31, 2016
Opening reception: Saturday, June 18, 5-8pm
Lauren Frances Adams, Daniel Bejar, Guy Ben-Ari, Brooklyn Hi-Art Machine (Mildred Beltré & Oasa DuVerney), Isabella Cruz-Chong, Peggy Diggs, Esteban del Valle, Emily Greenberg, Alicia Grullón*, Jeremy D. Olson, Sheryl Oring, Ben Pinder, Brittany M. Powell, Kate Sopko, t.Rutt (Mary Mihelic & David Gleeson), Martha Wilson*, and Leah Wolff.
*Public event artist
The exhibition Of the people curated by Erin Donnelly, opens at Smack Mellon on June 17 and will be on view through July 31, reflects of-the-moment political opinions shaping the 2016 presidential race in the United States. With video, drawing, photography, painting and sculpture as well as socially engaged projects and site-specific installation, the exhibition features artists selected through an open call who hail from California, Maryland, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina and Ohio. Artworks included in the group show offer critical perspectives on the current electoral process while challenging notions of American democracy today.
Eliciting public reactions from the finger to the fist pump during its cross-country tour this year, the T.RUMP Bus by t.Rutt (Mary Mihelic & David Gleeson) will make a stop in Brooklyn, while in the gallery, Alicia Grullón’s endurance performance of Filibuster #2 strives to withstand the force of income inequality. The closing reception on Sunday, July 31, 3-6pm, includes Martha Wilson as Donald Trump – Politics and Performance Art Are One and the Same and a panel discussion with select exhibition artists.
Exhibition artists have produced projects that create space for public participation in a broken election system. Mildred Beltré & Oasa DuVerney of Brooklyn Hi-Art Machine have designed radical posters about the 2016 election with their neighbors in Crown Heights, Brooklyn where they have led a community forum including collaborative art making since 2010. As part of her 12-year project I Wish to Say, Sheryl Oring has mailed thousands of letters addressed to sitting presidents and candidates running for office that are dictated and tapped out on a vintage typewriter thus giving voice to people to air their frustrations or freely express their hopes, dreams, and desires.
The back gallery of Smack Mellon has been converted into a Campaign Office by Jeremy D. Olson where would-be candidates can self-nominate for the highest executive position by recording a stump speech, generated from 2016 campaign announcement speeches, and filling out documents to be an official candidate for president. In a similar DIY fashion, Leah Wolff’s ongoing sculptural work reimagines curious objects sold through the mail order Whole Earth Catalog popular from 1968-1972 as election-ready accouterments such as political buttons printed with your own catchy slogan.
Other artworks reflect upon hot topics debated on the televised stage and during the long primary season leading up to the Republican and Democratic National Conventions this summer. Issues such as immigration are evident in Isabella Cruz-Chong’s sound installation Line of Breath that portrays the human dimension of the border between the United States and Mexico. Daniel Bejar brings forward Isabel Gonzalez who pioneered legislation to make all Puerto Ricans American citizens—his lenticular photographic work declares “Let’s Make America Great Again” which is actually a 1980 Reagan campaign slogan that has been co-opted by Trump.
You will hear Emily Greenberg’s Public Privacy Hotline phone ringing in the gallery, prompting you to pick up the line to reveal a breach of privacy. The crushing debt experienced by many Americans is highlighted in poignant portraits taken by Brittany M. Powell, part of a mission to document 99 debtors across the United States. Also dealing with visibility and invisibility, Kate Sopko’s project The Fixers is comprised of a series of community-made videos documenting outlier Cleveland neighborhoods overlooked by the mainstream media coverage of the Republican National Convention.
Looking towards the past to enlighten the future, art historical strategies can be found in Of the people. Neither the partisan elephant or donkey but nevertheless taking cues from the 19th century satirical cartoons of Thomas Nast, the bull in Esteban del Valle’s mural symbolically struggles to maintain the incongruous balance of power between the market and political speech. The traditional odalisque informed by the male gaze is inverted in Guy Ben-Ari’s painting that pictures the Oval Office, the ultimate prize in the presidential contest, and its interior under feminine control.
New artist’s projects included in the show take into account timely subject matter underscored during the election year. Peggy Diggs’s project Heirloom considers the fairness of ballot design with a handcrafted “cozy”. Looming large over Smack Mellon’s space, the likenesses of big money donors made by Lauren Frances Adams are inspired by the portrait head roundels of historic lawmakers in the US House of Representatives chamber. Formed in 2015, Ben Pinder’s The Mythic History of America, For America Super PAC is lawfully recognized here in drawings and genuine articles.
Friday, June 17, 11:30am-8pm: Filibuster #2 by Alicia Grullón
For this live re-enactment of Senator Bernie Sanders' Bush Tax Cuts filibuster, the interdisciplinary artist will follow strict filibustering rules: continual speaking, no bathroom break, no sitting or leaning and no eating or drinking until the 8.5-hour performance is complete.
Drop In Activity also on Friday, June 17: Make your own political button while supplies last. This event is part of the Etsy Craft Party taking place in the neighborhood.
Please let us know if you're coming. Registration is not required but encouraged.
Saturday, June 18, 4-6pm, Thursday, July 7, 6-9pm; Saturday and Sunday during the run of show, 2-6pm: Campaign Office, performance/installation by Jeremy D. Olson
Campaign Office creates new presidential candidates. Visitors are invited to launch their campaign by announcing their candidacy on camera, and will receive the paperwork necessary to be an official candidate for president.
Wednesday, July 27, 7pm: Art and Propaganda co-presented by Smack Mellon and Hyperallergic
What differentiates propaganda from art? This conversation will probe historic propaganda imagery, its connection to today, and the role it plays in raising social consciousness and awareness for issues often overlooked by governments, institutions, and society. Moderated by Hyperallergic’s editor-in-chief and co-founder Hrag Vartanian, in conversation with Associate Professor of Art History and Museum Studies at NYU Miriam M. Basilio; artist Daniel Bejar, who is part of the Of the people exhibition; and and artist Sue Schaffner, part of public-art duo DYKE ACTION MACHINE! (DAM!)
Miriam M. Basilio is the Associate Professor of Art History and Museum Studies at NYU who specializes in Spanish Civil War-era propaganda, and she wrote 'Visual Propaganda, Exhibitions, and the Spanish Civil War.’
Daniel Bejar is an interdisciplinary artist living. He is currently a 2015 fellow in Interdisciplinary Work from the New York Foundation for the Arts, while also participating in the Abrons AIRspace residency program and The Drawing Center’s Open Sessions program.
Sue Schaffner is a New York City–based photographer and part of the public-art duo DYKE ACTION MACHINE! (DAM!), which she founded with painter Carrie Moyer in 1991. DAM! has participated in over 40 exhibitions throughout the US and Europe. Two DAM! projects, “Lesbian Americans: Don’t Sell Out” and “Do You Love The Dyke In Your Life?,” are included in Agitprop! currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Schaffner’s photography work has been widely published under the alias GIRL RAY and has appeared in Fortune, Entertainment Weekly, People, Esquire, Wired, and Glamour, among others. She was one of the first recipients of the Creative Capital Foundation grant and regularly serves as an artist consultant in their professional development workshops.
Hrag Vartanian is the editor-in-chief and cofounder of Hyperallergic. He has lectured about contemporary art, performance, postcolonialism, politics, and visual culture at art museums and colleges across the country.
Thursday, July 28, 5:30-8pm: Silkscreen Workshop by Brooklyn Hi-Art Machine
Come to Smack Mellon to make your own political poster copy. The evening includes a screening of the Democratic National Convention when the party’s nominee accepts.
Saturday-Sunday, July 30-31: T.RUMP Bus
The t.Rutt artist team purchased Donald Trump’s actual campaign bus on Craigslist in the fall of 2015. Since being recast by artists Mary Mihelic & David Gleeson as an anti-Trump rolling art project, it has traveled across the United States during the election season, creating a platform for responding to the GOP nominee’s outrageous statements and behaviors. All the original Trump campaign artwork remains on the bus but it has been artistically altered and transformed into the T.RUMP Bus. The T.RUMP Bus is a non-partisan contemporary artwork.
We are offering special members-only tours of the inside of the T.RUMP Bus. Join today and support Smack Mellon! Become a member by clicking here.
Sunday, July 31, 3pm: Martha Wilson as Donald Trump – Politics and Performance Art Are One and the Same
Martha Wilson embodies her trademark “invasions” of other people’s personae. This is the premiere of Wilson’s performance as The Donald.
Immediately following performance: Community practices: Art and Intervention Panel Discussion
Select artists discuss their projects of social and political consequence. Participants include Isabella Cruz-Chong, Brooklyn, New York; Alicia Grullón, Bronx, New York; lead artist Kate Sopko, Cleveland, Ohio who will be joined by Maria Miranda, Cleveland, Ohio, a fixer from her project; moderated by Erin Donnelly.
Closing Reception: 4-6pm
New York State voter registration will be conducted Wednesday-Sunday, 12-6pm.
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, Gilbert Mackay 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 Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund of The New York Community Trust, Lambent Foundation, The Roy and Niuta Titus Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc., The Robert Lehman Foundation, The Greenwich Collection Ltd, Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation Inc., and Exploring The Arts.
Space for Smack Mellon’s programs is generously provided by the Walentas family and Two Trees Management.
Lauren Frances Adams’s project is made possible with support from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and Maryland Institute College of Art. Kate Sopko’s project is brought to you with generous support from SPACES and Art Matters, and with tremendous work from a huge group of collaborators.