April 8 - May 26, 2023
Curated by Prima Jalichandra-Sakuntabhai / Ara & Anahid Oshagan
Image: Alberto Lule, Am I Truly Free (a), 2022. Collage on plexi. 18 x 24 inches. Courtesy of the Artist. Photo credit: Andrew Girosetto.
The ReflectSpace Gallery, Glendale Library, Arts & Culture, and Craft Contemporary presented Tactics of Erasure and Rewriting Histories, an exhibition that highlighted diverse artworks documenting acts of reclamation and removal as a process of making history. The five exhibiting artists – Fafnir Adamites, Andre Keichian, Alberto Lule, Miller Robinson, and Ryat Yezbick – use archival and forensic materials, found objects, and casting to investigate how state-sanctioned censorships create a system of oppression that impacts their sense of identity. Their works explore the questions: What role does erasure play in informing one's place in history? What other forms of representation can capture the fluidity of marginalized identities, the pains of inherited traumas, and the unstable truth of history?
Alberto Lule and Ryat Yezbick use the language of power to address the inherent violence in systems that seeks to divide, categorize, and criminalize by instilling fear and centering on difference. Lule examines the control and manipulation of bodies in the US carceral system and questions who is granted authority over the bodies of others. He creates self-portraits following systems of identification and tools used by the police on incarcerated people. Reminiscent of the Bertillon system, developed in the 19th century to classify “the criminal’s” physiology by French policeman Alphonse Bertillon, Lule’s piece, Am I Truly Free? (2022) is a triptych composed of different identifiers based on the artist’s prison-issued identification card. Am I Truly Free? (a), on view in the exhibition, is a collage on plexiglass that multiplies the copy of Lule’s prison-issued identification card, sectioning the artist’s face to his eyes, alternating them with graphs and excerpts on eugenics and reductive terms pertaining to criminal physiology. His Investigation (2019 -) series abstracts the artist’s body to traces of positions in which the police had placed him during his arrest. The positions are revealed through forensic ink blurring, rather than codifying, the body it seeks to identify.
Ryat Yezbick creates a blurry line between enunciator and enunciated, victim and perpetrator in their video installation, growth lies, and pack of truth (2022). News footage of the University of Texas tower shooting in 1966 has been edited to give space for an alternative universe in which vulnerable masculinity may alter the course of the future. This film, the first in a series from Yezbick’s growing archive of news coverage of mass shootings in the United States, presents a speculative narrative about a mysterious creature that spreads like a virus causing its hosts to go into a temporary state of physiological confusion. Housed in a tombstone, the film is a haunting reminder of the psychological trappings of fear and the objectification of the “Other.” The artist’s background as a cultural anthropologist informs their practice as they engage with the impact of digital surveillance technology on the collective American psyche and sense of co-responsibility.
In contrast to the abundance of information in Lule’s and Yezbick’s works, Andre Keichian, Miller Robinson, and Fafnir Adamites seek to give shape to histories that have been erased. Andre Keichian’s Salt in the I (2019) is a lyrical mapping of their family’s diasporic journey from the war-ravaged Middle East to France, Argentina, and the United States through the manipulation of their family photo album. Using salt and water to develop the negatives and bend wood for the frames, the different elements of the work collapse topographies of ocean, land, and temporalities. The artist stretches the possibility of the archive to blend truth and fiction and insert the narrative of their Armenian-born Argentinian grandfather, who marks the beginning of their family’s migration as a stand-in ancestral queer. The act of speculation also comes from the influence of the Armenian Genocide on the artist’s family’s history of migration, the impact of which is still not fully recognized by the Turkish government. The artist asks, “If this happening can exist without the privilege of becoming official history, then what new alternative possibilities may emerge within modes of art and narrative within this gap?”
Initially a juried exhibition at Craft Contemporary, the new iteration at ReflectSpace expanded on the original show by presenting the artworks in the context of a municipal institution, the Glendale Central Library. As a hybrid exhibition space between gallery and archive, ReflectSpace offered an interface for the artworks to exceed their roles as representational objects, to become alternative forms of knowledge. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue, an updated reading list, and an educational supplement.
Read the Asbarez article, ReflectSpace Gallery Presents 'Tactics of Erasure and Rewriting Histories' Exhibition.
Glendale Central Library
222 East Harvard Street
Glendale, CA 91205
Mondays-Thursdays, 9am - 9pm
Fridays & Saturdays, 9am - 6pm
Sunday, 1pm - 6pm