Making the adjustMINT is a fitting expression for MINT’s seventh annual juried exhibition, Semblance, whose artists “depict or deconstruct representations of self, identity, culture or identification.” The show opened in July — to a degree.
After installing a mix of drawings, fiber, mixed media, paintings, photographs, sculptures and video, Semblance curator Sarah Higgins announced on Instagram that the exhibition would not open as scheduled. MINT turned to social media, instead, and scheduled social-distanced appointments.
However, there’s still time this week to experience the show — which has been buffeted by the rise and fall and rise of Covid-19 — in person. Just email email@example.com and wear a mask. The closing will take place virtually at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (August 15) with conceptual artist Alex Mari and sound artist Myani Guetta. “Attend” via Instagram Live.
Higgins’ first task was to narrow 1,300-plus submissions from 250 artists down to 12 artists: Robert Chamberlin, Elise Chang, Eilis Crean, Sydney Daniel, Amina Daugherty, Daniel Kornrumpf, Alex Mari + Myani Guetta, Jackson Markovic, Libbi Ponce, Dianna Settles, Spencer Sloan and Jeffrey Wilcox Paclipan. The show features more than 60 works hung, suspended, sprawled or pinned throughout MINT’s three main gallery spaces.
Producing work in Seattle and Atlanta, Mari + Guetta created The (In)exhaustibility of Memory, a performance and installation with sound. You can see the interaction at the virtual closing, but it’s Mari’s elements within the gallery space that bid for attention. Maybe it’s the three aquariums filled with slightly opaque balloons, some in blood-toned liquid, or the soil and mulch mixture with plastic flowers, as if to ask: “What’s more unsettling, life or death?” A mindful play on the mind, for sure.
Sculptor and painter Amina Daugherty’s African diaspora-esque masks Ornaments of Womanhood I, II, III are striking on their own, especially the elliptic textures of their skin. The work features the physical masks themselves and a photograph (by Sharon Gurung) of a woman wearing one of the masks. When we see the mask on a person, it makes it more than a mask, it becomes disturbing.
Pay attention to the covered eye sockets, which are reminiscent of a windowless soul. Daugherty has six pieces here, one of which is of a male. This adds another layer of interest. Her 25-inch New Crown I, II, III structure features the female symbol and gives way to historical debates about the Black woman’s crown — her hair. Some of the hair is braided, some is in locs. There’s a black-and-white bandanna and hair clasps. The sculptures (next to photography of a woman with the hairstyle) appeal to unspoken objectification.
Conceptual artist Robert Chamberlin’s soft-hued porcelain piece Wreath for the Tomb of the Unknown Queer Soldier deftly reminds us of the Supreme Court’s June ruling that members of the LGBTQ community are now protected by the 1964 Civil Rights Act (to date, this doesn’t include the military). What about gay soldiers who couldn’t be who they were, soldiers seen as invisible?
Libbi Ponce’s Byron & Theresa for Fernanda, an experiential installation, features cartoonish painted dog sculptures. At their size, 54 inches by 40 inches by 50 inches, you can’t miss Byron (green) and Theresa (orange). Ponce’s materials include but aren’t limited to extruded polystyrene, urethane rigid-pour foam, and a binder ring and cubic zirconia necklace. Glass blocks stacked in the middle of the floor make you consider your own privacy. Light comes through, but is the reflective darkness inside really blocked? For full effect, you need to place your cellphone into the VR headset and, with a QR code, access the video Fernanda. The story, set in Ecuador, talks of “families split across borders” from the viewpoint of 9-year-old Fernanda, Ponce’s cousin.
The four-plus-minute video’s sporadic 360-degree speed warrants a disclaimer, which it does not have. If you get dizzy easily or are disturbed by loud sounds and flashing lights, you may need to skip this part. If you do partake, know that the headset is disinfected between each use.
Jeffrey Wilcox Paclipan’s Paper People 1 and 2 — colorful torsos made of wrapping paper, ribbon, rope and cardboard on a brown paper bag — provoke the feeling of seeing someone you know only to discover that once you get closer the intricacies of what you thought you saw are displaced.
There’s much more to Semblance, including Sydney Daniel’s six 53-inch by 42-inch hanging installations of family Polaroid inkjet prints and hemp twine and Eilis Crean’s Marketplace #s 1-44 colored-pencil drawings, which reference undercurrents of time as “working conditions of hourly laborers at the front end of consumerism.” Also here are painter Daniel Kornrumpf’s objects, part of a series based on the Carl Jung book Man and His Symbols, and drawings and paintings from Elise Chang’s Food, Identity and Translation series.
You can see many of these works at MINT’s online Semblance shop.
Semblance touches many levels of human complexity, according to Higgins. “Capitalism and consumerism tell us what we can be or limits what we can be by constructed options,” she says. “There’s familiarity and complications. A symphony of conversations.”
It would be helpful to have access to the curatorial statement upon entry, which we don’t. MINT, at the least, could have turned it into a wall text.
Overall, Semblance is a visual conversation-starter and hints at many insensitive sensibilities surrounding identity. There’s an unnerving engagement that beckons you to be in the moment. Semblance doesn’t twist your emotions. It shakes you up enough to disrupt what you think you see.
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