STAMFORD, Connecticut — One of the most iconic erasures in art history — or at least one of the most celebrated — took place in 1953 in New York. A young Robert Rauschenberg erased a drawing by then relatively established Willem de Kooning and declared the palimpsest to be his own creative work. Two years later, Jasper Johns would title and frame it. Erasure had become a generative act, not to mention a collaborative one.
Otherwise Obscured: Erasure in Body and Text at Franklin Street Works continues the line of aesthetic inquiry that characterized “Erased de Kooning Drawing” while taking more widespread cultural erasures into its scope: the erasure of people of color, disabled people, and LGBTQ+ populations, communities that would vie for visibility on their own terms through identity politics in the decades to follow. In Otherwise Obscured, erasure is as an aesthetic and political act. Effacement, redaction, and illegibility are all shown as tactics that artists can employ to combat, highlight, or heal sociopolitical invisibility.
Here, the redaction and aestheticization of authoritarian language can have healing effects. Jesse Chun’s serene blue-tinted pigment prints of lines and boxes, “Blueprints” (2016), recall architectural plans by Minimalist artists like Robert Irwin and James Turrell. However, Chun’s blueprints are derived from scanned immigration forms, purged of language so that only simple geometries remain. Her spare compositions, printed on translucent vellum, underscore the lack of transparency in the legal forms that are so often impenetrable to non-native English speakers. By transmuting immigration documents into art, Chun imagines a world where undocumented immigrants no longer need to be invisible.
While art institutions can make people’s stories visible, Jennif(f)er Tamayo’s work calls attention to their commensurate powers of erasure. By holding a Carl Andre retrospective in 2014, Dia:Beacon disregarded the widely held belief that Andre murdered his partner, Cuban-American artist Ana Mendieta, a woman of color. Tamayo blacked out portions of the exhibition catalog text to compose “A▮ANA” (2014/2019), a concrete poem on oversized poly canvas. In effacing Andre’s story, Tamayo recreates — or exhumes — the form of a Silueta, the ephemeral silhouettes that Mendieta impressed upon the earth.
Alex Dolores Salerno’s “Pillow Fight” (2019) comments on visibility and equity in the healthcare system, considering which populations are deemed worthy of care and the implications of tying health care to employment, as it is in the US. In the work, four stained pillowcases hide medical paraphernalia belonging to the artist and their friends. The installation also confronts the assumptions that healthy bodies are the norm and that illness is an aberration to conceal.
The curatorial decision to tuck “Pillow Fight” into a corner by the base of the stairs augments its invisibility while encouraging viewers to take stock of their own sight lines. The installation is one of two to reference iconic works by Felix Gonzalez-Torres — “Untitled (Billboard for an empty bed)” and “Untitled (Perfect Lovers)” (both 1991) — and his efforts to make AIDS visible. Throughout the exhibition, works by emerging and established artists reflect and respond to one another: Chun’s “Blueprints” are installed by Jenny Holzer’s minimalist painting of redacted government reports, while Tamayo’s “A▮ANA” is complemented by a Super-8mm film by Mendieta, “Silueta de Arena” (1978).
Otherwise Obscured considers erasure outside of the exhibition space as well. Its accessibility initiatives, including Verbal Description and Spanish Language tours, make room for audiences who are often implicitly excluded from contemporary art venues. It’s heartening to see a show, particularly at a small nonprofit space, making the effort to realize its curatorial politics.
Otherwise Obscured: Erasure in Body and Text continues at Franklin Street Works (41 Franklin Street, Stamford, Connecticut) through January 26. The exhibition was curated by Danilo Machado
Saudi Arabia Announces $1M “Freedom of Expression” Art Award
Kanye West, Roman Polanski, and Carl Andre are among the shortlisted artists.
British Museum Offers Greece “Exclusive NFT” of the Parthenon Marbles
“With the power of blockchain technology, there will be no question who the real owner is,” said a British Museum spokesperson.
The Public Theater Explores the Hurricane Katrina Diaspora in shadow/land
Written by Erika Dickerson-Despenza and directed by Candis C. Jones, this lyrical meditation on legacy, erotic fugitivity, and self-determination is on view in NYC.
MoMA to Co-Curate Exhibition With NYPD
Arrest Me, Daddy hopes to cast a more positive light on the work of law enforcement officers.
Repatriation-Inspired Fragrance Line Hopes to Heal Collector Wounds
The exotic scents of the Rapatriement line offer solace and joy to dismayed collectors who were forced to return looted artifacts.
The Rubin Museum Presents Death Is Not the End
Tibetan Buddhist and Christian works of art made across 12 centuries explore death, the afterlife, and the desire to continue to exist. On view in NYC.
Mediocre Painting Thought AI-Generated Revealed as Work of Real Artist
Visitors who spoke to Hyperallergic said they were “horrified” to learn that a human could come up with such a banal and poorly executed artwork.
Prince Harry to Star in New Van Gogh Biopic
The estranged prince said he took the role to raise awareness of mental health issues.
When I Am Empty Please Dispose of Me Properly
Ayanna Dozier, Ilana Harris-Babou, Meena Hasan, Lucia Hierro, Catherine Opie, Chuck Ramirez, and Pacifico Silano explore the myths of the American Dream at Brooklyn’s BRIC House.
Newly Discovered Trove of Vermeer Works Reveals He Painted Mainly Dogs
A cache of 243 paintings found in an English castle, all depicting canine subjects, suggests Vermeer’s true aspiration was to become a dog portraitist.
Vatican Partners With Balenciaga on “Spiritual” Menswear Line
A spokesperson for the church cited “shared values” with the fashion brand.
Pratt’s 2023 Fine Arts MFA Thesis Exhibition Is On View in Brooklyn
The two-part exhibition features the work of 41 graduating artists across disciplines, including painting, sculpture, printmaking, and integrated practices.
Iran Issues Fatwa Against AI
A reinterpretation of the Quran through a queer lens, written by an AI chatbot, is said to cause the move.
Met Gala Announces 2023 “Looting and Plunder” Theme
Select A-list guests will be invited to wear any artifacts from the museum’s collection that have not yet been seized by the Manhattan DA’s office.