Small, but mighty, New York’s Housing gallery is known for critical, thought-provoking exhibitions that highlight emerging artists, in particular artists of color, exploring themes of race, class, and identity. In A Gathering, the latest group exhibition, curated by Housing founder KJ Freeman, the gallery presents a densely packed, engaging show inspired by Steve Cannon, founder of the Lower East Side arts and culture anti-establishment nonprofit, A Gathering of the Tribes.

Bringing together twelve artists, the exhibition includes painting, sculpture, and video. Filling the gallery’s small space, but thoughtfully installed to avoid overcrowding, A Gathering commands attention. Quite literally, in the center of the main room is “(K)not The Move” (2020), a small sculpture by Emmanuel Massillon. With a thin, round head resembling an African mask atop an assemblage of metal, wood, nails, and screws, the sculpture sits directly on the floor, forcing the viewer to carefully navigate around it. While seemingly precarious and at risk of being knocked over, the work is far from frail. Bearing its own armor of nails and screws jutting out from all angles, the sculpture defies its small size and directly confronts the viewer.

Installation view of A Gathering at HOUSING; foreground: Emmanuel Massillon, “(K)not the Move” (2020); back from left to right: Shani Strand, “If you’re dead, you’re dead (whatever that means)” (2021) and Glendalys Medina, “Clave” (2017) (photo by Annabel Keenan/Hyperallergic)
Rafael Sánchez, “Earth record w/ sleeve” (2019), glue and dirt on cardboard and vinyl, 12 x 24 x ¾ inches (image courtesy the artist and HOUSING, photo by Shark Senesac)

Inspired by Cannon’s 2012 exhibition Exquisite Poop, A Gathering is accompanied by a zine of written representations of the works in the show. Organized by Shani Strand, the zine offers a welcome and refreshing invitation to thoughtfully interact with the exhibition. In one entry, writer Laura Brown responds to Rafael Sánchez’s “Earth record w/ sleeve” (2019), a round, vinyl record and square, cardboard sleeve covered in thick dirt and installed directly onto the wall like a Minimalist sculpture. Brown addresses the reader as the owner of the record and imagines its journey from being carefully chosen, buried, and eventually rediscovered, caked in evidence of its past. Adding this anthropological layer, Brown enlivens the piece beyond its visual qualities. 

Rather than seek to explain each work, the writers take a variety of approaches, including poetry and emotional prose, to invite thoughtful reflection. Fostering creative, interdisciplinary discussion, A Gathering hews closely to the ethos of Tribes. With the selection of artists, Housing has once again presented a dynamic assortment of visually engaging and thought-provoking voices. 

A Gathering is on view at HOUSING (191 Henry Street, New York, NY 10002) through May 27. The exhibition was curated by KJ Freeman, accompanied by a zine organized by Shani Strand. 

Annabel Keenan is a writer based in New York. She specializes in contemporary art and sustainability. Her work has been published in The Art Newspaper and Artillery Magazine among others.