In this installation, Syjuco’s contemporary “still life” takes as inspiration the subjects of photographic color calibration charts that have been long used to check for “correct” or “neutral” color. The array of images and objects in the works creates a visual friction, challenging the idea of cultural and political neutrality by presenting a coded narrative of empire and colonialism as told through art history, Modernism, ethnography, stock photos, and Google Image searches. [source: Stephanie Syjuco]
”A mass of disembodied ceramic human heads randomly piled onto the floor […]. The viewer is confronted by the bald figures, all with a slightly different physiognomy and in the different shades of human skin—brown and black, and occasionally, white. The assemblage by ceramicist Sharif Bey, titled Assimilation? Destruction? is primarily about globalization and cultural identity. It is also a reference to Bey’s identity as a potter and an artist of color.”
”The piece is never the same in any exhibition—the 1,000 or so pinch pot heads are brought to a gallery in garbage cans and “unceremoniously dumped out,” says Bey, showing a video of the process. The heads break, crack and get pounded into smaller shards. Over time, he says, the piece, which he created for his MFA thesis project in 2000, will become sand. Ultimately, Assimilation? Destruction? signifies that “you’re everything and you’re nothing at the same time.” With its shifting collective and individual shapes, the assemblage is also “a comment on what it means to be a transient person,” he says.” [source: Smithsonian Magazine]
Created as a response to the tragic amount of school shootings in the United States and the Boko Haram abductions of Nigerian schoolgirls in 2014, these skull-like masks represent children’s faces.
This choker’s beads consists of nineteen nearly identical skulls carved from conch shells. The deeply carved eye sockets may have originally held hematite inlays. Young nobles who were being schooled in religion and military arts wore such necklaces throughout the Central Mexican Highlands.
Images from ”Disrupting Craft: Renwick Invitational 2018” presenting work from four artists: Tanya Aguiñiga, Sharif Bey, Dustin Farnsworth and Stepanie Syjuco, paired with a choker with Nineteen Death Heads, from Mexico from the Library of Congress.
Palapa, 2017 by Tanya Aguiñiga Powder-coated steel and synthetic hair
Named for the open-sided thatched huts that pepper the beaches of Mexico. These distinctive shelters are woven by Mexicans but used mostly by tourists. Aguiñiga’s mysterious, surreal interpretation of these everyday structures is symbolic of her own ambiguous identity, as someone who navigates the dual worlds of palapa maker and user, of and outside both cultures.
Since 2000, David Best has designed and coordinated the construction of approximately half of the Burning Man temples. Established as sacred spaces of reflection and prayer, all of these have been massive, incredibly intricate, wooden structures. During the week of Burning Man, the Temples are adorned by participants with memorials and inscriptions. The structure is burned in a cathartic ritual to inspire healing and community. Since 2005, Best has also built similarly ephemeral temples in public spaces outside of Burning Man, within the United States and in countries such as Ireland and Nepal. Committed to the values of inclusion and participation, he creates opportunities for anyone who wants to take part in his projects, augmenting a core group of volunteers known as the Temple Crew with members of each community where he works.
Originally part of the exhibition No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, this site-specific installation covered the walls with intricately carved raw wood panels that lead to an ornate altar. Wooden placards were provided for visitors to write a personal message and leave within the installation [on show from March 2018 to January 2020].
Some incredible architecture courtesy of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which houses offices for White House staff, the Renwick Gallery, a branch of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, then dinner at the historic Old Ebbitt Grill, Washington’s oldest bar and restaurant and, finally a walk back to where we started, at Dupont Circle. Mari Vanna looked inviting but we didn’t go in, which reminds me that perhaps we ought to try their New York branch, sometime.
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