RETURN TO VISIONARY ARCHIVE
POWER TO THE PEOPLE | VISIONARY |11|2008
|Fidel Castro | Zacharay Green | 2008
Questioning culture and the status quo is not an idol exercise.
Nor is it just the practice of philosophers and artists. As evident in popular culture - the yearning to understand and articulate the self is omnipresent.
Specifically, it is a practice of repeatedly revealing what reality and culture are now: shifting, mercurial and intensely sensed that is the primary obsession.
Asha Ganpat curated Boys and Power that exhibited at REDSAW gallery (of which she is one of the founders) in early 2008. Her curatorial work is parallel to her art practice – choosing what is valuable or safe to our emotional realities and re-imagining it in sometimes discomforting but truthful and innovative ways.
In Native American, European and African cultures the trickster and the trick in oral history and literature is the story. Her presentation of Power by these four artists actually pushed us into a space of vulnerability and surprise. She is planning an exhibition titled Girls and Weakness in January and we look forward to her provocation of gender then.
VISIONARY presents Asha Ganpat’s Boys and Power.
This interview took place by e-mail October 2008.
- Noelle Lorraine Williams| VISIONARY | A Project of REBORN
POWER TO THE PEOPLE | BOYS AND POWER
| Asha Ganpat is messing with your dreams of gender and power.
"...Socialization is a universal method which teaches the young to become their own captors. I am my own captor, just as you are yours. There are exceptional visual artists and other thinkers who have stumbled upon the limits of their personal captivity.... After we experience their works, we are changed. " - ASHA GANPAT
NOELLE LORRAINE WILLIAMS|One thing that is interesting about your work as an artist and curator is that you engage sex and gender throughout your work. However, it doesn't seem to be a central focus but rather apart of a series of ideologies including punishment, religion, morality, power and international migration.
What was your impetus in organizing "Boys and Power?"
ASHA GANPAT| I have had some difficulty understanding why contemporary curators put together all-female or all-male shows. I see little need for gender segregation in exhibitions and throughout life, often more than others. (This does range from bathrooms with gender-based icons to pre-marriage rites to clothing and make-up) I know that my views are extreme when compared with the general populus', but they are the views I have come to accept as the most enjoyable to have. To put it lightly, I just can't see why it matters which bathroom I go into, or with a bit more accusation, why one is for me and one is off limits.
Socialization is a universal method which teaches the young to become their own captors. I am my own captor, just as you are yours. There are exceptional visual artists and other thinkers who have stumbled upon the limits of their personal captivity. This means they have found yours and mine too, because we are together-socialized we share many of these limits with one another. Then these exceptional people create works which twist, trick and question our very selves. After we experience their works, we are changed. What these artists are doing is simply getting us to think more deeply than we had before. The things we take for granted are put into light. This is the situation I strive for with my own work. Gender, sexuality, religion, morality...it is all the same problem to explore from this perspective.
For the BOYS AND POWER exhibition, I wanted to push my own limits. I decided to do the thing the got on my nerves so much. An all male show about men who wield power over others. It felt obnoxious, an epitome of that which I stand and speak out against. It started with Zachary Green. He is an artist who works in Hoboken and creates exquisite stained glass panels. The first piece of the show and the piece all others were chosen around was a portrait of Benito Mussolini. In the piece, we see him standing with his hands at his sides gazing off into the distance, exuding pride and confidence. That work might have been the only piece which could persuade me into an exhibition of this nature. The sister exhibition, GIRLS AND WEAKNESS is presently in the making. I believe that I must be fair and jump into each polarity of this nature.
NOELLE LORRAINE WILLIAMS|The pieces in the show project isolated images of masculinity and isolation – not only in their visual composition but also in their relationship to other subjects (animate and inanimate) and the emotional tenor of the work.
Artist Kehinde Wiley whose work focuses on representations of masculinity in portraiture explains "my perception of painting, which is for me an enterprise about very powerful men. The history of painting has been the history of those men trying to position themselves in fields of power that are very defined and codified as a type of vocabulary that's evolved over time."
ASHA GANPAT|I agree with Wiley's take on the history of painting; it is both a sad and true thing. Yes, painting has been widely ruled by portraits of and about powerful men. However, we must remember that history is not the same as the past. We are fortunate to have artists like Artemesia Gentileschi slip through the cracks of censure and suppression to remind us that each painting is a singular struggle of the painter, not a singular triumph of a powerful man. It is easy to forget that the works presented by scholars in their Art History books and museum walls are not unbiased surveys of the past but instead are only recreated histories where exclusion is integral to posterity. And that's how you really win this game, you only count if you are remembered.
Wiley has picked up, so successfully, the quiet cues of isolation from historical works and often paints his subjects so large and proud that there would not be room for anything else in the frame. Wiley's solitude was a different type than the one experienced by the subjects in the works of the BOYS AND POWER show. David Keefe's landscapes with double self-portraits have a lonely, outsider type of solitude. Drawing from his childhood environs and the aggressive Iraq war-scape, he carefully places himself twice, not as two people existing at the same time but instead as one person with straying thoughts of two different times. These memories come together in his paintings like the moment when a dream becomes a nightmare or the reverse.
"We are fortunate to have artists like Artemesia Gentileschi slip through the cracks of censure and suppression to remind us that each painting is a singular struggle of the painter, not a singular triumph of a powerful man. " - ASHA GANPAT
NYUGEN E. SMITH | BUNDLE BOY | 2008
NOELLE LORRAINE WILLIAMS| How do you feel that isolation and the "heroic" figure play in your choice of work for the show and our understanding of masculinity in general?
ASHA GANPAT| Is the hero not always on his or her own? Always surrounded by those who must be helped or overcome? To answer your question, "hero "is so subjective. I'm not trying to dodge but I'd like to guess that the show had fewer heroes than villains. If we asked all of the men depicted in the show if they were hero or villain, I suspect that the only one to offer himself as villain would be Albert Einstein.
NOELLE LORRAINE WILLIAMS|Do you think to be a boy or man is antithetical to community?
ASHA GANPAT|I'm not sure our society knows yet what to do with today's boy. Childhood, as we know it, has not existed for much more than a century. It is an ample jump from boy to man, maybe not so far as from girl to woman. Boys are dismissed while men are heard. Girls have the great misfortune to be relatively dismissed throughout life if they don't fight at least a little to be heard. Societal treatment of girls and women seems more like an evolution when held against the vast differences between treatment of boys and men. Manhood is largely a product of socialization. I think that it is a chicken/egg dilemma. Did manhood construct community as we know it or is it the other way around?
Nyugen Smith's contribution to BOYS AND POWER was his first showing of a bundle boy. The sculpture is of a bundle boy dragging a sled piled high with bits and parts. He himself is created of the same bits as his load. We have seen his bundle houses before but never the inhabitants. Smith's decision to create a male child instead of a grown man seems so necessary. It introduced us to the potential of the boy instead of the materialization of a man's deeds. The burden of the boy was amplified by the metaphors on his sled, i.e. flag. To focus on a single aspect of the piece, a flag is never just a piece of fabric. It is the culmination of the will of man to assert himself against others, to create the "us" and "them."
NOELLE LORRAINE WILLIAMS| Were there any questions or reactions from the artist's audience in viewing the work that surprised or compelled you? In what way in your own curatorial practice does audience engagement fuel or amplify your praxis?
ASHA GANPAT|I was surprised by the audience reaction of Kevin Stapp's installations. Stapp inset quotes on the walls, quotes by men such as Dr. M.L.K. Jr., and F.D.R. Many members of the audience were not finding the work on their own. However, it became part of their charm. When describing his work, Stapp told me that he has decided not to create any more objects as art. His Installations became whispers from the past, nudges, reminders. His were quotes of positivity, inspiration and warning about how we must not let ourselves become overrun by our ruling governments. I must say, watching people stare so intently at walls which seem blank was fun. That aspect was reminiscent of the situations I like to get people into with my own work.
NOELLE LORRAINE WILLIAMS| Please tell me about your upcoming show "Girls and Weakness" and some of your questions that you are posing in organizing it?
ASHA GANPAT|Unlike BOYS AND POWER, I do not have a piece which will inspire the rest of the exhibition. I am not interested in creating a mirror of the prior; I do not want an exhibition by women about weak women and how they express it. I am more interested in an exhibition about struggling with and against the state of weakness, both feminine and general. I cannot yet envision the next exhibition, but I expect to begin to solicit visits with artists during this month to see what they are exploring now.
Biography - ASHA GANPAT_
Asha Ganpat is a sculptor who was born in Trinidad, WI and currently lives/works in New Jersey. She received her B.F.A. from Mason Gross, Rutgers University and M.F.A. from Montclair State University. Ganpat has shown at institutions such as the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the Insitituto di Cultura, Exit Art, The Noyes Museum, Seton Hall University, The Jersey City Museum and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. She is a alumni of Aljira's Emerge program and has received the award of Best In Show for her work in the Metro Show at City Without Walls in Newark New Jersey. In addition, Ganpat is an adjunct professor of sculpture at Montclair State University and is co-founder/director of Red Saw Gallery in Newark.
About - REDSAW
Red Saw was founded in July of 2005 at 585 Broad St. Newark New Jersey. From the early planning, the founders, Lowell Craig, Asha Ganpat, Seth Goodwin, and Dave Smith identified Newark as an exciting location. They wanted to work in conjunction with the present vibe of the artist community and growing scene in Downtown Newark, to utilize the city's accessibility and to further it's potential.
With the intention of enhancing the current art scene, Red Saw has aims to exhibit and promote both established and emerging contemporary artists. The four gallerists take turns curating, inviting guest curators, and holding juried shows. Within the interim of larger exhibitions, Red Saw seeks to hold cultural events, Which will include all creative media, Such as film screenings, poetry readings, performance art, experimental dance and music. In addition Red Saw has invited artists to an open call slide review.
RED SAW ART
(DOWNTOWN NEWARK \ Newark Arts District)
585 Broad Street
Newark, NJ 07102
Red Saw Art
VISIONARY Interview | MOTHER OF GOD