Leslie Hewitt and the (African) American Dream

THE DAILY PIC: At the Sculpture Center, African American history gets complex.

2016-05-19-hewitt

THE DAILY PIC (#1553): The two projections of Leslie Hewitt’s Untitled (Structures) are now on view at the Sculpture Center in Queens, New York. The piece, made in collaboration with the cinematographer Bradford Young, was triggered by a collection of vintage Civil Rights photos donated to the Menil Collection in Houston. In the end, however, Hewitt and Young moved beyond that specific context to film at the now-defunct mid-century-modern headquarters of the Johnson Publishing Company in Chicago, which produced Jet and Ebony, at a black-owned insurance company in Memphis and  at any number of other locations with loose ties to the black experience in America. Almost-still vignettes of these locales flash up on the work’s two screens, getting us to search for links between them while often not finding any.

I wonder if part of the point of the piece, or at least its effect, is to make us wonder if clear narratives – for instance, of oppression, striving and success – are as available to blacks as they are to many whites.

For blacks, the American Dream may be less like an aspirational vision and more like a real dream, with all its elisions and fractures, raptures and terrors, pleasures promised and disappointments proffered instead. (Courtesy the artists and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York; photo by Kyle Knodell)

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.


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