Friday, March 12, 2021

Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration.

"Locked in a Dark Calm" by Tameca Cole

"Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration" which is currently on exhibit at P.S. 1, deals with “carceral esthetics,” a term coined by Nichole R. Fleetwood a professor of American studies and art history at Rutgers who curated the show. "Carceral esthetics" refers to “relational and artistic experiment that challenges the inside/outside logistics of imprisonment.” The current exhibit segues powerfully with Garrett Bradley's documentary film Time, which records a woman fighting for her husband's release from a 60-year prison sentence. “Marking Time” is a document of survival as well as ingenuity on the part of prisoners who produced complex works with limited materials, during long sentences, some of which included solitary confinement. The exhibit includes feats of artistic legerdemain like Dean Gillispie’s "Spiz's Dinette," an airstream trailer constructed with cigarette foil and the backs of notebooks. Gilberto Rivera's "Institutional Nightmare" uses federal prison uniform, commissary papers, floor wax, prison report, newspaper and acrylic paint on canvas. One of the most affecting pieces in the show is Tameca Cole’s, “Locked in a Dark Calm.” The artist produced this collage while serving time at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Alabama. The faceless head out of which only eyes and lips appear underscores the destruction of identity. The prisoner sees but is not seen. Aimee Wissman’s “Prisoner Postcard: You Appeal is Denied" delivers its message with an image that's both comic and grotesque. While the existential condition of many of the artists, ie imprisonment, defines the content of the work, it doesn't limit the ambition of the works which Fleetwood has curated and which is, by any standard, remarkable. "Marking Time" also includes pieces by nonincarcerated artists whose work deals with issues of "state repression, erasure and imprisonment." Grab your mask and see this show.

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