Opening Reception: Saturday, January 20 from 6pm to 9pm
who transformed your anguish
into healthy awareness,
put your voice
where your memory is.
You who swallowed
the afternoon dust,
defend everything you understand
You, if no one else,
will condemn with your tongue
the erosion each disappointment brings.”
— From You, if no one else by Tino Villanueva
Arlington Arts Center is pleased to announce the opening of You, if no one else, on January 20, 2018 from 6-9pm. Featuring ten contemporary artists and artist collaborations, You, if no one else, looks at the ways in which artists record, reflect, contribute to, rail against, and engage with politics and civic life, bringing dialogue, beauty, and nuance to their involvement in the public sphere. The title of the exhibition was inspired by poet Tino Villanueva, whose poem of the same name was included in his 1994 collection Chronicle of My Worst Years.
The artists included in the exhibition engage with communities, contribute to civic discourse, document political activity, highlight social injustice, and incorporate the architecture of political protest into their work. At a time of substantial turbulence, You, if no one else champions the role artists can play in supporting and expanding our democratic traditions and political institutions.
Inspired by Woody Guthrie’s anthem, “This Land is Your Land,” Kim Beck created a gold-mirrored #MINE sign cut in the distinctive typeface featured on Trump Tower. Beck took the sign on a road trip from California to New York, photographing it in national parks, next to oil rigs, on beaches, on private property, and along national borders. The work explores issues of land use and natural resource extraction with both humor and nuance. #Mine can be seen as a critique, pointing to the private extraction of public goods for personal profit, or as a recuperative gesture, in which the artist announces her claim to and responsibility for our shared landscape.
In Phillip Buehler’s installations viewers are transported to specific moments in current events through large scale panoramas within small, enclosed structures. The event documented in the structure at AAC focuses on the Women’s March on Washington. In additional installations, Buehler depicted the spot where Michael Brown was killed by police and the grave of Captain Humayun Khan, the son of Khizr Khan, located in Arlington National Cemetery. While images of these places and events have inundated news sources and the internet, Buehler surrounds the viewer with charged environments, intensifying the impact of the images.
Lizania Cruz’s Flowers for Immigration depicts flower arrangements created by undocumented bodega workers in New York City in response to President Trump’s immigration policies. Cruz asked the workers to create the arrangements and then photographed the individual flowers and the final arrangements on stark black backgrounds. Calling to mind the symbolism and dramatic lighting of Northern European still-life painting, the arrangements are imbued with highly charged personal and cultural significance.
Mel Day + Michael Namkung
For Wall of Song, artists Mel Day and Michael Namkung invited people from different backgrounds, beliefs, political affiliations, orientations, and countries of origin—no matter their ability to carry a tune—to record themselves singing along to Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” The artists layered the submitted videos, merging the voices and the figures to create a ghostly portrait of hundreds of participants. The resulting video gives presence to the many rather than privileging the few; it hands power to the masses.
Roxana Geffen’s Dissent Collars series deftly borrows a potent symbol of political discord–the iconic collar Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is known to wear to show disagreement with majority opinions. Geffen makes her own collars with palettes that range from acrid hues to more muted tones, with stitching and handiwork made intentionally visible. Geffen’s collars function as sculptural objects and as props for self-portraits. In Geffen’s photographs, the collars, often ominous, constricting and constraining, creep up and down her neck and body.
With a practice at the intersection of storytelling, folklore, and visual arts, Ashley Minner documents her own community, the Lumbee population of East Baltimore. For The Exquisite Lumbee Project, Minner invited her peers from the community to pose for portraits. Although the final images present their subjects individually, the sessions in the studio were a community affair, including groups who encouraged and coached one another. The resulting photographs illustrate the depth and personality of each subject, creating a portrait of a contemporary, urban, American Indian community that is simultaneously multifaceted and unified.
In Family Stories, Dana Ollestad presents a multifaceted portrait of modern families. These stories are varied yet relatable, touching on interracial marriage, adoptions by same sex couples, infertility, and immigration. Family Stories was originally completed in Richmond, VA, where Ollestad lives; for You, if no one else, Ollestad expanded the project to include a new video based on interviews conducted in late 2017 in Arlington, VA.
Jon Rubin + Lee Walton
For Lee Walton and Jon Rubin’s anachronistic performance and video project, When the World’s on Fire, two musicians clad in American Revolutionary War attire wandered Boston’s historic Cambridge Common playing contemporary protest songs on a drum and fife. The performance lasted two hours and was repeated every day for thirty days. Chosen for its historical significance, Cambridge Common was the site where George Washington first assumed command over the Continental Army in 1775, and has hosted musical protests and political gatherings in the 200 years since that historic occasion.
Danielle A. Scruggs
Danielle A. Scruggs’ photographs depict key events that took place across the city of Chicago during the historic 2016 election. As the director of photography at the Chicago Reader, Scruggs prioritized documenting the most vulnerable populations in her hometown, including Black and Latinx communities on the city’s West Side. In the series Parade to the Polls, Scruggs photographed a concert and march to the Chicago Board of Elections led and organized by Chance the Rapper to encourage young people to vote.
ART ON THE GROUNDS:
For Freedoms’ Yard Sign Activation consists of hundreds of corrugated plastic signs reminiscent of campaign signs displayed in yards and public spaces during election season. Rather than promoting particular candidates, the signs include one of four phrases: Freedom From, Freedom Of, Freedom To, or Freedom For. Participants are invited to complete the phrases by writing on the signs before they are installed on AAC’s front lawn. The project was created by For Freedoms Federation, which was co-founded by artists Hank Willis Thomas and Eric Gottesman. For Freedoms mobilizes the existing cultural infrastructure of art in the United States in order to encourage broader civic participation.
- Wednesday – Sunday: Noon to 5pm
- or by appointment
AAC is located at 3550 Wilson Blvd Arlington, VA. For more information visit https://www.arlingtonartscenter.org/.