“Today we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land,” reads the text left to read—not amended with black marker—of a New Yorker article-turned-art piece via digital print on brushed nylon felt. The piece is called, aptly, “That Line Tho” and created by Lucia Hierro. If you can picture it, the image of the first page of this New Yorker article is affixed to the wall with a tack and due to the nature of soft felt, hangs as if it were real paper. Most of the text is blacked out, as though classified, presumably by the hand of Hierro herself, save a few small fragments of sentences, effectually strewn together then, amidst a sea of redaction to create a moving and poignant decree, a short poem, if you will: “The Wake—grief, denial, outrage, bewilderment—Her loss, all the more shocking inspired another, less noted reaction ‘Today we woke up feeling like strangers in a foreign land.’” This hurts. This piece of art hurt me, actually, and I stopped and looked at it for a long time wondering how to reckon with this new sentence, clear as day, hidden in the text and brought to life in front of me—the summation of my heartache—on the wall of a gallery in Harlem at 2 pm on a Tuesday.
But so, to take a look then at the crepuscular “It Happened on the Corner,” by artist Kenny Rivero, also featured in the Selections exhibition, is to feel the crushing awareness that something is very wrong here. Faces hover, emerge from the darkness; a body in fetal position on the cement; a fire illuminates abstractions of figures and lights and a hand—it is the hand that remember, a reoccurring image—all of it harkens to a darkness and a truth that exist on the periphery of what reality fails to address.
This piece of art, along with all of the others that currently adorn the stark, white walls of the upper level of Elizabeth Dee Gallery in Harlem, on 5th ave and 126th St., are part of the inaugural Selections, an exhibition series presented by Elizabeth Dee Gallery in efforts to bring visibility to the ardor of some of today’s most promising up-and-coming artists. Culturally influential curator Larry Ossei-Mensah was invited by Elizabeth Dee Gallery to organize this first installation of Selections which features four artists based in Harlem and the South Bronx: Kenny Rivero, Derek Fordjour, Lucia Hierro and Emily Henretta. Ossei-Mensah is a Ghanaian-American independent curator and cultural critic and the co-founder of ARTNOIR, which is a worldwide collective aimed at engaging this generation’s diverse creative class. Ossei-Mensah’s approach to curation uses contemporary art as a vessel to redefine how we see ourselves and the world around us. There is a cohesive propinquity in the works chosen by Larry Ossei-Mensah. Though the mediums and styles utilized by each artist are distinct, the qualities and textures these artists are able to evoke elicits the notion of ‘otherness,’ of bodies deconstructed, of a dolorous hope and the structures that challenge our humanity, of loss and memory and technology; the perfidy of our capital-S Society, and the pervasive generational lassitude, notwithstanding.
This first installment of Selections curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah is over on February 25th, and while the train ride is long and you are surely busy, it is well worth your time to check out this stunning collection of works. Find out more at www.elizabethdee.com .
Writing by Cara Vincent
Photographs provided by the gallery