By honoring southern Black oral histories and narrative patterns in music, food, textiles, spiritualism, and other cultural customs, the works in this installment of Route to (re)settlement are positioned within the lineage of White paternalistic narratives imposed upon Black communities and individuals. In addition to examining material manifestations of Black heritage, the interaction between the works and the Mann-Simons Site encourages interracial dialogue about the site’s history as a center of temporal, cultural, and spiritual sustenance for its community for almost 200 years. The site also invites participating artists to consider racial constructs embedded in the socio-political systems of postcolonial and post-abolitionist Africa and America, respectively. With South Carolina as the nucleus of this ongoing exhibition - incorporating various sites specific to Black communities for three centuries - two patterns emerge when prompting discourse around the exhibition’s themes and the influx of Africans into America: historically enslaved and contemporary migration related to modern conflict as well as seeking education and job opportunities.
Born 1977 in Chicago, Illinois, Johnson lives and works in New York, New York. Working across media, Johnson’s practice is informed by art history, alchemy, mysticism, astronomy and divination. He creates sculptures and photographs through a synthesis of historical and material references to Black history that often results in a clutter of symbols and objects which consider personal, racial, and cultural identity. Echoing the history of the Mann-Simons Site and its inhabitants’ roles within the Black community of Columbia, SC for almost two centuries, Rashid Johnson’s assemblage, Planet, is an amalgamation of imagery and objects that reference art history, alchemy, mysticism, astronomy, and divination through a synthesis of art historical and material references to Black history. Johnson’s work is composed of ritualistic elements from this combined history - the patterns fostered by the traditions which define the cultural tapestry of a community like that which surrounds the Mann-Simons Site - and resonating with Johnson’s coming-of-age in 1980-90s Chicago.
Born 1974 in Florence, Alabama, Meko lives and works in Atlanta, Georgia. Drawing from Southern culture and contemporary urban subcultures, Meko has developed a system of gathering, hybridizing, and remixing of content into a multilingual dialect that endows ordinary or rejected objects with historic and spiritual powers. He establishes a new - metaphysical identity by reworking iconography through physical and psychological conditions in proclamation of remembrance. Michi Meko endows banal discarded objects weighted with historical significance and spiritual powers. Reworking domestic objects from his family history, such as cooking vessels, Meko creates poignant narratives emphasizing the buoyancy of black culture despite continuous oppression — be it flagrant or clandestine. For Meko, establishing a new metaphysical identity for these objects is a proclamation of remembrance. and a nod to the archeological excavation of the Mann-Simons Site.
Henry Taylor is a Los Angeles-based artist, well known for his acrylic paintings, mixed-media sculptures, and installations. His most prevalent work is portraiture. His paintings expressively capture those who influence him: historical figures, family, and strangers alike. On his first visit to South Carolina, Henry Taylor gleaned moments from his trip, incorporating objects and peoples he encountered into assemblage paintings that activate the historical tapestry of the Mann- Simons Site. Oriented in his practice of culling from his family, friends, as well as figures from popular culture and history, Taylor captures idiosyncratic portraits of the socio-political landscape and of figures that occupy contemporary society. Taylor’s vibrant and spontaneous style conjures rhythms similar to the acoustic equivalent in blues and jazz, while his subjects’ composition evokes critical social acumen described within the lyrical genius of artists like Nina Simone and N.W.A.
Born 1982 in Lagos, Nigeria, Udondian lives and works in New York, New York. Udondian trained as a tailor and fashion designer, informing her practice as a visual artist through her focus on textiles and the capacity of clothing to shape identity. Her sculptures, installations, performances, and photographs confront notions of authenticity and cultural contamination, particularly as patterns, styles and even second hand clothing oscillates across national borders blurring cultural references.Through her interactive, sculptural performance at the Mann-Simons Site, Udondion confronts notions of authenticity and cultural contamination, particularly as techniques, patterns, styles, and brands oscillate across borders and blur cultural references. Working with Charleston-based quilter Marlene O’Bryant- Seabrook, she constructed a community quilt with a group of elderly women living adjacent to the Mann- Simons Site. The patterns, techniques and modes of display are inspired by the historical mythology of quilts with traditional and contemporary quilting methods of Lowcountry textiles.
Fletcher Williams III
Born in Charleston, SC in 1987, Williams lives and works in North Charleston. Souvenir is a ceremony for the many victims of violent crimes who lived only blocks away from the city’s historic district. Williams memorializes those of the African American community afflicted by the reconditioning of the Lowcountry, a city of celebrated charm and dominant historic preservation. The realities of violence and social destruction are in stark contrast. As a means to represent the correlation of charm and decay Williams appropriates a local souvenir, the Palmetto Rose, creating works that serve as objects of beauty and indicators of violence. Within these works beauty and destruction are presented simultaneously, forcing the viewer into a cycle of empathy, fascination, horror, and concern. Juxtaposing them alongside the ambiguous scripture of the light boxes lends a shrine-like reference to his installation. Williams presents a selection of lyrics from songs by rappers Bun B and Boosie Badazz in Quad Black - a font he developed with an Islamic student he met while attending Cooper Union - centered within the frame, recalling Hebrew scripture while also detailing the struggle of black adolescents and adults and their coping mechanisms with racial profiling, violence and discrimination. The spiritual references and abstracted sociopolitical commentary lend the works a contemplative feeling.
Fletcher Williams, III
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