In “The World is a Mirror of My Freedom,” five former and current McColl Center artists-in-residence respond – some directly, some less so – to the killing of black males, mostly by police.
The subject matter is difficult, but these pieces invite you to reflect, and to talk. Much of the work combines extensive research and deep emotion. It is by turns challenging and tender.
Curated by Nicole J. Caruth, McColl Center’s new artistic director, the exhibition has a seamless look and feel – this despite the fact that the artists pull from myriad sources, including pop culture, history and science fiction, and employ a broad range of media.
The show starts with “Intergalactic Soul.”
This ongoing collaboration by Marcus Kiser and Jason Woodberry chronicles the travels of two young black astronauts. The artists started the project after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, and it takes its visual cues from numerous sources, old movie posters and comics among them. It is bright and inviting in a way that – at first – masks its heavy content. Posters, sculpture, a video and ads for mock consumer products explore a lonely terrain of oppression and exclusion, whether in space, a foreign land, or one’s own country.
Charles E. Williams’ paintings and Shaun Leonardo’s drawings employ traditional techniques to deliver an up-to-the-minute message. Some of this work is so quiet in its execution that it is startling.
Williams’ oil-on-panel “Confrontation III, July 17, 2014,” is a diffuse, terrifying image of Eric Garner on the ground; only his hand can be seen clearly. Garner died on that date in Staten Island, after being put in a chokehold by police. Two oil-on-paper paintings depict men in potentially deadly situations; although based on ’60s-era photographs, they are eerily contemporary.
Leonardo’s work includes three sets of drawings based on video footage of the killings of Keith Lamont Scott, Michael Brown and Eric Garner. These small charcoal-on-paper works are delicate renderings of senseless death. Each set includes a drawing in which the deceased is simply not there, as if he has been erased or never existed at all.
Four different projects by Dread Scott dramatically address the complexities of struggle, protest and revolution throughout history and around the globe. (Scott’s name is a play on Dred Scott, the slave who unsuccessfully sued for his freedom in 1857.)
His “A Man Was Lynched by Police Yesterday” is the most confrontational piece in the exhibition.
Scott created this large banner — based on the NAACP’s “A Man Was Lynched Today” banner, first displayed outside its New York headquarters in 1936 — after the 2015 killing of Walter Scott by police in North Charleston.
To extend the dialogue started by this exhibition, McColl Center has scheduled two events. The Center’s first Community Pie Social, 5-7 p.m. Feb. 18, will offer a welcoming environment for people to gather to discuss current issues. The I Can’t Breathe Workshop, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. March 18 with Shaun Leonardo, is a performance workshop with elements of a self-defense class; it will include a discussion with Leonardo and Charlotte police officer Mike Campagna.
“The World is a Mirror of My Freedom”: McColl Center for Art + Innovation; mccollcenter.org; 704-332-5535; through March 25.