Residual Lives features new and recent work by a selection of US-based artists Tyanna Buie, Tirtza Even, Carlos Javier Ortiz, Jenny Polak, Emmanuel Pratt, and the Portraits of Resolution Project by William Estrada, Erica Brooks, and Anthony Rea. The thought-provoking and personal work by these contemporary artists highlight topics of violence, immigration, human rights, and community responsibility in relation to America’s growing detention system.
Tyanna Buie, Tirtza Even, Carlos Javier Ortiz, Jenny Polak, The Portraits of Resolution Project (William Estrada, Erica Brooks, and Anthony Rea), and Emmanuel Pratt.
The US has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Currently, more than 2.2 million people are imprisoned, with an additional 400,000 in immigration custody and 55,000 juveniles growing up in detention facilities. Residual Lives presents a selection of photography, installation, video, and collage by artists who focus on the personal narratives developed and altered through the growing business of incarceration in America. What does detention look like from the outside – on neighborhood streets, in friends’ homes, across a mother’s face? By giving the topic a closer study through the works of these artists, we see the power of communities that struggle with, challenge, and amend the system.
Artists included in the exhibition have demonstrated a commitment in their practice to addressing the personal space of the free individual(s) located between incarceration and community. We inhabit that space too and the artwork on view points to what we might miss happening around us, while provoking us to reconsider our civic responsibility. The work selected for this show present the various viewpoints from mugshots of the artists’ family members in Tyanna Buie’s large works on paper, to the artist-as-collaborator and documentarian of addressing the struggles of family members neighbors and victims in the black and white photography by Carlos Javier Ortiz and the video installation and archive by Tirtza Even.
Optimism for resolving the great incarceration epidemic in America exists in the exhibition too through the artists making work to support and empower those individuals who change the system bit by bit everyday. Jenny Polak celebrates the victories of the many citizens in small Midwest towns fighting against for-profit detention centers moving into their town. Her 3D printed souvenirs and ink paintings memorialize the protests and the public hearings vital to their process. The Portraits of Resolution by William Estrada, Erica Brooks, and Anthony Rea highlight portraiture’s ability to be a tool for reclaiming self-representation and agency to voice frustration and determination to break the cycle. The garden/game oasis created by Emmanuel Pratt and the Sweet Water Foundation Team display the products of the community-based training Apprenticeship and Outreach Program (AOP) that provides youth in at-risk areas a trade, purpose, and a network of mentors (sometimes ex-cons) to ensure these young people do not enter the incarceration system to start.
The polemical space detention centers create in the community are explored through the variety of work presented in Residual Lives. The exhibition complements the prints and paintings by incarcerated artists on view in The Weight of Rage, a concurrent exhibition presented in the Kanter McCormick Gallery. By combining work by artists who focus on immigration detention centers, juvenile detention centers and correctional facilities, the exhibition invites us to consider our culture of confinement as a whole and our residual role in it. Residual Lives is curated by Allison Peters Quinn, Director of Exhibitions & Residency Programs.