The Language between Worlds addresses the hidden directives that have historically pervaded American culture to instruct and perpetuate discrimination. Nyame Brown, Bethany Collins, Nicole Marroquin, Chris Pappan and Jessica Vaughn devise their own language of symbols, visual cues, and narrative structures that highlight the racial inequality consciously and unconsciously woven into American society. Written and coded methods of communication are tools these artists employ in their paintings, drawings, textiles and prints to translate important lessons of protest and cultural preservation. Whether fact or folktale, the stories they choose to tell are revived through a conceptual approach and directly connect the past to the future, while challenging the author of history itself. Curated by Allison Peters Quinn, HPAC Director of Exhibitions & Residency Programs, the exhibition presents a diverse range of artwork by artists who approach the subject of racial injustice from perspectives of relevation, correction, and speculation.
The title of the exhibition references Ta-Nehisi Coates’ nonfiction book Between the World and Me (2015), in which the author tenderly tells his story of navigating racial disparity to his teenage son as a lesson in how to override the social, economic, and educational structures in place to maintain inequality in America. Identifying the hidden language of privilege and restriction passed on through generations is the conceptual underpinning behind The Language Between Worlds with the intention to see the unseen. As visual storytellers, the artists in the exhibition deconstruct iconic American texts and found historical materials intended to model (and limit) human behavior and movement. From Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby and Homer’s Odyssey to Chicago newspapers, transit maps and Scout manuals, the artists expose embedded notions of inequity and by doing so, posit strategies to disrupt the system.