ASU Art Museum exhibition showcases unpublished work on mass incarceration
The ASU Art Museum opened its exhibition “Undoing Time: Art and Histories of Incarceration” on September 10, after years of preparation.
The exhibit will be the first to use the museum’s six galleries, a total of 10,000 square feet. The curatorial team consists of ASU Art Museum Director Miki Garcia, Curatorial Assistant / Museum Matthew Villar Miranda, Senior Curator Julio César Morales and Senior Curator / Associate Director Heather Lineberry .
“The topic we’re dealing with, I think, really needed that amount of space to kind of tell the story and its essence,” Cesar Morales said.
The exhibition came to fruition thanks to a grant from the Art for Justice Fund to which the museum had been invited to apply.
The ASU Art Museum is the first to receive this grant, and to date only two other museums hold it.
The exhibition is a collection of unpublished works by 12 artists.
“The idea was to kind of work with artists who work with history as part of their practices and their media,” said Villar Miranda. “Often, they use archives or reappropriate images from the past in their present works. “
The exhibit focuses on mass incarceration and the idea of ’new stories’, or, as Garcia explained, the ‘voices and stories of people who have not been seen, portrayed or heard’.
In this exhibit, these new stories are those of those who have experienced the poor conditions of mass incarceration and communities that have been continually marginalized or victimized by the prison system.
While the exhibit primarily deals with the American prison system, the museum brings an international perspective with installations by Juan Brenner, who lives and works in Guatemala and focuses on the local impact of incarceration, and Stephanie Syjuco, whose work refers to the history of colonialism and incarceration in the Philippines.
In the United States, incarceration is an inevitable topic – according to data from the Prison Policy Institute, while Americans make up only 5% of the world’s population, incarcerated populations in the United States make up 20% of prisoners worldwide whole.
Among those incarcerated in Arizona, the figures stand out. According to a report by the Vera Institute of Justice, in 2015, more than 55,000 people were in Arizona jails and jails, while the state’s total population was just over 6.8 million.
The inequity goes further, with Latin, indigenous or black peoples making up around 49% of Arizonans imprisoned in 2015, although these communities only make up around 40% of the total population.
“These are the communities that we believe are probably the most affected by the content of the show,” said Villar Miranda. “And so a lot of artists work with Latinx stories, black stories, native aesthetics.”
Throughout the exhibition, some pieces stand out more than others. One of those pieces was “Personal, Small, Medium, Large, Family” by Mario Ybarra Jr., which was inspired by a pizzeria.
“Personal, Small, Medium, Large, Family” also explores the impact on loved ones. The artist was inspired by his personal experience. As a teenager, he must have seen one of his dearest friends, Richard, enter the prison system.
“(The incarceration) really affects the personal relationships of these people, the little radiating circles,” said Ybarra Jr. He said that the communities that incarcerated people are taken from and those they create in prison create these middle circles and big.
Ybarra designed the installation after a restaurant where he would eat with Richard. There was also a video element, Ybarra’s interview with a recently paroled Richard.
Ybarra Jr. researched exhibits that would feature this installation; although these efforts “never failed”, they came to fruition when contacted by the ASU Art Museum.
“Looking back, I’m glad now is not the right time because my friend Richard would not have been released from prison and could not have participated in the same way.”
“Multi-ples Capas (Multiple Layers)” by Carolina Aranibar-Fernandes can be found in Galerie Five.
“Multi-ples Capas” is an interactive multimedia installation featuring hanging planters filled with plants believed to have healing properties suspended from an adobe tile floor, which crumbles over time.
“The article deals with the different forms of incarceration, but also with all the companies that have been involved historically, in a contemporary way, in benefiting from the prison system,” said Aranibar-Fernandes. The tiles bear the names of companies involved in the prison system.
“Everyone should leave feeling a whole range of feelings that come with the incarceration, the trauma, the rage, the sadness,” Villar Miranda said. “We feel like these artists and these works of art are doing that,” Villar Miranda said.
The public can also see the exhibition’s upcoming lineup, Garcia said. “We have a very robust set of programs that we hope to involve a lot of people, people who may not be interested in art per se, but have a real interest in it. “
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