On View presents images from noteworthy exhibitions

GIVEN THE PERILS of the contemporary world, how do artists envision the future? “Utopian Imagination” at the Ford Foundation Gallery brings together 13 international artists whose works—spanning sculpture, photography, and film—suggest how we all might exist and persist on a planet under threat from natural and man-made forces. After a two-year update, the Ford Foundation’s headquarters reopened as the Ford Foundation Center for Social Justice in March. A light-filled, mid-century gem originally designed by architects Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo and renovated by Gensler, the building includes a new 1,900 square foot art gallery providing a unique platform for furthering the foundation’s mission. Viewing art as a “powerful ally” in the fight for equality, the foundation is using the space to present work that “wrestles with difficult questions, calls out injustice, and points the way toward a more fair and just future.” The concept for “Utopian Imagination” was developed by Brooklyn-based curator Jaishri Abichandani. With science fiction as a unifying thread, works by artists including Firelei Báez, Lola Flash, Juliana Huxtable, Cannupa Hanska Luger, Zak Ové, Mikael Owunna, and Yinka Shonibare CBE, are on view. CT

 

“Utopian Imagination” is on view at the Ford Foundation Gallery, New York, N.Y., Sept. 17-Dec. 7, 2019

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Installation view of “Utopian Imagination,” Ford Foundation Gallery, New York, N.Y., Sept. 17-Dec. 7, 2019. Shown, SAKS AFRIDI, “The Prayer Catcher,” 2019 (high-density foam, acrylic, brass leaf, acrylic paint, 50 x 35 x 18 inches). Designed by Brandon Wetzel, in collaboration with Ferda Kolatan, Hart Marlow, and Amir Ashtiani. | Photo by Sebastian Bach

 


Installation view of “Utopian Imagination,” Ford Foundation Gallery, New York, N.Y., Sept. 17-Dec. 7, 2019. Shown, at left, LEE BUL, “Sternbau No. 5,” 2007 (crystal, glass, and acrylic beads on nickel-chrome wire, stainless steel and aluminum armature, 56 ½ x 35 ½ x 31 ½ inches). | Photo by Sebastian Bach

 


ZAK OVÉ, “Nubian Return,” 2011 (mixed media including seventies Rootstein mannequin, aircraft fuselage, telephone box, shelter, metal signage, 98 ½ x 59 x 15 ¾ inches). | Courtesy Zak Ové Studio and Vigo Gallery, London

 


ZAK OVÉ, “Sky Lark,” 2017 (vintage fairground ride, resin cast masks, mannequin, acrylic wings, trumpets, 80 ¼ × 63 ¾ × 94 ½ inches). | Collection of Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, 21c Museum Hotel | Courtesy Zak Ové Studio and Vigo Gallery, London

 


Installation view of “Utopian Imagination,” Ford Foundation Gallery, New York, N.Y., Sept. 17-Dec. 7, 2019. Shown, foreground at center, YINKA SHONIBARE CBE, “Cloud 9,” 1999-2000 (Dutch wax-print cotton textile, fiberglass figure, helmet, flagpole and flag, Figure: 72 x 24 ½ x 19 inches, Flag: 72 x 36 inches). | Photo by Sebastian Bach

    Exhibition label: Cloud 9 is one of Yinka Shonibare’s earliest black astronaut sculptures—part of a two-decade exploration that imagines the survival of black people as pioneers in space. The work explores themes of colonialism, post-colonialism, and black aspiration.
 


LOLA FLASH, “Syzygy,” 2019 (aluminum metal print, 50 x 40 inches). | Courtesy the artist

 


MIKAEL OWUNNA, “Infinite Essence: Sam,” 2018 (aluminum metal print, 40 x 40 x 2 inches). | Courtesy the artist

 


farxiyo jaamac, From the black girls live in outer space too series, “Android Girl,” 2017 (archival inkjet print, 31 x 48 inches). | Private Collection

    Exhibition label: farxiyo jaamac’s work centers the experiences and imagery of muslim black women
    and girls, depicting her subjects in galactical surroundings using the principals of afrofuturism—an exploration of science and technology through an african-diasporic lens—to create a sense of possibility for her community
 

jaamac’s “Android Girl” is adapted from a Reuters photograph by Tobin Jones taken Feb. 20, 2013, at a displacement camp in Somalia. The circumstances of image reference regional flooding, hundreds of displaced people, and the presence of the extremist group al Shabab, exemplifying the peril at the center of the exhibition’s theme. For background, this is the caption information for the original photo:

    A girl stands in a camp for internally displaced persons (IDP) on the outskirts of Belet Weyne, about 315 km (196 miles) from the capital Mogadishu, February 20, 2013, in this picture provided by the African Union-United Nations Information Support (AU-UN IST) team. According to the AU-UN IST, the IDP camp is currently home to four hundred people displaced by floods that affected the region late last year. The AU-UN IST added that Belet Weyne, Somalia’s fifth largest city, was first liberated from the extremist group al Shabab in September 2011 by Ethiopian troops, but was taken over by the Djiboutian contingent of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in September 2012.
 


FIRELEI BÁEZ, Detail of “Adjusting the Moon (The right to non-imperative clarities),” 2019 (mirrored walls, two paintings in oil and acrylic on panel, Each: 114 x 78 x 1 1/2 inches / 289.6 x 198.1 x 3.8 cm). | Courtesy the artist and James Cohan, New York, Photo by Christopher Burke Studios

 


Installation view of “Utopian Imagination,” Ford Foundation Gallery, New York, N.Y., Sept. 17-Dec. 7, 2019. Shown, at center, in background, CANNUPA HANSKA LUGER, “Future Ancestral Technologies: araxooxí,” 2018-19 (video, ceramic, steel, wool, felt, fiber, found objects). | Photo by Sebastian Bach

    Exhibition label: araxooxí is part of Cannupa Hanska Luger’s Future Ancestral Technologies, described by the artist as “an ongoing investigation of our past in order to move forward, advancing new materials and new modes of thinking.” In preparation for the future he envisions in which migration is essential to survival, we must draw on science and indigenous knowledge to develop a lifestyle that is highly adaptable and allows us to live in harmony with the land, rather than off the land.
 


CANNUPA HANSKA LUGER, “The One Who Checks & The One Who Balances. Navajo Nation.” | Photo by Chip Thomas for Return of the Warrior Twins mural, 2018 – Ginger Dunni

 


CANNUPA HANSKA LUGER, “Monster Slayer Toas,” 2018. | Courtesy the artist

 

TOP IMAGE: Installation view of “”Utopian Imagination,” Ford Foundation Gallery, New York, N.Y., Sept. 17-Dec. 7, 2019. Shown, Detail of FIRELEI BÁEZ, “Adjusting the Moon (The right to non-imperative clarities),” 2019 (mirrored walls, two paintings in oil and acrylic on panel, Each: 114 x 78 x 1 1/2 inches / 289.6 x 198.1 x 3.8 cm).| | Photo by Sebastian Bach

 

Disclosure: I was previously employed by the Ford Foundation, serving on the communications team from 2007-2012.

 

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