Museum of Contemporary Art Denver – July 15 – Sept. 25, 2016 –
— Just the blacks of B&W photographs covered a few walls when the MCA Denver opened on July 15th with a party, a party not everyone standing in line was able to join. It was crowded with colorfully dressed folks and when the blacks were printed on reflective surfaces, the folks made these prints black and colored, while the melodious voice of one leader of the Black Pathers filled the entire floor with auditory smoke.
The voice came from a video titled My Education: A Portrait of David Hilliard, which was playing on three separate channels, showing the visual story in a roundabout way, as Hilliard tells it straight. We tour the Oakland neighborhood where the Panthers where formed and where its Treasurer Bobby Hutton was killed by police in 1968.
Throughout this show there are text and images that give some information, but more often than not, the work just gives a hint that there is more behind all this black ink. On another visit to the show, a docent explained that there is a letter that is prominent in each photo printed on the way, and you can trace that letter to the list of photos used for the installation and get its title, date and place. Even denser, are the blackest pieces – black on black paintings that you can’t really see straight on – they just look black. From the side you can see that some parts are glossy and others are not, and a letter or more is identifiable. We made the above video to be similarly obscurantist – huge chunks of the conversation were cut out and hopefully these were the more boring ones. We got hung up in text provided on one collage in the big room with the big letters on the wall that start this video. This quote referenced an interview with (often obscure) filmmaker Jean Luc Goddard and included the line ‘my name was doing me harm’.
The collage that we and many other people got stuck in front of had several chunks of text: one, likely from an art magazine, was about how technology makes our role in the world confusing, and included a photo of French celebs in the 60s with another printed chunk about beauty being something that is already known. We started a long conversation about these text and then got into the whole point of seeing a show that revealed a lot but didn’t give it away.
One of our group said that this African-American artist didn’t make this art for me. But seeing it, caused me to write the following poem the next day. Isn’t that what art’s for?
Blow up a picture to its points or
pixels and pattern is all that’s
left – eliminate color and the only
place left for any thought is in the
non-pixel – the no point.
I pay my traffic tickets
now – even though they are still a big
financial burden. But I do not accept
I negotiate the code not to find the reference
that is the answer, but because it is hidden.
The answer doesn’t come with the one piece with text
Jean Luc Goddard’s words or my rebellion
Tristan Tzara’s movement high jacked by
bourgeois Andre Breton.
Mary Margaret won the civility award
that was passed down through her family.
Mine were scrappy bigots who did
the wrong thing. Raised me wrong and
got an independent thinker – no movement
for me – who sees no problem with a
Change and accept that your daughter is
dating a black man. It was easier than
managing the good salary that went
with the stressful job at the conglomerate
company that transferred my dad from
a delivery man to a traveling sales manager
— from a hometown hero to a nobody.