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Last month, from February 21-24, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) held its eight annual edition of deFINE ART, its multi-day event of exhibition openings, talks, lectures, and workshops. The program took place over SCAD’s multiple locations in Savannah, Atlanta, and Hong Kong, including an opening night musical performance by Madame Gandhi.
This year’s honoree was artist Carlos Cruz-Diez, the subject of a solo show “Chroma” curated by the SCAD Museum of Art‘s head curator Storm Janse van Rensburg and Raquel Serebrenik with Articruz and the Cruz-Diez Foundation. The artist’s color theory explorations also took place outside the museum—his signature multi-colored crosswalk painting nearby, and a shipping container filled with light-based color chambers, “Chromosaturation.” Cruz-Diez closed out the week at a keynote conversation with van Rensburg in SCAD’s Trustees Theater. The talk was bookended by a flamenco dancer in all-white moving against an entrancing projection by the artist, and a standing ovation from the audience which included his family.
That week saw the opening of several other solo shows at the museum, with most artists in town for the opening. Setting the tone for the series of exhibitions was Hank Willis Thomas‘ “Blind Memory” interventions in the buildings four street-facing Jewel Boxes. The artist filled each with tobacco, cotton, rice, and indigo—crops once gathered by slaves on Savannah’s plantations.
Inside, the first gallery hosts his show “Freedom Isn’t Always Beautiful,” featuring a variety of the artist’s work that asks the question, “Which history?,” exploring issues of race, gender, politics, and consumerism. Where a viewer stands, affects how the works are seen, like It Should Have been Me/It Could Have Been You (2012) and Zero Hour (from Wayfarer series) (2012). In a series of pieces from 2016, Thomas prints photographs from the Civil Rights movement onto mirrored surfaces. As a viewer stands in front of the work, seeing his or her reflection, the question becomes, “Where would you have stood at this moment in history?” Other works like Icarus (2016) and From Cain’t See in the Morning til Cain’t See at Night (2011) relate the commodification of the black body in slavery and in sports today.
In the gallery beyond, Hernan Bas‘ “Florida Living” presents all new work. He created a salon-like setting complete with original wallpaper, folding screens, a rug, sculptures, paintings, and pink birds. He was inspired by an image of Monet’s studio for the installation. His new paintings show cool looking young men surrounded by tropical plant life, flamingos, and lawn decor, completing tension-filled Floridian scenes.
From Bas’ bright gallery of pinks, greens, and yellows, comes a dark narrow gallery, save for the glittering light dancing on the walls and ceiling, reflected off of Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian‘s decadent geometric mirrored pieces. The artist’s “Lineages” features several of her dazzling sculptural mosaics created since 2011, paired with a series of small drawings from 1977.
Chiharu Shiota‘s bright red “Infinity Lines,” beckons from the edge of the previous gallery. The site-specific project fills the room with an intricate web of red yarn strung from the wall, ceiling, and floor to create a dense forest of color. Thickets of yarn that frame a labyrinth of covered corridors are broken up by empty dark chairs, all facing one direction, in some instances resembling the formation of a pews in a church. The work is at once haunting and inviting, an exercise in the way color can envelop the viewer.
Also on view is José Parlá‘s “Roots,” Glen Fogel‘s With You… Us,” and William Singer‘s “From the Depths Above.”