September 14-December 6, 2019
Curated by Annie Buckley
Artists: Karla Diaz, Stan Hunter, Peter Merts, Javier Quintero, Tony Ramirez, Paul Rucker, Gregory Sale, Noelle Swan, Robert Yovanov
The tragic facts of the history of incarceration in America are now widely recognized. That we imprison more people than anywhere else on the planet, for longer sentences, and in harsh conditions, is seen as a pressing problem across political aisles. Yet the trenchant issues of racial and economic injustice continue to plague a swollen system that ensnares millions of Americans. While incarcerated individuals are the most directly impacted, tendrils stretch into families and communities disproportionately impacted by violence and the criminal justice system. But the complexity of the system and efforts at reform are dwarfed by the cycle of trauma that inscribes and abets it. In the movement for prison reform, the expression “hurt people hurt people” has become a kind of mantra for a reason. Crime and its impacts are not individual issues but communal and familial ones, with deep roots in slavery, inequity, and domestic violence.
Where does art fit into all of this? How can the arts disrupt cycles of trauma and promote healing and connection, inspire education and social change? Within the strict confines and jagged social structure of the American prison system, art plays a particularly poignant and pressing role. It is often the only outlet an individual stripped of rights has to give voice to thoughts and ideas, memories and dreams. For contemporary artists beyond the walls, art can be a means to critique, dialogue, and imagine solutions to the intractable problems of the prison industrial complex.
Disruption! brings together artists directly impacted by the system with artists that address it in their work.
Ashley Hunt’s current project, Degrees of Visibility, is a large body of landscape photographs made in locations throughout the fifty U.S. states and territories, which documents the spaces in which prisons are embedded. Observed from publicly accessible points of view, Hunt’s photographs look at how prisons are presented and camouflaged within our everyday perception and how they contribute to an aesthetics of mass incarceration.
This body of work is part of Hunt’s ongoing examination of how images, objects, maps, writing and performance can engage social ideas and actions, including those of social movements, daily life, the exercise of political power, and the disciplinary boundaries that separate our art worlds from the larger worlds in which they sit. His work looks to structures that allow people to accumulate power, and those which keep others from getting it, while learning from the ways people come to know, contribute to or resist these structures. Rather than seeing art and activism as two exclusive spheres of practice, he approaches them as mutual and complementary—drawing upon the ideas and aesthetics of social movements, cultural theory and art alike, the theorizing and practices of each informing the other.