Entering As I Stay and Breathe at the SOMArts Cultural Heart in San Francisco is strolling into a galaxy created totally by the hands of a Black lady. Not that I’m convinced that the planet that we inhibit could be orchestrated by any individual else, but shelling out a early morning gazing all-around Angela Hennessy’s creations only expounded my inclinations.
Contrary to conventional artwork areas, Hennessy has painted the gallery walls all Black. An ode to a lot of things–its romantic relationship to white, the distress (and convenience) of darkness, the color of Black skin–but most apparently a comment on neutrality. “The common in the art world is a default to white partitions, as if all those walls are neutral. As numerous of us have been chatting about for so extensive, there is no neutrality,” she shared. And as we ongoing our conversation within the house, that topic stuck with me. Practically nothing is at any time really neutral. And frequently in our tries to do so, the length is extra so accentuated.
As Hennessy noted herself, “Black is a color that has many levels of meaning, and frequently meanings that are even contradictory. Black can be the absence of shade, all hues merged. Some nonetheless say it’s not a shade at all. It is utilized as a term of racial identification. In Western European cultures it is a primary sign of grief or mourning. But Black can also be a relaxing colour. Physiologically, it is a lot less stimulating on your eyes.” Practically each and every do the job in As I Live and Breathe has a big ingredient of Blackness, creating this dizzying result as you enter the gallery place. Some will work pop just before your eyes, when some others gently vibrate from the wall.
If neutrality is a line, then its opposite character is cyclical. Circles and orbits are central to the operate. Inside of Hennessy’s cosmos are pieces that pull the gaze upwards, the way a shooting star catches your eye in the night sky. Just one operate entitled Orbits 2 attributes oblong and round rings that seem to dance about each and every other, like a portal getting ready to transportation you into a unique dimension. A different is a ball made of artificial Black hair, sparse with sprigs of Hennessy’s have tresses, which hangs from the ceiling. Enveloped with a golden ring of blonde loops, it’s hard to not make a further galactic comparison to Saturn’s planetary rings.
Irrespective of the universe that Hennessy’s designed earlier mentioned you, every 10 minutes Hennessy’s voice will provide you back again to Earth, (one more cyclical ingredient.) An audio poem that Hennessy wrote to accompany the operate, its terms implore us to imagine about our existence on this earth and the bodies that tether us listed here. “body black, human body brown, surrender to blue. Just one breath, Then two…Then no cost, Indeed absolutely free.” When the poem echoes throughout the gallery, the space normally takes on a heaviness. Like a weighted blanket laid in excess of you, it carefully pushes you into the Earthly floor.
As I Dwell and Breathe is a exhibit that reminds me that while demise and grief has been a additional regular existence in our entire world the previous number of decades, its visual appearance is not the opposite of lifetime, but relatively an extension of it. “You testify by means of your residing respiratory body. And as we’re below residing and respiratory, there’s so a lot electricity likely on. The useless go by. The stars go by. We’re not neutral witnesses. We’re individuals at the similar time.” —Shaquille Heath