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Traces in the Dark: Deanna Bowen, Harold Mendez, and Gregory Sholette exhibit in Philadelphia
Harold Mendez, Antioguia, 2014, reclaimed wood, limestone, wax, hanground cochineal insects, logwood extract, 23 x 17 x11 inches. Image courtesy of the artist.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- If we light up the traces in the dark, will we see their invisible ubiquity? Of what whole will we see?

Curator Liz Park posed these questions to artists Deanna Bowen, Harold Mendez, and Gregory Sholette as prompts to think through the ways in which we engage with the margins of recorded history. Traces in the Dark is the result of the speculative conversation that took place between the curator and artists. In this project—an exhibition, programs, and publication in equal measure—each artist presents new work developed from existing research.

This exhibition is on view February 4 through March 22, 2015, in ICA’s second-floor High Space.

In Deanna Bowen’s ongoing investigation of the Ku Klux Klan, also known as the Invisible Empire, she digs deep into the history of Pennsylvania’s Klan activities from the nineteenth-century fugitive slave uprising in Christiana, Pennsylvania, to the 1964 race riot in Philadelphia, and presents her findings through photography, collage, and performance; in dialogue with his past work, Harold Mendez creates new mixed-media pieces inspired by images sourced from archives in Antioquia, Colombia, which hark back to the country’s violent pasts, including the decade-long civil war now known as La Violencia (1948–1958); and Gregory Sholette restages his ongoing Imaginary Archive (produced in collaboration with Olga Kopenkina and more than 70 participants), “a collection of documents about the past whose future never arrived.” Collectively, these projects question what we can and cannot see of the radical and tumultuous pasts from where we stand today.

Traces in the Dark resists today’s emphasis on hyper-visibility which propagates the illusion of everything being seeable, available, accessible, and thus consumable. Each artist instead focuses on a past that is not easy to comprehend, visualize, and digest.

Deanna Bowen (b. 1969, Oakland; lives in Toronto) is a descendant of the Alabama-and Kentucky-born Black Prairie pioneers of Amber Valley and Campsie, Alberta. She is an interdisciplinary artist whose work has been exhibited internationally in numerous film festivals and museums including the Images Festival (Toronto), Gallery 44 Centre for Contemporary Photography (Toronto), Kassel Documentary Film & Video Festival, Oberhausen Film Festival, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University (Durham), and Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 (Halifax). Bowen teaches video art and ethnographic documentary production in the Department of Arts, Culture and Media at the University of Toronto Scarborough.

Harold Mendez (b. 1977, Chicago; lives in Chicago and Houston) has been exhibited at the Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, the Studio Museum in Harlem, MoMA PS1 (New York), the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Knoxville Museum of Art, and the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Chicago), among others. He is currently an artist-in-residence at the Core Program, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and has participated in residencies at the Headlands Center for the Arts, the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture, Ox-Bow, the Experimental Sound Studio, and the Lighthouse Works. He received his MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2007 and his BA from Columbia College in 2000. He also studied at the University of Science and Technology, School of Art and Design, Ghana, West Africa in 1999.

Gregory Sholette (b. 1956, Philadelphia, lives in New York) is an artist and writer whose recent art projects include Our Barricades at Station Independent Projects, and Imaginary Archive at Les Kurbas State Centre for Theatre Arts, Kiev, Ukraine, and whose recent publications include It's The Political Economy, Stupid, co-edited with Oliver Ressler (Pluto Press, 2013) and Dark Matter: Art and Politics in an Age of Enterprise Culture (Pluto Press, 2011). A graduate of the Whitney Independent Studies Program in Critical Theory (1996), he received his MFA from the University of California, San Diego (1995) and BFA from The Cooper Union (1979), and served as a board member of the College Art Association (1999–2004). Sholette was a founding member of the artist collectives Political Art Documentation and Distribution (1980-1988) and REPOhistory (1989–2000), and he remains active today with Gulf Labor Coalition as well as serves on the Curriculum Committee of Home WorkSpace in Beirut, Lebanon. Sholette is an associate of the Art, Design and the Public Domain program at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University and a faculty member of the Queens College Art Department (City University of New York), where he co-developed and teaches in its new MFA concentration, Social Practice Queens.

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