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Ballroom Marfa presents an outdoor exhibition featuring new commissions from eight noted artists
Hank Willis Thomas, Rendering of, Life, Handle with Care, 2020. Courtesy the artist.

MARFA, TX.- This fall Ballroom Marfa presents an outdoor exhibition from October 2, 2020 through January 21, 2021 that features new commissions from eight noted artists. Each artist has created a flag accompanied by a sound-based work that will be on view individually for two weeks, rotating through each artist in the series from October to January. Artists include: Lisa Alvarado, Pia Camil, Jeffrey Gibson, Byron Kim, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Hank Willis Thomas, Naama Tsabar, and Cecilia Vicuña.

The exhibition unFlagging reconsiders flags and their symbolic meaning in our collective consciousness and country, today. Flags communicate beliefs and values in the public landscape. They are inherently performative–they declare, demarcate, and signal. As citizens, we learn to raise them, lower them, fold them, sing to them, and respect them.

The customary use of flags as vehicles to uphold and perform established principles can be challenged. The recent ruling to remove and reexamine Mississippi’s state flag, which displays confederate iconography, for example, reveals not only the power and importance of these symbolic objects, but a shift in consciousness. In this time of social transformation, we invite artists to rethink the immutability and nature of flags. How is meaning constructed, produced, and perpetuated? Can we invent new ways to make symbols and meanings?

Animated by the wind, rain, and light of West Texas, these artists’ flags reflect change and challenge constancy. Visual elements of design, color, and shape are all considered in each flag to create a multiplicity of readings. Additionally, the accompanying sound works are not a singular song sung in allegiance; rather, each artist creates a sonic environment that further activates Ballroom’s courtyard to engage with their particular flag. There is a shared experience around sound, reminding us of the multitude of voices that create space for public discourse.

Lisa Alvarado (b. 1982) is an artist and harmoniumist based in Chicago. Previous solo exhibitions include Polyphonic Shadow Cloth, LC Queisser, Tbilisi, Georgia (2018); Sound Talisman, Bridget Donahue, New York (2017) and Traditional Object, Soccer Club Club, Chicago (2013). Recent group exhibitions include Psychedelic Healing Center, Essex Flowers, New York (2019); Out of Easy Reach, Gallery 400, Chicago (2018); Alan Shields Project, Van Doren Waxter, New York (2018); The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now, Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2017) and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2016) and Material Issue, KMAC Museum, Louisville (2016), among others. Alvarado plays harmonium in the psychminimalist band Natural Information Society. They have performed in numerous venues including Pitchfork, Chicago (2018); Rewire, Netherlands (2018); Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2017) and Serralves Museum, Portugal (2016). In addition to releasing albums on Eremite Records & Drag City Records, she has also performed with Theaster Gates’s Black Monks at Palais De Tokyo (2019) and Documenta 13 (2012); and in Simon Starling’s play At Twilight, Common Guild, Glasgow (2016) and Japan Society, New York (2020).

Pia Camil (b. 1980) lives and works in Mexico City. Camil’s work is usually associated with the Mexican urban landscape, the aesthetic language of modernism and its relationship to retail and advertising. Recently she has engaged in public participation as a way to activate the work and engage with the politics of consumerism.

Camil has a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and an MFA from the Slade School of Fine Art, London. Her work has been exhibited internationally with recent solo-exhibitions including: Laugh Now, Cry Later at OMR Gallery, Mexico City (2020); Here Comes The Sun, performance at Guggenheim Museum, New York (2019); Fade into Black: Sit, chill, look, talk, roll, play, listen, give, take, dance, share, Queens Museum, New York (2019); Bara, Bara, Bara, Tramway Art Space, Glasgow (2019); Telón de Boca, Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico City (2018); Split Wall, Nottingham Contemporary (2018); They, Galerie Sultana, Paris (2018); Bara, Bara, Bara, Dallas Contemporary (2017); Slats, Skins & Shopfittings, Blum & Poe, New York (2016); A Pot for a Latch, New Museum, New York (2016); Skins, Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati (2015); The Little Dog Laughed, Blum & Poe, Los Angeles (2014); Espectacular Telón, Galerie Sultana, Paris (2013); Cuadrado Negro, Basque Museum Centre for Contemporary Art, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain (2013).

Jeffrey Gibson (b. 1972, Colorado Springs, CO) grew up in major urban centers in the United States, Germany, Korea, and England. He received a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1995 and Master of Arts in painting at the Royal College of Art, London, in 1998. He is a citizen of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and is half Cherokee. He is currently an artist-in-residence at Bard College and lives and works near Hudson, New York.

Jeffrey Gibson’s multimedia practice synthesizes the cultural and artistic traditions of his Cherokee and Choctaw heritage with the visual languages of Modernism and themes from contemporary popular and queer culture. His work is a vibrant call for queer and Indigenous empowerment, envisioning a celebration of strength and joy within these communities.

Gibson’s work is included in the permanent collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York; Denver Art Museum; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.; National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa; Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR; among many others. Gibson is a recipient of numerous awards, notably a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (2019); Joan Mitchell Foundation, Painters and Sculptors Award (2015); and Creative Capital Foundation Grant (2005).

Byron Kim (b.1961) is best known for his painting Synecdoche, which was included in the 1993 Whitney Biennial. Comprising a grid of panels depicting human skin color, the work is both an abstract monochrome and an ongoing group portrait. His weekly series of Sunday paintings, in which he paints the sky and on which he inscribes a journal entry, combines the cosmological and the quotidian. Kim received a B.A. in English at Yale University in 1983 and attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture in 1986. Among his numerous awards are the Robert De Niro, Sr. Award (2019), a Guggenheim Fellowship (2017), the Alpert Award in the Arts (2008), the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant (1997) and the National Endowment for the Arts Award (1995). Among the institutions which have collected his work are the Art Institute of Chicago, the Berkeley Art Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, the Hirshhorn Museum, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the National Gallery of Art, and the Wadsworth Atheneum.

Kameelah Janan Rasheed (b. 1985) is invested in the shifting ecosystems of Black epistemologies, and the agile relationships between the varied modes of reading, writing, archiving, editing, translating, publishing, reflecting upon, and arranging narratives about lived Black experiences. With interests in the generative qualities of incompleteness, leakage, dispersal, syncretism (spiritual and otherwise), and choreography (of movement, of learning, of affect), Rasheed works across an ecosystem of iterative and provisional projects. These projects include sprawling, architecturally-scaled Xerox-based collages; large-scale text banner installations; publications; digital archives; lecture-performances; library interventions; poems/poetic gestures; and other forms yet to be determined. Rasheed has exhibited at the 2017 Venice Biennale; CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco; Institute for Contemporary Art Philadelphia; Pinchuk Art Center, Kiev, Ukraine; Mass MoCA, Williamstown; Brooklyn Museum, NY; Queens Museum, NY; New Museum, NY; Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; Bronx Museum, NY; Brooklyn Public Library, NY; Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, NY, and The Kitchen, NY, among others. She is the author of two artist books, An Alphabetical Accumulation of Approximate Observations (Endless Editions, 2019) and No New Theories (Printed Matter, 2020).

Hank Willis Thomas (b.1976) is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to perspective, identity, commodity, media, and popular culture. His collaborative projects include Question Bridge: Black Males, In Search Of The Truth (The Truth Booth), Writing on the Wall, and the artist-run initiative for art and civic engagement For Freedoms. Thomas is a recipient of the Gordon Parks Foundation Fellowship (2018), Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship (2018), Art for Justice Grant (2018), AIMIA | AGO Photography Prize (2017), Soros Equality Fellowship (2017), and is a former member of the New York City Public Design Commission.

Naama Tsabar (b. 1982 ) employs sculpture, photography, and performance to subvert the gender roles historically associated with musicianship. Appropriating and subverting the aggressive gestures of rock and roll and their associations with virility and power, Tsabar upends the implicit gender roles and coded behavior of music and nightlife.

Tsabar has most recently performed at ELEVATION 1049 in Gstaad, Switzerland, in February 2019, and exhibited at the Center for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv in 2018, Kunsthaus Baselland in 2018, and Prospect New Orleans in 2017 with the commissioned piece Composition 21. Upcoming exhibitions and festivals include Big Orchestra at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt this summer and at the Nasher Museum of Art in North Carolina this September. Selected exhibitions and performances include Faena Art Center, Buenos Aires, (2018); SoundKraft at the Museum of Arts and Design, New York (2017-18); The Skin of Sound, Hessel Museum of Art / CCS Bard, New York (2018); Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2017); High Line Art, New York (2016); Guggenheim Museum, New York (2014); Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Tel Aviv (2013, 2010); Frieze Projects, New York (2014); Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw (2014); MARTE-C, San Salvador (2015); MoMA PS1, New York (2010); The Herzliya Museum for Contemporary Art, Herzliya (2006). Tsabar received her MFA from Columbia University, New York in 2010 and BFA from Hamidrasha School of Arts, Belt Berl, Israel, in 2004. Her work is held in the permanent collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco; Tel Aviv Museum, Tel Aviv; Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Tsabar currently lives and works in New York.

Artist-poet Cecilia Vicuña (b.1948) creates songs, performances, installations, paintings, films, written works, books, lectures, and sculptures. Vicuña’s work is always attentive to ethics, the earth, and history. Her object making includes “precarios” - precarious works - composed of fragile materials that disappear, regenerating the life force, and large-scale installations of “quipus,” dyed wool and fibers inspired by the complex Andean record keeping system of sets of knotted cords. Her improvisatory, participatory performances emphasize the collective nature of action and creativity to bring forth justice, balance and transformation of the world. Cecilia Vicuña's solo exhibit About to Happen opened at MoCA North Miami in December, 2019. Her retrospective Seehearing the Enlightened Failure recently traveled from the Witte de With in Rotterdam to MUAC in Mexico City, where it opened in February, 2020. Her works are included in the collections of Tate London, MoMA New York, Guggenheim Museum, Museo de Arte Contemporaìneo de Chile, Museo de Arte de Lima and Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de Santiago de Chile. In 2017, her work was part of the 14th Documenta in Athens, Greece and Kassel, Germany. Vicuña is the author of 25 books.

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