Through Oct. 18, Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects hosts A Book and A Medal: Disentanglement Equals Homogenous Abstractions, a new body of work by artist and CalArts alumnus Edgar Arceneaux (Art MFA 01) that explores Martin Luther King, Jr.'s ideas and legacy.
The exhibit’s centerpiece is A Time to Break Silence, an intertextual feature-length film that considers the relationship between technology and society. Part radical address and part sci-fi, the film combines King’s anti-Vietnam War speech (from which the film takes its name) and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (released two days after King’s assassination).
In the film, an avatar of King delivers the speech again and again in the ruin of a church, while a prehistoric man named Stargazer aimlessly explores his alien environment. Both 2001 and King’s speech grapple with the question of technology as tool and weapon, and Arceneaux builds on this link by collaborating with Ray 7, a member of the militant Detroit techno collective Underground Resistance, who scores the film.
The work, A Book and a Medal, for which the show is named, refers to the recent news of the attempted sale of King’s Nobel Peace Prize and traveling Bible. In the five-panel painting, Arceneaux uses a heavily redacted letter sent by the FBI to King, telling him to commit suicide or suffer dire consequences. The letter, now known as part of The Suicide Package, was sent with wiretaps outlining King’s liaisons.
It is believed that the redacted parts of the letter refer to these affairs and Arceneaux transfers the shape of these redactions onto a recent letter from King’s daughter Bernice King urging her siblings not to sell the Bible and the Nobel Peace Prize.
"The extramarital affairs were a deep moral conflict for King as an individual," says Arceneaux in an article in KCET’s Artbound. "Thinking about this on the economic scale of the family, the way in which these economic forces are causing brother to turn on sister, and then the way in which that then expresses itself within the larger body politic—the individual to the masses. These pains of redaction that have nothing on them—for me, it's a kind of way to produce a four-dimensional shadow. I was trying to imply that this is both the natural and the unnatural, the economic and also the person."
All-new paintings, drawings and sculptures round out the show, with a series King Vanitas playing on the 14th century notion of "vanitas," meaning the futility of life, and our contemporary "vanity."
Above are selected artworks from A Book and A Medal: Disentanglement Equals Homogenous Abstractions.
A Book and A Medal: Disentanglement Equals Homogenous Abstractions
Sept. 6 through Oct. 18
Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects
6006 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City