HALLIE FORD MUSEUM OF ART, Salem OR – To Dec 21, 2018
by Allyn Cantor
Witness brings together more than 80 prints by nationally and internationally recognized artists who explore race, identity and social justice in contemporary printmaking and photography. Roger Shimomura, Kara Walker, Marie Watt (Seneca), Wendy Red Star (Apsáalooke), Enrique Chagoya, Lalla Essaydi, Mildred Howard, Hung Liu and Nicola Lopez are among the artists approaching the complex issues presented in this show. Works are drawn from the extensive print collection of Jordan Schnitzer, who said, “The theme represented in this exhibition, social justice, is the most important discussion all of us in the country need to have with each other.”
Curated by Portland-based art historian Elizabeth Bilyeu, the exhibition is grouped into four thematic sections that deepen understandings between artistic practice and social justice. The artworks in “Stories and Histories” recontextualize past objects or events by viewing chapters of history about things like war, segregation and cultural heritage through a contemporary, eye-opening perspective. “Pressures of Pop Culture” investigates and critiques iconic imagery that reiterates stereotypes. Creative processes like collaging, reconstructing and repurposing imagery from pop culture, work to dissect the complacency of meaning by redirecting viewers.
The section “Challenging Expectations of Place” explores ways in which geography, the natural environment and cultural history intersect as well as ideas surrounding the displacement of people and what constitutes a home. In the “Unconventional Portraits” section there are many clever reimaginings that ignite a strong sense of identity as well as pieces that challenge racial, social and gender paradigms.