Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration
Ronnie Goodman, San Quentin Arts in Corrections Art Studio, 2008, acrylic on canvas. Courtesy of William James Association.

Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration

Two Rivers Gallery, Prince George, BC - April 26 – Oct 6

by Michael Turner

For years we were told that carceral institutions like prisons, sanitaria and residential schools are places where people are sent because they were socially unfit. More recently, as society has come to atone for its imprisonments, we are encouraged to talk about—and listen to—the ways institutions reproduce that which allowed them to be built in the first place. Today, when the poet Mercedes Eng refers to the “prison industrial complex,” we know what she means. Marking Time is part of this conversation—a travelling, multi-venue exhibition (originating at New York’s MoMA PS1) that features local artists in concert with those on tour.

The show’s title alludes to Walter Benjamin’s landmark essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1935), where machine-driven mass production evaporates the “aura” of a work of art and implicates both it and its maker in the larger political economic process. So too do carceral institutions have their way with the human spirit. Yet in considering the works in this exhibition, some made by those who have done or are currently doing time, more often than not they reflect resistance and resilience, with that aura alive and shining.

Notable works in Marking Time include the late Ronnie Goodman’s San Quentin Arts in Corrections Art Studio (2008), a vertical painting of wall-mounted paintings with the studio’s windows up top and out of reach, and The Visiting Room #4 (2019), a digital print by Larry Cook. Here, a Black man wearing a taqiyah, a white T-shirt, beige pants and a pair of brand new construction boots crouches down, his back to us, before a canvas curtain mural of a city at dusk.

Opening reception April 25, 7:30pm

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