Jumana Manna, A Sketch of Manners (Alfred Roch's Last Masquerade),
2013, 12 min HD video, co-scripted with Norman Klein. Courtesy the artist.
"WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. - The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) presents from April 16 through August 16, 2015. Alternative Modernisms captures the evolving relationship between the historical and contemporary image through diverse cultural perspectives of five contemporary artists: Harun Farocki, Leslie Hewitt, Pedro Lasch, Jumana Manna, and Jeff Whetstone.
Each artist stages a dialogue with historical and vernacular culture, revisiting representational traditions born in painting, at one remove, through the lens of photography and film. Each finds new spaces in the genres of still life, portrait, and landscape to intervene in how specific histories can be told. They work from the archive, the studio, the museum and the outdoors. They investigate personal histories of place, from Rural Appalachia to Palestine. Various approaches to narration emerge from time-based media driven by the desire to refute a monolithic sense of history and to speak from the contemporary vantage.
Harun Farockis film Still Life, 1997, tours the history of 16th century Flemish still life painting to reveal these tableaux as artifacts of commerce and vessels of a representational language that persists today in luxury commodity advertising.
Leslie Hewitts photographic series Untitled and Riffs on Real Time, 2013, incorporate archival documents, domestic spaces and objects, literary texts, found photos and popular magazines into nested images that tunnel between the present and the past. Her images expand the field of photography while drawing on collective memory, histories of Civil Rights and urban protest, and the tropes of still life.
Jumana Mannas film A Sketch of Manners, 2013, uses a found archival image of a wealthy Palestinian merchants masquerade party in 1942, on the eve of Palestines dissolution. The source material inspires a dream-like re-staging of that moment and its cosmopolitanism, running counter to calcified narratives of conflict.
Jeff Whetstones classically composed portraits and landscapes provoke us to consider narrative and performative dimensions of regionalism and folk culture. Often carefully staged and composed, his portraits and landscapes trouble the nave ethnographic look at rural Appalachia and the South, reveal nuance in gender roles of his subjects and complicate the role of photographer as participant-observer.
Finally, Pedro Laschs project, What are we before we are naturalized? Citizenship, Portraiture and Abstraction is a social mediation of art history, museums, and interacting publics that opens the Western canon of art to other subject positions. Lasch invites participants in museum settings to wear mirror masks of his design in viewing experiences that engender values of curiosity, inclusivity, and ultimately, global citizenship. Beginning at the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonians National Portrait Gallery and Hirshhorn Museum, Lasch continues his project with SECCA. The artist has staged photographs in the historic setting and with the collection of the Reynolda House Museum of American Art. The photographs from all four institutions are accompanied by public engagements using mirror masks at both SECCA and the Reynolda House Museum of American Art.
From the contemporary vantage, these divergent responses to modernism offer new approaches to visual storytelling and representation that can only emerge from where we stand now.
Talk @ SECCA: A series of public talks invites participating artists and scholars to animate conversations around the work of Alternative Modernisms. Artists talks held by Pedro Lasch and Jeff Whetstone; Conversations with Cora Fisher, SECCA Curator; Dr. Nadia Yaqub, Chair, Department of Asian Studies, UNC at Chapel Hill; Ian Taplin, Professor of Sociology, Wake Forest University; Wesley Hogan, Historian and Director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University; and Reynolda House Museum of American Art staff including, Allison Slaby, Curator, Elizabeth Chew, Director of Curatorial and Educational Division, and Julia Hood, Coordinator of Education.
A full program of events can be found at secca.org.
Alternative Modernisms is organized by Cora Fisher, Curator of Contemporary Art at SECCA.
The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, N.C. seeks to enhance perspectives, inspire community and ignite new ideas at the intersection of art and its visitors. Located at 750 Marguerite Drive, the museum is open Tuesday through Saturday. For hours, please visit www.secca.org. SECCA is an affiliate of the North Carolina Museum of Art, a division of the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources. SECCA receives operational funding from The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County. Additional funding is provided by the James G. Hanes Memorial Fund."
- A Press Release