To trace for to carry

May 4–December 9, 2018

The artworks in this gallery are concerned with how what remains from the past—its traces—shapes our present. Traces are visible, but only barely so; like memory, they can be both personal and collective. Whether footprints in sand, a name on the tip of one’s tongue, or a resemblance to a now deceased family member, they are physical or psychological markers of a person or thing once present but now mostly gone. Traces exist both in the mind and on the flesh.

Because traces connect that which stands before us to that which came before us, they raise questions about what people carry as they move across space and time. How do artists use and combine different media to represent the traces of what is barely seen or remembered? What is left behind when lives are uprooted and rerouted, whether by choice or by coercion?

These artworks also consider how the human body acts as a vessel for—and mother to—the memories, languages, and ghosts that link past, present, and future. The United States, where nearly all of these artists live, occupies a paradoxical place in their work. The U.S. government, military, and police appear as the cause of persistent violence and oppression and yet the country also promises to provide a site for refuge and relief.

As contemporary artists seek to address the worlds in which they live, their art raises important questions about whose bodies and whose stories matter. These works ask us to consider: if art and art museums have long sustained the institutions of slavery, white supremacy, colonialism, and patriarchy, couldn’t they also be agents of their undoing?

Artists: Judy Baca, Rick Bartow, Jess T. Dugan and Vanessa Fabbre, Daniel Heyman, Nicola Lopéz, Hương Ngô, Dread Scott, Jaune Quick-To-See Smith, Marie Watt, David Wojnarowicz.

Individual wall labels were written by Shanice Bailey ‘17J and Brown Post-Baccalaureate Curatorial Fellow; Nicole Bearden ’19 AC; Emma Chubb, Charlotte Feng Ford ’83 Curator of Contemporary Art; Tara Sacerdote ’18; and Sarah White ’20.


Image: Hương Ngô, The Voice is an Archive, 2016, single-channel digital video, black-and-white, sound, 6 min., dimensions variable, edition 1 of 5 (artwork © Hương Ngô, image provided by Hương Ngô) Purchased with funds from the Contemporary Associates.