Jefferson Pinder at the Figge Art Museum


Jefferson Pinder at the Figge Art Museum, Davenport, Iowa

Exhibition through June 4th

From the release of Jefferson Pinder and the Figge Art Museum:

There is so much work to be done outside of the big cities. I was approached by the Figge Museum two years ago to envision a project in which members of the area could be integrated into the museum. This new project ventures into social practice as I work with a conservative community to open a conversation about identity politics in Iowa. Taking a page from Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed, I’m providing a venue for the community to see itself. Starting with installations that are inspired by gatekeepers in the community, I dive into a deep dialogue that culminate with a combination of  performances at the museum in Davenport, Iowa.

The first performance,Token, featured a conservative white midwestern artist that exercises his right as an artist to sculpt from black models. The subject matter is, not too different from recent conversations about race at the Whitney, but is more complex than anyone could ever have imagined.

The second performance, Joe’s Barbershop features Joe McLemore, a 73 year-old Iowa barber, cutting hair in the museum as he discusses his unique views on race relations for blacks in the Quad Cities (QC). His frank monologue will reveals a sober dose of self-determination in the face of racism.

The final performance titled Soule Bowlfeatures arts organizer Gaye Burnett. This local gatekeeper reminisces about her  experience at the infamous 1972 Rock Island High School race riot after the Soule Bowle football match. Her perspective as a black woman in an integrated local High School reveals the cross-section between race and gender as violence erupts at a neighboring High School.

The symbol of the Ghost Light references the theatrical superstition in which the darkened stage is illuminated by a light, often a single electric bulb mounted to a stand, intended to ward off the theater’s ghosts. In the absence of a performance, the Ghost Light becomes representative of all of the lives and narratives that have inhabited that space.

As an interdisciplinary artist, Pinder creates performances, video work and sculptural objects that challenge the viewer to think critically about themselves and our highly polarized society. Using the “museum” as an example of a place that may seem unwelcoming to some, Pinder’s work will break down the perception. Challenged by the many barriers and hindrances that keep people from stepping inside a museum or art space, Pinder will actively bring members of the community “into the fold” of the art making practice and, in so doing, provide the exhibition with its soul. Ghost Light will feature interactive sculptural installations made from castoff materials, video projections and scheduled live performances. Developing over the course of the exhibition, three distinct perspectives will come to life upon sculptural stage settings providing opportunities for enlightenment, reflection and inspiration. Between gallery performances, the Ghost Light will be lit. It is Pinder’s hope that, as the exhibition unfolds, previously overlooked aspects of the community will be revealed.