Who Am I: The Sequel
Drive-by Projects is pleased to open its fall 2017 season with Who Am I: The Sequel, an exhibition including photographs by Lauren Cross and Jay Simple, an installation and performance by Maia Chao, paintings by Roberta Paul and video by Youngsuk Suh.
In September 2010, Drive-by Projects opened its first fall season with Who Am I?, a group exhibition exploring the importance of cultural and personal identity. In light of the current political and social climate in the US and around the world, we think the question "who am I?" deserves to be revisited.
Lauren Cross was also included in our 2010 exhibition. Her paper bag drawings from that earlier show examined gender and racial identity within the African American community. Blond(ed) Out: The Marie Makeover, Cross's series of digitally altered self-portraits, looks at the way people of color employ technology. As an artist who works with digital manipulation, Cross explores the narratives that might emerge when repurposing a website that was not intended for her. Using digital makeover software from a women's beauty website, she applies the hairstyle feature to transform herself into a blonde.
The modest size of Maia Chao's My Business (Cards) 1986-90 belies its impact. As a young woman of Chinese, Irish, German, French, and British descent who was born in the U.S. and is an American citizen, Maia uses the familiar format of a business card to respond to the oft-asked question, "What are you?" The carefully researched information on her business card outlines her family tree. Having the card at the ready when asked this discomforting question, Chao hands it to the inquirer. "The gesture is at once generous-I'm going above and beyond what a stranger deserves to know-and harsh, in that my preparedness underscores just how unoriginal the question is."
Roberta Paul lives in a repurposed school founded by artists as work-live space for themselves and their families. Paul's Naomie and Naime series continues her exploration of life-defining themes with paintings of her neighbor's children as they struggle with the issues of growing up. Adopting the role of observer, Paul documents the evolving personalities of these two siblings and their complex relationship. Her simple meandering lines capture the subtlety of a gesture, a gaze or the use of a shared toy to reveal each girl's unique persona, as well as the duality inherent in the sister-sister bond.
Youngsuk Suh's video A Day in a Life, made in collaboration with his wife, the poet Katie Peterson, is part of a series of films set in the California landscape. In the video Suh acts out the role of a survivor struggling to perform daily tasks in a harsh environment. His work is interrupted by a serendipitous encounter with two donkeys, a mother and daughter. What begins as a carefully crafted narrative on human feeling during a time of climate change and global disorder, becomes a timely fable: the work of cutting brush was impossibly tedious until the donkeys changed the story of a day's work.
Jay Simple is a graduate student in Photography at the Rhode Island School of Design. Simple's photographs address the substance and history that define colonization, race and religion in this country, and how these complex issues influence our present social reality. Choosing settings of cultural and historic significance (museum gallery, historic home), he constructs disturbing tableaus by introducing partial images of a lynched black man. The bystanders in these photographs (museum viewers, a woman sweeping trash) seem unaware of the horror in their midst. With their casual blindness to what's really going on, Simple asks us to examine the conscious and unconscious ways we "remember and reenact ideologies centered around the identity, worth, and treatment of 'the exotic other.'"