Damned Nation: A Radical Perspective on the '60s—and Beyond

Less group show than raucous sermon, this installation leavens hope with anger, spirited wit with ineffable sadness. In Tony Gray's détourned images, a time-traveling Black Panther, stylish in bell-bottoms and sharp goatee, terrifies lumpy Neanderthals, disrupts the surrender at Yorktown, and squares off for a duel with Star Trek's Geordi. Carlos Vega's wooden cabinet displays nine collages anchored by a stenciled white outline of the continental U.S.; cognitive dissonance blares when a map of Africa, imprisoned within America's heartland, snaps into focus.

Vitrines by Joseph Beuys and David Hammons perform an abject pas de deux: Hammons's human-hair-covered rock seems to rise up out of Beuys's beat-up cardboard box, a piece of the German artist's signature gray felt spilling out like a worn blanket. A '60s dialogue ensues between a Warhol Race Riot print and Roberto Visani's Vietnam-haunted sculpture Slaves to the Rhythm, nearby. Propping three M-16 rifles—one steel, another carved from wood, a mysterious third muffled under fabric—into a bivouac pyramid, Visani provides quick metaphorical access to the endless cycles of violence he notes in his statement: "[D]uring the slave trade, guns were traded for people [and] subsequently used in tribal wars." Elsewhere, a vintage Uncle Sam poster beckons: "I wants you nigger" to "fight for freedom (in Viet Nam)—Black people fighting yellow people for white people."

Details

The Whole World Is Rotten
Jack Shainman Gallery
513 West 20th Street
Through March 12

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From across the room beams a little black girl hugging a blond, blue-eyed doll, photographed by her father, Chris McNair, in 1963. Later that year she would be one of four girls killed in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, a terrorist act that forever defined slavery's savage Jim Crow legacy. Other McNair photos document dignified protesters harassed by beefy cops and the destroyed home of a church leader—straightforward compositions exposing the warped, gutless humanity that is the oppressor's eternal lot.

 
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