Show Dates: March 3rd-31st
Artists Panel: Saturday, March 26, 5-7pm
Abrams Claghorn Gallery
1251 Solano Ave.
Albany, CA 94706
Curated by Pamela Blotner and Elizabeth Addison
About the Exhibit
The participating artists work in range of media to address the positive and negative experiences thatboth long-time residents and new immigrants now face in the Bay Area. The positive attributes include the reclamation of wetlands, availability of local produce, and a vibrant and multicultural atmosphere, while the negative attributes include the growing influx of technology companies and their highly-paid employees which has caused soaring housing costs, eviction, and homelessness.
The artists in the exhibition have dedicated their lives to art and activism on behalf of immigrants and other marginalized communities. Both the curators and artists believe that art can compliment social and economic reforms aimed at providing more equitable living conditions and jobs for all Bay Area residents.
Their works, sculptures, paintings, prints, installations, and performances, reflect each artist’s own experiences of migration and/or thoughts on the continuing immigration to the Bay Area."
Elizabeth Addison is a Berkeley-based visual artist, curator, and educator whose works are included in The California Endowment permanent collection and in numerous private and public collections. The granddaughter of immigrants herself, she has worked with and taught many of the disenfranchised including six years directing an after-school enrichment program that served as an ad hoc day care for struggling families and undocumented children. In 2014, she assisted Pamela Blotner with her curatorial project, “Envisioning Human Rights,” and produced the graphic communication and outreach materials for the exhibit. She is an Artist-in-Residence at Kala Art Institute, NCWCA (Northern California Women’s Caucus for Art) Professional Development Chair, and a WEAD member."
Review by Adriana Villagran
As I was guided through the gallery by the curators I was given a detailed narrative about each personal history behind the artist's work. Both Pamela and Elizabeth were generous enough to investigate each piece a little deeper and I was inspired by the strong sense of community, support and empathy amongst the artists, curators, and the gallery team. This certainly comes across in the exhibition itself. The layout of the exhibit invites a variety of interactions with the work. Sharon Siskin's "Rising (100 Pg. World Atlas)" included conservation gloves to wear while you flipped through the atlas pages with overlaid burnt text. The experience of carefully scanning the delicate pages and juxtaposing the text with her other pieces provided a rich, tactile experience of a multifaceted and researched series. Similarly, Judy Shintani's "Lifeline Byobu" payed homage to three generations of her family while inviting viewers to leave prayers for families, ancestors, and those yet to arrive in the form of cut pieces of yarn which they could be strewn over the screen. As I moved throughout the space, it became clear that each artist's contribution was borne from a place of individual experience but ultimately endeavored to address a larger shared experience and encouraged empathy from the viewers.
The exhibit is rich with not only personal experiences but larger cultural narratives of migration. The show is certainly a must-see for history and geography buffs. Many of the works creatively map migrations in a wide variety of media. Emmanuel Montoya's imposing piece title "The Border Crossed Us!" is a particularly commanding installation that speaks to the idea that the free movement of indigenous peoples throughout the Americas was happening long before Europeans imposed borders to lay claim to a land that was never theirs. Safe to say it is a poignant piece made even more so by the implications of how Montoya chose to alter the Statue of Liberty:
"Her back is turned, yet she carefully peers over her shoulder to those migrating from the south. She stands with both arms lowered, motionless; for them she holds no guiding light, no words etched in stone promising the comfort of liberty and freedom from the harsh realities left behind. " - "The Border Crossed Us!", description
Throughout his years in the Mission he has been a remained a steadfast supporter of grass-roots organizations and community artists, collaborating with organizations such as SomArts, Oakland Museum of California, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Kearny Street Workshop, Mission Cultural Center and the San Francisco Arts Commission. Thankfully, Montoya's battle was successful and he has been able to keep his place in the vibrant Mission District.
All together, the pieces and performances of Crossing to Safety reveal a common narrative of the personal struggle to overcome the crushing realities of being uprooted from one's home and native land. The exhibit highlights the importance of preserving one's sense of self by staying rooted to family traditions and heritage while still being open to change and adaptation. Expect to linger at each piece to investigate both the personal history behind it and the larger cultural implications. Interacting with each work is an opportunity to walk a strange and turbulent path in another person's shoes; the ultimate lesson in compassion and acceptance.
What's unique about Abrams Claghorn
gallery model that will allow him to showcase artwork that is more interactive and experiential, which is what we at Venison are ALL about. He makes a clear delineation between fine art and functional art, and does not downplay the value and beauty of either. The space is broken into a two sections dedicated to showcasing both. The shop contains functional pieces made by local crafters in a variety of media including ceramic, wood, glass, and metal. The gallery section is dedicated to showcasing non-functional work by artists whose work is not easily commodified or quantifiable. Not only that but he has made it a point to give exhibition opportunities to artists who are often underrepresented in the contemporary art world.
Abrams went into the project of opening the new space with this express purpose in mind. He was able to avoid the pressure of having to select work that is "sellable" and could make space for work that takes risks and is no less valuable to the community. The proceeds from the sale of functional art go towards supporting local artisans as well as supporting the fine art gallery. It was so refreshing speak with the team about these goals and priorities, and I'm hopeful that other independent galleries will hop on their bandwagon.