I appreciate art that unsettles, many would argue that is the point of art, to make uncomfortable. Alicia Henry’s work, a blend of textiles, acrylic and paper, strike me as too expressive, too close to emotions I work to keep under control, hidden. These figures are obscured by layers and layers, creating a mask which are more expressive than the face could be alone. I read somewhere, that the state of being Black in is akin to being a Cold War spy. The ever shifting loyalties, the constant heightened awareness of your surroundings, the palpable threat of violence from the enemy (which may or may not be your own state), the hidden speech and codes. Henry’s figures orient me towards that feeling, the feeling of constant practiced deceptions, the masks worn for so long that the distinction between who one is and who one pretends to be ceases.
What would a museum look like if it focused on the fictions of modern history rather than its facts? The Colombian curator, David Ayala-Alfonso, forms an answer in his exhibition on view in Savannah, GA.
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