Nearly three dozen paintings, drawings, prints, and other multimedia wall-works by 25 artists are on view at Clearing in “Life Still,” a group show that, as it confronts the prospect of imminent demise, takes as darkly farcical a stance as one could expect given the morbid implications of the pun in its title.
Take Hugh Hayden's Pan-African (2020): affixed to the gallery’s wall, three cast-iron pans—that, respectively, from left to right, match the red, black, and green stripes of the Pan-African flag—each capture a different style of African mask by way of a protruding form sculpted out of its base, complete with eye- and mouth-holes. If the pans were in use, of course, these visages would go face-first onto stove-top burners; yet, as decorative objects, their origins fade into a dehumanized spectacle—echoing the fate of African masks collected as artifacts in Western contexts.
Even so, the gallery discloses that 100% of the proceeds from the sale of Pan-African will go toward the Solomon B. Hayden Fellowship for Visual Arts, which, named after the artist’s father, provides funds for students in Columbia’s MFA program focused on “the field of sculpture” who have “demonstrated leadership in and support for the African-American and African-Diaspora communities.”
After all, read from another angle, “Life Still” conveys a message of faith in the future—one where life, still, continues.
Harold Ancart, Untitled, 2016. Oil stick and pencil on paper, framed 52 1/2 x 41 x 1 3/4 inches.