Springweather and People
Though the title of the exhibition pays tribute to an earlier generation of assemblage artists, deriving from a Merce Cunningham production for which Robert Rauschenberg made costumes, “Springweather and People” at Bortolami is forward-looking, foregrounding the blossoming of the tradition in the works of ten artists.
The suitability of the assemblage technique for recombining objects that have taken on value and signaling power within cultures is on full display. Certain objects and themes recur: African sculptures are rendered in colored pencil and watercolor by Gala Porras-Kim and crisply photographed by Awol Erizku. In juxtaposing these sculptures, which are of ritualistic significance to specific cultures in the continent, with markers of contemporary tokenization and commodification in Black American society, Erizku raises questions of ownership and fetishism. Assemblage is shown to be a versatile technique as well: on top of a pair of photographs, Erizku also contributes the darkly punning sculpture Stop Don’t Shoot (2015) [pictured], which features a basketball hoop affixed to a stop sign.
Elsewhere, Sojourner Truth Parsons presents two acrylic paintings—look closely, and you’ll notice that many elements are painted, cut, and then re-pasted onto the canvas, such as the flowers in February (2021). The most poignant components in the show might be those that are harrowingly individual: a half-obscured photograph of a young Black man holding a Presidential Classroom for Young Americans certificate paper-clipped to the foil of a bag of chips in Kori Newkirk’s Usual Business (2018); and in Eric N. Mack’s We make it easy, you make it home (2020), a hand-scrawled name of ownership on what looks to be a thrift-store copy of Wallace Thurman’s Harlem Renaissance 1929 novel, The Blacker the Berry.
Awol Erizku, Stop Don’t Shoot, 2015. Street pole, stop sign, hub cap, 138 x 41 x 23 1/2 inches.