Artist Showcase [September 1 — October 23, 2020]
What does it mean to be American? Who gets to be American, and who decides? The trademark language of American cultural identity, “…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…” had already fallen short of its promise when those words were penned in 1776. Native Americans, African slaves, all women, and whites without property were excluded from such rights. But, these groups lived and worked in America. African slaves built this nation’s wealth. Native American tribes had lived on the land that became the United States of America long before European colonizers arrived. Weren’t they just as American as the wealthy, white men who signed the Declaration of Independence, if not more so?
The Founding Fathers drew a line in the sand: on one side were white, straight, cis, Christian, wealthy men - the “Americans” - represented and protected by our nation’s founding document. On the other side was everyone else. And what’s the opposite of American? Un-American. A nebulous label that carries the possibility of some tangible repercussions: namely, the danger of state-sanctioned bodily harm and discrimination.
Almost 250 years later, the President of the United States dug that line in the sand even deeper, as he addressed the public at Mt. Rushmore on July 4. In his speech, he alluded to a “merciless campaign to wipe out our history,” promising his audience that his administration would “expose this dangerous movement, and preserve our beloved American way of life.”
The “merciless campaign” the President referred to is the movement of protests that continue to sweep the country: American citizens protesting the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless others at the hands of police. The President made his position perfectly clear: the members of that “dangerous movement” to extend liberty and justice to the oppressed are not American in the eyes of the state. They are other. They are un-American.
Un-American Blackbox centers and uplifts those Americans the state might label “un-American,” celebrating the many diverse and legitimate ways American identity manifests. Our work is to deconstruct the fissure between “American” and “un-American,” in order to forge a new definition, compassionately representative of the full American population.
Single Issue [October 30 — November 13, 2020]
Traditionally, a single-issue voter casts a vote for a candidate who supports that particular issue, regardless of the rest of that candidate’s platform. But, is any issue ever so individual, impervious to context and history? Is a vote on pandemic preparedness not also a vote on wealth stratification, healthcare, and labor rights? A vote on reproductive rights not also a vote on access to public education? A vote on climate policy not also a vote on systems of racial oppression, itself a vote on economic disenfranchisement due to the nature of racial capitalism?
SINGLE ISSUE asks us to consider context. No voter issue floats alone in the political ether, untethered from large, powerful systemic forces which undergird every facet of American life. Likewise, no candidate merits a single-issue vote. What may seem singular to one person thrusts untold implications on many others. A consideration of context requires centering the collective over the individual.
In this exhibition, 10 American artists respond to our American context, offering works in a variety of media which examine those undergirding forces and the many intersecting issues born from their depths. As our mission at Un-American Blackbox is to uplift and celebrate the multiplicity of what it means to be American, SINGLE ISSUE aims to widen the scope of discourse around voter issues, expanding the frame to let the contextual layers show.
Artist Showcase [January 2 — January 23, 2021]
Here, this group of artists each takes up a different layer in the project to recalibrate American identity. Grappling with their own experience of this nation, they offer artworks as sites of questioning, consideration, hope, pain, memory, and fantasy. They celebrate what America could become, mourn what America is not, and reflect on what America has been. Through their thoughtful, compassionate, and critical examinations, they shape the path towards a recalibrated American identity and a more inclusive and just nation for all.