FEBRUARY 11, 2016 - APRIL 16, 2016
Curated by Myron M. Beasley
ABOUT THE EXHIBITION
For Patience on a Monument, Eto Otitigbe has created works that acknowledge the complex interplay between public memorializing, history, and everyday life. The art on view here engages with the granite statues that demark the sacred spaces in Washington D.C., the majestic promenade along Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, and the bronze statuaries positioned on the East and South malls of this campus. The monuments on these malls and others around the world perform stories of triumph, though each highlights different figures and outcomes. For one set of monuments, the sanctity of democracy is limited to a few and justifies the enslavement of people, while another argues for the plurality of democracy as freedom for all. Otitigbe asks viewers to question how such monuments invite audiences to participate in the memory and retelling of significant moments and whether all viewers are granted the same access to a shared sense of power.
From granite engraved fortresses to precious mementos such as a hand stitched quilts or the bronze stones paved circuitously about a landscape, monuments are said to commemorate, celebrate, and edify memories and histories. Otitigbe’s work gracefully disrupts the monolithic history that public art, monuments in particular, has come to represent. Instead, the objects on view here play with the concept of public art and participate in an ongoing dialogue about the precarious domain of public memory. The artist uses recycled materials, such as treated aluminum and Valchromat, to recast local monuments; the rough-hewn materials speak to the fleeting nature of history and memory. The symbols in the etchings invite us to participate and engage, and to look and look again.
Otitigbe’s art, like the elegantly crafted monuments to which it responds, gingerly escorts us through the discomfort of replaying the past. Memorials are not merely celebrations; they are also sites where melancholy settles, pain persists, and trauma is preformed. The artist, like Maya Lin, suggests that individuals must embrace pain, suffering, and death to move forward. Patience on a Monument meditates on memorials which, like the memories they are said to represent, are contested performances, unsettled, unfinished.
The above text was prepared by the curator of the exhibition, Myron M. Beasley, Associate Professor of Cultural Studies, African American Studies, and Women and Gender Studies at Bates College.