Sable Elyse Smith’s expressive powers are both subtle and direct. One is to imbue a shadowy side into an otherwise crisp, nonchalant aesthetic that combines photography, text, neon, and video installation. Another, found in her filmic montages, creates connective tissue between pop/internet culture and autobiographical experience. Here, she nods stylistically to a black cinematic genealogy that includes Arthur Jafa, the LA Rebellion generation, and media-artist peers interested in an emotional and empathic confrontation with the black experience as images of violence on black bodies proliferate. Among her most compelling strengths as an artist, as attested by Ordinary Violence, her solo exhibition at the Queens Museum, is the way she wrestles with the father-daughter bond.
And wrestle she must; the work in this show is marked by her father’s 19-year incarceration — the majority of her life — which has left an indelible absence. Though he goes unnamed, we are told in the introductory wall text of their relationship and the length of his time served to date. She writes in the show’s epigraph: “And violence can be quotidian, like the landscape of prison shaping itself around my body. The images are made so that I can see me. I am haunted by Trauma. We are woven into this kaleidoscopic memoir by our desires to consume pain, to blur fact and fiction, to escape.”
The possibility of escape certainly does not come for him, or entirely for her, though many visitors enjoy the privilege. The “we” who are “woven into this kaleidoscopic memoir” suggest the tenacity of father and daughter to endure separation and, more broadly, speak to the many black communities and communities of color, immigrants, and the poor, disproportionately riven by the prison system. Continued at: hyperallergic.com