18th Street Art Center’s exhibit highlights racial justice and more
By Nicole Borgenicht
Entering the building, a three-room exhibition entitled “Three Structures Touching” opens an empathetic forum. This show is a collaboration between artist Maj Hassager from Denmark with Quinn Research Center founders Carolyne and Bill Edwards. It comprises structures symbolizing a freeway going through the neighborhood and displacing black residents.
In addition, videos and photography on African American history show challenges, work and goals in the Broadway district of Santa Monica. Jan Williamson, executive director of 18th Street Art Center, said, “‘Three Structures Touching’ explores an archive of the small but influential Black community in the Santa Monica Bay area from the early 20th century onward, while ‘Recovery Justice’ highlights recent circumstances that have evolved during the pandemic (racial justice demonstrations and destruction, as well as social discontent and general disconnection) and how our Artists in Residence responded to it.”
“Recovery Justice” explores the unique ways artist create in lieu of the pandemic and incidents during this difficult period. A rather uplifting portrayal of people uniting is a piece called ‘One Mask, One Love, One Heart’ to heal globally of all 18th Street artists. This is an outdoor mural that measures 10 feet x 30 feet and a small piece indoors by Susie McKay Krieser and Yrneh Gabon featuring beautiful colors with an upbeat message. Another positive message is by Rebecca Youssef, “The Sowing Imperative,” of beautiful paintings on grocery bags that pull out images of birth and air from destruction.
In a different direction is a piece by Yrneh Gabon Brown with subtle power, “Out of Many One,” of a border wall and hundreds of sneakers locked inside a net with handcuffs draped on the side. “Run Johnny Run” by Lola del Fresno depicts a video of a black man running and the horrendous recent shootings, alongside a large architecture drawing in red to indicate redlining discrimination in neighborhoods.
Other expressions of sadness comprise Debra Disman’s “Womb” installation made through tying, stitching, knotting and more into a hanging curtain of thick string-like elements. Then walk into and grasp a sense of loss – not feeling alone inside due to the multitude of symmetrical stringy lines.
Starkness derives from Melinda Smith Altshuler’s “Ascension, Suspension to Cultural Blindness/Correcting Vision” installation featuring suspended chairs tied together with thick electric cords. Along one side are small pictures of homeless tents and on the opposing wall hang large photos of portable restrooms.
Altshuler shared that these are the things homeless people live without: electricity, toilets, chairs and other comforts we take for granted.
“The suspended, bound chairs represent out of reach, out of service,” Altshuler said.
Lionel Popkin’s video art entitled “Six Positions of Uncertainty” shows a carpet and a man leaning over while moving around in the attempt of finding how to live with one’s self in isolation. Popkin also created an installation of a room featuring hanging notecards with a few words above called “Room to Look Up? George Floyd 8:46” with sad written phrases above such as “I can’t breathe.”
Lola de Fresno’s mural “The innocents (save a million lives)” depicts generations of people searching for a new home, and she described it as ending the pandemic and defending the Asian community from prejudice. “Mattress from Displacement Series” is a mural by Luciana Abait that depicts a large map with noted restricted areas and a mattress in the middle, which represents problems in the world that are ours as well. Abait’s other artwork is a construct of maps sinking to show new perspectives on climate change.
Marcus Kuiland-Nazario’s curated piece “The Sea Change Lab” is a laboratory for performance artists to explore ideas that they normally could not during Covid-19 mean as a gift of time and space for artists. Tonight, a poet types on an old typewriter rhythmically as if a snare with humor improv exaggeration to a guitar, bass, and the international, melodic, fun sound of a mandolin. Altogether creating a new art out of different arts, Kuiland-Nazario keeps the flow changing, as with the earth and sea we are all connected.
One fabulous aspect of the “Recovery Justice: Being Well” and “Three Structures Touching” shows is that many of the participating artists represent different ethnicities and countries uniting in compassionate creativity.