Calderón is pleased to present a two-person exhibition with Danielle De Jesus and Shellyne Rodriguez whose paintings and drawings bring their respective old neighborhoods: Bushwick and Soundview into very different relief in contrasting present moments of real life in contemporary New York City. Titled Siempre En La Calle, the show will be on view October 28 through December 17.
Rodriguez presents a series of new drawings: colored pencil on paper, that are large scale, figurative works depicting the people of the Bronx with a primary focus in the neighborhoods of Hunts Point and Soundview. Her images capture the community in the process of everyday life, what she describes as “the depiction and archiving of spaces and subjects engaged in strategies of survival against erasure and subjugation.” For her, this practice is twofold. It engages in the stewardship of the histories and people that has shaped her lived experience, and it...describes and archives the changes that have recreated communities in the Bronx today. What she calls “the periphery of the empire” one of the domestic colonies of the United States.
Rodriguez’s work is in dialogue with the Ashcan School, who bore witness to the rise of the metropolis and modern life and depicted how the poor and working class in the enclaves of New York City were transformed by this. She sees figures such as Alice Neel, Jane Dickson, and Martin Wong as an extension of this tradition and situates her practice alongside them, perhaps now witnessing the decline of the metropolis and modern life, from the periphery.
Rodriguez invokes the histories of the Bronx when she references the pioneering work of Buddy Esquire, an artist who designed early hip hop flyers for legendary acts in the 70s. She utilizes the architectural style associated with Esquire as a container. This structure is a stand-in for hip hop, and its legacy as a subversive avant garde art movement born amidst burning buildings and neoliberal violence. Rodriguez incorporates the language: “soulsonic” and “disco” which intermingles with homages to Larry Davis, Amadou Diallo, and to the “wretched,” who “freak to the beat” a nod towards Frantz Fanon from the periphery of the empire.
Today, the Bronx is home for a wide range of new immigrants. Rodriguez’s work looks at the ways in which the social fabric of the Bronx is rewoven as the people and their cultures are lived side by side as neighbors. She utilizes language and sociopolitical references to unite the portraits of individuals from various communities living together. In her work viewers can find Akan, a Ghanaian language beside Vietnamese, Spanish beside Arabic.
In one portrait, “Two Women and a Baby,” she brings together “India” – an old Puerto Rican lesbian who hangs out by her local bodega. Standing next to her and leaning in towards her is a young Bangladeshi woman holding her child.
“So you get the old and the new, in the same way that the flyer structure is old school but contains Oseikrom Soul Sonic like Soul Sonic Force Planet Rock meets today’s Ghanaian supermarket.”
Folks smoking hookah in one corner are three Dominican neighbors, but Rodriguez inserted an image of June Jordan the revolutionary poet, on one character’s phone. In this way she juxtaposes all kinds of radical legacies. “I must become a menace to my enemies” is Rodriguez’s favorite poem by Jordan, and aligns with what Rodriguez sees as the strategies of survival she observes in the fabric of the Bronx and in herself.
Danielle De Jesus
Working in the traditions of Charles White, Kerry James Marshall and Martin Wong, De Jesus grew up in Bushwick as the only child of a single parent. Bushwick has not been able to survive white homogenization in the way that Soundview has so far. And this has impacted the artist personally and aesthetically. Her mother lost their apartment to gentrification in 2017 and this is an emotional drive for her work. De Jesus recalls the superintendent banging on the door yelling “Luz, when are you going to get out? When are you going to get out?” Her mother, Luz Tellado now lives in Puerto Rico and Danielle’s definition of the success that she strives towards, is to be able to bring her mother back to New York City.
“No one knew how to fight because no one knew what was happening.”
The artist’s portraits reflect her experiences growing up on Jefferson Street in Bushwick, and her wish to visually preserve those memories. Employing traditional materials associated with “Fine Arts”, De Jesus creates oil paintings on linen of familiar people, places and areas from the neighborhood, and the disappeared culture they inhabited. For example, she captures memories of children playing in the street, which is something children do with less frequency as Bushwick gentrifies. She memorializes people playing dominoes on the sidewalk, focusing on the disappeared landscapes of her youth.
Employing sculptural techniques mixing media filled with contrasting meaning, De Jesus brings in elements of material sourced from the remnants of old Bushwick. For example she integrates fragments of acrylic table clothes bought directly from stores like Fat Albert’s, choosing sensual material objects of daily life for working people. As an MFA student in painting at Yale, she literally carried table clothes on the train, bringing the conversation from the streets to the traditional.
Work in the show includes a portrait of one of De Jesus’s favorite subjects, her neighbor “Carmello.” He lived in the basement of the building across the street and was a good family friend. When he was displaced, and without an alternative, the artist decided to document his last days in his home. She entered the building, gutted for renovation, his place, the only space left intact. Two days later they padlocked the building and threw all his stuff into a dumpster. He squatted in the basement of the building where Danielle’s mother was renting. It smelled of gas and dead rats, it was wet and stark, no bathroom and no shower. Carmello lived there for nine months, he made a garden in the backyard and grew some veggies. He was finally given an apartment but soon was found there deceased. The displacers had offered him $5,000.
Another portrait centers a brown skinned boy in Bushwick, outside a community garden looking through the fence, the new white residents are having a party and ignoring him. In this way he becomes the outsider in his own community. Her work continues to capture the Point Of View of neighbors and friends like this young man, watching the seizure of their community.
Danielle De Jesus and Shellyne Rodriguez have different experiences reflecting the divergent statuses of their distinct communities. But while De Jesus has been displaced by homogenization and Rodriguez’s neighborhood expands its immigrant collective, both artists are strongly in the historical trajectory of interpreters of working-class life in New York City through materials and images that reflect the communities’ aesthetic, emotional and historical roots.
Entrada actualizada el el 22 nov de 2021
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