This Art Basel Show Is Challenging Mainstream & Marginalized Dynamics
Art Basel madness has landed in the heart of Miami, and we’re honing in one some of our favorite must-see shows down south. Enter ArtCenter/South Florida‘s “Parallels and Peripheries”: an all-female show curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah addressing—and, subsequently, challenging—power dynamics in mainstream American narratives. Featuring artists Bethany Collins, Lizania Cruz, Genevieve Gaignard, Susan Lee- Chun, Joiri Minaya, Jamilah Sabur, Saya Woolfalk, and Kennedy Yanko, “Parallels and Peripheries” is the kind of show that forces you to pause, consider, and continue pondering long after you’ve left the exhibition.
“How do I as a curator serve as a catalyst for a dialogue that not only happens in the exhibition space, but also at the dinner table or when you’re having drinks with friends?” Ossei-Mensah says. “There is a hunger for these conversations.”
With “Parallels and Peripheries”, Ossei-Mensah hits the nail on the head. Each artist confronts different angles of dynamic tension within society—with everything from gender, race, class, and immigration being addressed. And he’s not stopping in Miami—the show will go on to travel to the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, for starters, and then beyond to other cities and institutions. Milk sat down with Ossei-Mensah prior to Basel to talk more about “Parallels & Peripheries”, “slowing the viewer down”, and the power of language as a tool for how people self-identify. If you’re in Miami this weekend, visit the show at ArtCenter/South Florida in Miami Beach.
I was just reading about the show—you mention “the dynamic between mainstream America and marginalized communities”—can you elaborate on that?
For me, the exhibition is continuing so it isn’t a one stop shop. So it is just a question of what happens when you put the peripheral—that could be race, gender, ethnicity, or class at the center of the conversation—even the framing and the language around shows like this there is a desire to leave with the feeling that this a multicultural show, but how do you get people to think about it as “this is what our world looks like”? If you look at the background of all the artist in the show it is very dynamic. How do you use art as a platform to have that conversation? I am able to create a scenario with in the exhibition that allows you to pause and ask yourself questions.
I chose to make the show all women because those are the voices I wanted to hear—it was right around the time that Kavanaugh was confirmed and I was trying to negotiate what was going on in world where there is blatant misconduct and inconsistencies. The mainstream still wants to negate the voices, challenges and perspectives of women. So for me it has been great to do the show in Miami because Miami has its own layers. It has been great to talk to artists and people that have come to the show, as well as curators. It is sparking a conversation which for me is paramount. How do I as a curator serve as a catalyst for a dialogue that not only happens in the exhibition space, but also at the dinner table or when you’re having drinks with friends? There is a hunger for these conversations.
When the conversations continue once you leave the exhibition, that means you’re doing something right.
That is always the goal. I am not consumed by whether you like it or not, but do you feel something? How do you slow the viewer down? This isn’t about creating an Instagram-able moment. It is really about creating spaces of meditation. I think we have done a great job. I am really proud of the show and I am thankful to the artist for really trusting the vision. It is great for the city of Miami particularly during this time where there is a lot going on.
It is timely and really relevant—it a good point that we are all overstimulated and constantly consuming things but this is giving people something with more substance. Maybe they don’t want to Instagram it because it is jarring and really makes them think—that is really cool. So the second edition is going to MOCAD and it’s a totally different group of artists?
I think about six of the artist from Miami are going to be in the new show but with different work because of the focus on art, technology and sciences. Then I am going to include some additional artist that have ties to the midwest. The show has organically shifted in that almost all the artist have a relationship to the midwest—in the sense of they grew up there, they went to school there or they currently live there. The show is still predominantly women. I am excited because this is my first show at MOCAD and so I wanted to make sure it was something dynamic. I also look at these exhibitions as an opportunity for me to learn.
What have you discovered or what has surprised you as you have been curating the show?
Language choice and the power of language. How do things get lost in translation? From an identity standpoint, really taking a harder look at how people self-identify. But also how we project an identity onto a person based on assumptions and stereotypes and be cognizant that you are doing that.
Images courtesy of ArtCenter/South Florida
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