Protest in Limbo at Kranzberg Arts Center

    By Christina Chastain

    The moment you walk in to the Kranzberg Arts Center’s most recent exhibit, Over You/You, you are interacting with the space.

    Guardrails guide you along, making it feel as though you are on your way to a protest or demonstration, or witnessing one just concluding. The palpable pressure in the air is created by placards – some hidden, some ruined, some made beautiful – wanting to be utilized, but only on view and displayed as works of art.

    “I believe strongly in aesthetics, in form, texture, color, and all these different relationships with forming a picture,” said Oscar Murillo, the artist behind Over You/You. “But I also have some kind of deep desire of ‘how can I undermine that?’ Undermine it in a way that it has a kind of anarchic or alludes to the anarchic.”

    The entire exhibit, curated by Modou Dieng, consists of more than 150 placards, which become the basis for a protest in limbo within the gallery space. Placards are both practical and performative objects, and Murillo plays with these two uses within his installation.

    “There is a kind of incoherency that comes together through this idea of the protest,” said Murillo. “This idea of putting together these painting on the placard. Immediately you have this idea of ‘Oh my God, it’s a protest.’ There is this kind of tension between the painted element and the visual and the aesthetic and this notion of utility – a useful object that you can pick up and hold it as if you stand for something as an individual or as a group of people.”

    All of Murillo’s placards are highly decorative, each comprised of a chromogenic type print that draws upon multiple sources – photographs of Murillo’s uncle taken for a magazine spread; a still from Murillo’s video “Ramon,” which depicts a lottery ticket salesman from La Paila, Colombia; as well as drawings and material from the artist’s studio. Murillo has then painted on to most of the prints, while others are adorned with clay, lace, canvas, hairpieces and found objects from the studio, ranging from prints by the artist to food packaging.

    Murillo will also be bringing his Frequencies project to local schools.

    “It’s a collaboration,” said Murillo. “I call it a recording device.”

    Students aged ten to 16 from schools across the globe are given canvases but no materials or instruction as to what they can and cannot do, thus allowing the canvas to register their daily endeavors and conscious and unconscious interventions.

    In this age group, Murillo perceives a certain amount of resistance to normative systems of thought, which he sees as a greater link to his own work and practice. By placing canvas on desks and leaving it for a prolonged period of time, the process of sedimentation that occurs not only captures the students’ thoughts and expressions but also chance interventions that are the product of external factors.

    Frequencies has created a growing network between students from different schools and offers cross-cultural and social insights into youth communities participating in the project. The encyclopedic scope of the project consists of mapping out young students’ experiences across the globe.

    “I have selected six canvases from Frequencies: Russia, Nepal, and South Africa, to give us a kind of flavor of diversity,” said Murillo.

    Over you / you is on view now until Saturday, Nov. 10. For more information, go to kranzbergartscenter.org.

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