artblog’s origins in 2003 – Christian Marclay at the Philly Museum of Art and Albert Chong at the African American Museum

[Dear Readers, in our tenth anniversary year we will be re-visiting some of our early posts, bringing you interesting information from artblog’s vast archive of published reviews, news and features.  Below are two posts from May, 2003.]

Africa-China-Jamaica-America links at the African American Museum
Published May 18, 2003 by Libby

Many of Albert Chong’s emotionally rich photographs are conversations with his ancestors, some literal, some not. But his personal history is an archetypical story of migration and immigration, intermarriage and cultural roots. A native of Jamaica, his photos of old black-and-white or sepia-toned portraits arranged with hot-colored flowers plus assorted memorabilia are framed with copper mats stamped with stories and poems. Among my favorites was a photo called “Jesus, Mary, and the Perfect White Man,” in which the 3-D Jesus and the 3-D Perfect White Man (the latter a blond-haired, square-jawed head, probably from a store mannequin) can’t compete with the old photos showing the beauty of dark-skinned Mary and the two little dark girls.

By Albert Chong, Self Portrait with marcus Garvey Prison Docket

Chong, who now teaches in Colorado and won a 1998 Guggenheim fellowship in photography and a 1998 Pollock/Krasner grant, as well as regional and national NEA grants, appropriates Jamaican history as his own history, as in “Self-Portrait With Marcus Garvey Prison Docket.” The show is at the African American Museum in Philadelphia until Aug. 13.

Chong’s work, especially the pieces about African-derived rituals, spoke directly to the show two floors up. If you haven’t seen “4 Artists of Distinction,” which has been up since Sept. 24 and was due to come down April 20, lucky for you that it’s still showing–until Aug. 15. You owe it to yourself to get over to AAMP in a hurry.

Painting by Charles Burwell

The works by the four Philadelphia artists–Barbara Bullock, Charles Burwell, James Dupree and Martina Johnson-Allen–practically jump off the wall and talk to each other, with their Africa-inspired use of vivid color and pattern, and their references to African talismans. Among the highlights are Dupree’s installation, “Mask Broom Totem Series,” a commentary on African American labor history and so much more, and Burwell’s wall of sketches and stencils that explain a lot about his paintings, with their intense layers of pattern.


For Whom the Cracked Bell Tolls – Christian Marclay at the PMA
Post published May 29, 2003 by Roberta

Christian Marclay, The Bell and the Glass, video, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art

On my way to see Bruce Nauman’s video “Bouncing in the Corner I” in the PMA Video Gallery (definitely worth seeing, check sketches this week), I was ambushed by the new Christian Marclay video installation — “The Bell and the Glass,” part of the Museum Studies series that asks artists to create new work based on holdings of the Museum. I almost didn’t make it to the Nauman.

Marclay, a New York video artist and composer, worked with Relache Ensemble to make an homage to two favorite Philadelphia love objects, Marcel Duchamp’s “Large Glass” (at the PMA) and the Liberty Bell. Both objects are cracked and old, and both embody something larger than their makers ever envisioned — a kind of iconic heroism.

Speaking as one who’s fast becoming cracked and old, I endorse the concept of celebrating old, broken objects.

Beyond that, Marclay’s video collage — which samples from some of Hollywood’s smarmiest black and white romance flicks and mixes them with footage of Marcel Duchamp extolling the cracks in the glass and with some sexy close-ups of chocolate Liberty Bells being molded– is a whirling mix of love, implied sex, music and mouth-watering goo. It’s a Valentine even hard hearts won’t be able to resist.

(Music lovers, Relache performed several gigs in the gallery, improvising music that responded to Marclay’s video collage. All that’s left now are the music stands huddled around the split-screen video projections but it’s enough. You can imagine the rest.)


Tagsafrican american museum in philadelphia, albert chong, charles burwell, christian marclay, philadelphia museum of art, relache
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