Tour: 'Adler Guerrier: Conditions and Forms for blck Longevity' at CAAM in LA
This past weekend I got the chance to see a new(ish) exhibit at the California African American Museum, a place that is fast becoming a go-to on quick day trips to Los Angeles. I was not all that familiar with the work of Adler Guerrier, but upon seeing a few photos of his drawings, I knew that it was not to be missed. What I wasn't expecting was the poetic intensity with which his work portrays the suburban landscapes of black neighborhoods in Los Angeles and his hometown, Miami. Adler Guerrier: Conditions and Forms for blck Longevity, examines the public space as a site of political discourse and dissent, in contrast with the private space as a site of personal cultivation and self-preservation. The result is a series of photographs that act as the basis for some particularly poignant text-infused drawings and prints.
It's interesting just how closely his drawings imitate the style of his print works. Text from a public talk given by Malcolm X in 1964 are intertwined with bits of pencil-drawn flora and metallic painted shapes. This affect creates a type of camouflage that almost disguises the forceful tone of the words. Guerrier manages a really beautiful balance between the intimacy of the implied gardens (self-cultivation) and the revolutionary fervor of the text, suggesting a very real commingling of these passions in the mind.
Much of the text employed are of the Civil Rights era and represent the monumental impact of that generation. The photographs tell a different story, and paired alongside the intensity of the text, appear almost banal. And the photographs do represent where these communities are in the present day. An image of a car parked in the garage of a suburban home reveals a small detail, a drawing of MLK Jr. hanging in the background. This is a quintessential image of a black, upper middle-class suburbia, perhaps a commentary on the legacy of those social movements, and an altogether ordinary depiction of social mobility. The prints further reiterate the lushness of this cultivated garden with splashes of color and confetti-like abstract shapes and pastel paint washes overlaying black and white photographs of tropical greenery. These pieces are folded and unfolded, and then mounted on the wall.
And one of my favorite pieces in the show is Untitled (Towards blck Longevity; We must cultivate our garden) (2017) a monochromatic two-panel piece. The words are again obscured but this time with an opaque matte black color. This piece is so striking to me and speaks to the underling theme in this show, that of self-preservation as a means of continuing political action and organizing to promote blck longevity in the public and private realm. The color of the panels has the same affect of using the word 'blck' in the title of the exhibition, in that it removes the immediate signifier and asks us to stop and consider the word(s).
Adler Guerrier: Conditions and Forms for blck Longevity will be on view at the California African American Museum through August 26, 2018. Be sure to check out the LA VLOG for a look at the entire show and another exhibit that I visited while there.