Oct 13th 2017

Altar Call: The Architecture of Black Sacred Space

@ Rootwork Gallery

645 W 18th St, Chicago, IL 60616

Opening Friday, October 13th, from 6PM - 10PM

On view through Wednesday, December 31st

Artists’ talks will be held November 10 and December 8. Other activations will be announced during the course of the exhibition!

Altar [awl-ter]:
noun. An elevated place or structure, as a mound or platform, at which religious rites are performed or on which sacrifices are offered to gods, ancestors, etc.

Altar call [awl-ter kawl]:
noun. An invitation at the end of a spiritual service when people may come forward to make or renew a profession of faith.

As an exhibition “Altar Call” seeks to mine the connection between contemporary Black visual practices and resilient, if multifarious, notions of black spiritual life.

Whether intentional (the church pulpit) or impromptu (a street corner memorial in the wake of an untimely death) Black people have long used architecture to create and carve out sacred space. In its effort to place the sustained in some spaces, and new or reemergent in others, practice of altar-keeping in the continuum of other contemporary Black survival techniques: “joy,” “magic,” and “self-care,” this exhibition asserts the making of altars and the practice of altar keeping as central and organic to Black life and witness to its resilience.

Elsewhere in the diaspora, where space allows, the sanctity of the altar, shrine or sacred place can be underscored by its size, ornamentation, or centrality to collective life. In the Black urban experience, however, the altar is often private, individualized, even secret. As architecture urban altars serve double duty in being both a symbol of and a portal to the divine, the ancestral, the higher plane.

The artists gathered in this show—Devin Cain, Makeba Kedem Dubose, Kelly Norman Ellis, Stephen Flemister, Krista Franklin, Viktor le. Givens, Rhonda Gray, Tracie D. Hall, Kimberly Harmon, Candace Hunter, Tonika Johnson, AJ McClenon, Patric McCoy, Chiedza Pasipanodya, Adrienne Powers, Jamila Raegan, Folade Speaks, Marvin Tate, Rhonda Wheatley–have each literally and figuratively interpreted the construct of the altar in widely different and often, deeply personal ways. In some instances the altar is a place of refuge, in others of reckoning, a bridge to the ancestors, and an affirmation of the living.

—Tracie D. Hall, Rootwork Gallery Founding Curator

(Image Credit: Dream Catcher #1. Folade Speaks)

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