Artists’ Talk: Altar Call. The Architecture of Black Sacred Space
@ Rootwork Gallery
645 W 18th Street, Chicago, IL 60616
Opening Friday, November 10th, from 7PM - 10:30PM
Artists’ Talk: 7-8:45 pm
Reception and After-party til 10:30 pm
In the first artists’ talk for Rootwork Gallery’s “Altar Call” exhibition, performance artist, writer, educator, producer, and arts administrator Kamilah Rashied moderates a panel featuring artists Devin Cain, Stephen Flemister, Tracie D. Hall, Tonika Johnson, A.J. McClenon and Rhonda Wheatley. The conversation will focus on the altars each artist has contributed to the show and extend to their unique and specific ideas about the intersections of Black spirituality, sacred space and material culture.
The panel will be followed by an after-party featuring sounds and veggie chili by DJ Sean Alvarez in anticipation of Tracie’s upcoming birthday.
See full exhibition description below:
Altar Call. The Architecture of Black Sacred Space
October 13-December 16, 2017
645 W. 18th Street
(Corner 18th and Ruble)
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
This exhibition is supported by the Chicago Architecture Biennial
(Image Credit: Detail of “Jamal” community street altar by Tonika L. Johnson)
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