by Á.R. Vázquez-Concepción
At Galería de la Raza in the Mission District is F.T.P: For the People, inspired by civil rights activist Audre Lorde’s essay, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House.”1The exhibition showcases the work of over a dozen visual artists from the Bay Area and beyond, including painting, photography, printmaking, and installation.
Lorde states that action leading to legitimate social change can never emerge out of the normativity that reinforces a status quo where social and racial inequality are rife—to promote social change, one must empower the colored female, transgender, and queer otherness that would otherwise be cast out and rejected. F.T.P. brilliantly aligns itself with Lorde’s central idea. Especially at stake right now is imagining a future where prejudice and police brutality will cease to be tolerable.
Together, the artworks act as an indictment of contemporary manifestations of institutionalized oppression and violence against minority communities. Each artist deploys sharp, targeted criticism towards recent affairs in North America, showing the pain and public defiance of communities that refuse to give in to fear and injustice.
An example is a work by Fanny Aishaa, Elsipogtog (2013), a painting done in response to the use of force by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police during an incident with environmentalists protesting fracking that year. The work was inspired by a photograph taken by journalist Ossie Michelin during a pacific manifestation that was violently descended-upon. According to Aishaa the work “symbolizes civil disobedience but also recognizes and shows respect to the Mi’kmaq people and their lands and waters.” In the painting we see activist Amanda Polshies praying holding a feather towards a bird flying overhead in the direction of an advancing militarized police phalanx, “to show they are not just protestors but protectors —defenders of the land,” Aishaa concludes. The painting addresses state-sanctioned brutality, communicating criticism on how industrial projects are forced on indigenous lands, all too often turning to abusive methods.
In his publication “Talking Contemporary Curating,” art historian Terry Smith states, “curators are being called upon to help, to join a worldwide effort to create a commons that will outlast the shocks of globalized capitalism, the resurgence of fundamentalism, and the impacts of climate change.”2 Through this exhibition, Galería de la Raza and its leadership prove they are at the forefront of creating and sustaining such commons in San Francisco —and are calling for all constituents of the art system to mobilize for the fight for social justice.
On view is the work of the aforementioned Fanny Aishaa, Micah Bazant, Ray Balberan, Adriana Camarena, Melanie Cervantes, Kate Deciccio, Sofia Elias, Rafael Flores, Karla Gallardo, Ivonne Iriondo, Eddie Lampkin, Peter Menchini, Celia Herrera Rodriguez, Julio Salgado, Nisha Sembi, Ben Bac Sierra, Tosha Stimage, and last but not least Mincho Vega.
F.T.P: For the People is on view at Galería de la Raza, in San Francisco, through June 11, 2016.
1 Audre Lorde, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches (Berkeley: Crossing Press, 1984), 110- 114.
2 Terry Smith,Talking Contemporary Curating (New York: Independent Curators International, 2015), 16.
This review was originally published in Art Practical