Long May They Wave: Dream Wavers at Laband Art Gallery
through May 12
Laband Art Gallery, Los Angeles
Written by Genie Davis
The land of the free and the home of the brave is exactly what we get in the large scale site-specific flag installation now at Loyola Marymount University’s Laband Art Gallery through May 12th. The outdoor installation is bold and beautiful, featuring flags that reveal a wide range of symbols and designs displayed outside the gallery in the George A.V. Dunning Courtyard.
Aglow with sunlight and at times ferried by the wind, the flags are created by artists as diverse as their mediums and message. 13 LMU students in a social design course were mentored by graphic design professor Garland Kirkpatrick to create emblems of identity and belonging. 22 practicing artists culled nationwide offer their perspectives in the larger section of work, co-curated by LA-based artist and LMU alumni Katie Kirk and St. Louis-based artist and curator Sage Dawson, founder and director of the non-profit arts space STNDRD, which partnered with the gallery to create the exhibition.
Dawson notes that the flags are designed to “critique, amend, and support our present moment” in the current social and political zeitgeist. The curators invited artists to explore both personal and public “fissures and confluences” and call attention to everything from human rights to personal symbology and political challenges. There is a strength to the project both in its conception and articulation. As the curator’s statement notes, the very act of unfurling these flags is a “gesture of unveiling and revealing” that supports this place and time, and future possibilities. It also serves to remind us that what we let fly, in the case of flags both literal and figurative, will mark this time and claim this space, this land.
Participating artists include Liv Anrud, Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo, Virginia Broersma, Jamie Felton, Sarita Garcia, José Guadalupe Garza, Emily Blythe Jones, Marianne Laury, Alex Lukas, Aubrey Ingmar Manson, Yvette Mayorga, Ahmed Ozsever, Tim Portlock, Lindsay Preston, Edo Rosenblith, Miriam Ruiz, Julia Schwartz, Janie Stamm, RL Tillman, Cristina Victor, Tessie Salcido Whitmore, Work/Play, and Jon Young. The 13 LMU student artists include Daniel Akavi, Mariam Al Nahedh, Allison Crawford, Jane Estrada, Katherine Ford, Ana Laughrun, Anthony Lopez, Kelli Nagasawa, Brandon Nam, Aurora Occelli, Nicholas Tarricone, Yue Wang, and Emily Zech.
Among the work of the practicing artists, there are many passionate and political statements. Chicago-based Mayorga, with her “An Immigrant Died Today” is one of the most resonant works in this regard. Created with vinyl, textile, and silver chain, the flag’s vibrant and deeply female pink, and her looped, decorative use of the chain, joins and links us. The bright yellow soldiers, red cherries, yellow bananas and other repeated imagery depicted on the flag evoke slot machine gaming: this is the game of life, and all of us can play to win, but not all of us can succeed in today’s world. It is heartbreaking and ironic gamble.
With the Massachusetts-based Lucas’ cut deep blue tarp, we are caught up in a digital sequence of mysterious numbers; Lucas describes his tarp material as a blocking mechanism, whether concealing a view or protecting privacy. The punctured numerical phrase recasts the material as “a means for potential communication.” It is a banner that calls out for comprehension that may be beyond us.
Much easier to comprehend is Manson’s cry to “Smash patriarchy.” “You Can Join the Matriarchy Too” features a bright orange background on which we see a hammer raised. The Los Angeles-based artist created the vibrant, naïve-style work with napkins, house paint, and polyurethane. On the opposite side of the flag, the single word “Matriarchy” is depicted in the same style with a woman’s face.
Also from Los Angeles, Schwartz brings us “night sessions (yes, this is how I used to study, with the TV on),” created with gouache, flashe, acrylic, paper, sharpie, and collage on a hospital transfer sheet. This flag has a quilt-like pattern, a square within a square, filled with challenging to decipher narrative images, much like scrambled images on a television screen.
Tilman’s “Union Down,” gives us a pair of patterned golf pants in stars and stripes. One could extrapolate the image as representing the current White House resident’s favorite attire, and his disrespect for the freedoms that the American flag should support. They are literally being sat upon.
The students’ work echoes the bold messages here with their double-sided, graphic-designed flags. These works focus primarily on personal identity; Ford’s “Unity” flag with a gold star and white dove offers a peaceful plea that seems to assert regardless of heritage, we are all one: a hopeful message that moves beyond the personal and into the inclusive.
The full exhibition, both the student work and that of the practicing artists, creates a truly passionate display, these are banners as much as flags, both in the way that they are hung, and in their messages. Ultimately, each message speaks to the same hope: that if we let our flags fly and our freedom wave, we can reclaim our nation and ourselves.