R3clamation: Routes & Roots, An Installation by Basil Kincaid
[If the map to freedom was etched on the inside of your forehead,
would you carve back the skin and follow the route to your roots?]
On view until December 11, 2016 in the Hawn Gallery
Basil Kincaid’s R3clamation: Routes and Roots is the third iteration of the artist’s Reclamation Project and is, among other things, an intimate examination of his hometown of St. Louis. (Each iteration of the Reclamation Project is site specific in that it draws its materials from its immediate geographical location.) R3clamation: Routes & Roots responds to the vexed problem of race relations in America, which have recently crystalized in St. Louis: issues of black oppression, black rebellion, and contemporary liberation movements, such as Black Lives Matter. Kincaid’s act of collecting and reclaiming common materials is a process of self-liberation and self-healing. By drawing upon personal and cultural memory, he explores how black experience is both enduring trauma and a means of overcoming trauma. This individual journey, etched on the inside of the artist’s forehead, ultimately moves outward in an ambitious attempt to intervene in the political landscape of America.
Kincaid reclaims everyday materials – fabrics, fibers, and even debris – and repurposes them into assemblage quilts, sculptures, and garments. Kincaid, who is deeply invested in the urban sites from which his materials originate, acknowledges an inherent tension between the modern materials and the traditional methodology of his art. The exhibition is the product of both modern urban life and West African and Black American ancestral traditions.
The quilts, garments, and masks become both the material manifestation and the exclusion of the black body. Distinctions between the presence and absence of the flesh are blurred. We are often unsure if there is an actual human form draped by a quilt, or if an actual human face is obscured by a mask. We are left questioning: is anyone or anything there? The black body, which has historically been reduced to a commodity, is put on display by Kincaid, yet in a manner that problematizes the objectifying gaze of the viewer. R3clamation: Routes & Roots neither commodifies the black body nor renders it invisible.
This applies to Kincaid himself, who together with his collaborator, Audrey Simes, actually wears the textile works for a performance piece explicitly created for the exhibition. Like the bodies he represents, the artist’s body is simultaneously revealed and concealed in the exhibition.
Basil Kincaid was born in St. Louis, where he currently resides. He studied studio art at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. His work has been exhibited nationally, and in 2014, he completed an artist residency in Accra, Ghana with Arts Connect International, which enabled him to expand The Reclamation Project globally.
R3clamation: Routes & Roots is curated by Georgia Erger, Curatorial Fellow for the Hawn Gallery.
Images: Courtesy of Allison Slomowitz, SMU Public Affairs.