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Sam Durant
“Build Therefore Your Own World”
Recommendation by Genie Davis

Sam Durant, “Fieldstones (after Robin Coste Lewis’s Erasures),” 2016, bronze with patina, six parts, dimensions variable. Photo: Joshua White

Sam Durant’s “Build Therefore Your Own World” is a riveting show that reveals American history with a fresh perspective. The Los Angeles artist expands upon a public art project he created in Concord, Massachusetts, transforming the darker side of history into an exploration of our culture and mythology. The main gallery is dominated by the installation “Every spirit builds itself a house, and beyond its house a world … Build therefore your own world.” This large scale work depicts houses built by and for free and emancipated slaves in revolutionary-era Massachusetts. Walls are painted with texts by contemporary African American writers and poets such as Kevin Young and Tisa Bryant. Their words are a visual weaving of a story redefined.

Surreal 3D sculptures morph African American artifacts from the colonial time period with objects owned by iconic writers such as Emerson and Thoreau. Here we observe a bronze sculpture fused from a walking stick and pencil, “Erasure, Appearance (Garrison’s Walking Stick, Thoreau’s Pencil),” and a gravestone and flute “God wills us free (John Jack’s Epitaph, Thoreau’s Flute)." The carbon steel sculpture “Race Traitor” depicts a billy club used by African American self-defense groups forced to fight bounty hunters. Prison and military blankets collaged with Lincoln pennies depicting constellations, and bronze casts of fieldstones, which Durant collected in Massachusetts, round out the exhibition. The stones evoke America’s “foundation,” built on the backs of African American slave labor. This moving and immersive exhibition literally walks us through a revised view of our culture, our past, and our future potential.

Blum & Poe Gallery

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