This work will make you uncomfortable, and probably sad. It'll make you curious and angry. It'll make you think, and even, as I did, stand there staring, dazed with frustration. There is a lot going on in the finely detailed and highly charged paintings, sculpture, drawings, and two large installations that make up Travis Somerville's current solo exhibition.
Once again, Somerville delves into issues of race and prejudice in the United States. Here he focuses on the country's abhorant response to Hurricane Katrina, as well as race relations, including treatment of Middle Easterners, Latinos, and African-Americans, among others.
Somerville's work is heavily informed by his upbringing; he was born in Atlanta, Georgia, and raised in the South and along the Eastern seaboard. He uses vintage materials and symbolism, much of it associated with the deep south, connecting shameful behaviors of the past with those taking place in the present. Lining the walkthrough between the two gallery spaces are a series of water fountains, each designated to a particular race, recalling segregation. One large installation is a shack - not unlike the living quarters of many of today's migrant workers - filled with African-American slave references: film footage, cotton, newspaper clippings, dolls in blackface.
Nothing about this work is overtly violent or grotesque. It's well crafted, often beautiful, even clever. And that's where it gets its power: it gently, calmly delivers you to some painful, ugly truths. And they stay with you.