Continuing through March 21, 2017
The gestures that Alabama-born, Chicago-based artist Bethany Collins uses in her pieces are straightforward and emphatic. In each work in “Material Fact” the artist either cuts, embosses or erases in a repeated and precise manner, imbuing the works with a palpable sense of personal labor and time spent. But, this earnest making process is only one component of Collins’ message. Coupled with the directness of labor is the artist’s demonstrative connection to the subject matter of language and the troubled history of its usage.
Occupying a majority of the gallery is Collins’ series, “The Birmingham News.” Charcoal-grey in color, rumpled and torn, these works on paper are embossed using actual plates from the front pages of issues of The Birmingham News from 1963 — a pivotal city and year for the Civil Rights movement. As we scan the headlines, it’s not the violence against Black Americans or the organized marches that are covered by the paper that registers, but a range of other items chosen to push these events out of written history. But Collins’ work is not just memorializing; it is a potent reminder that this institutionalized, passive-aggressive way of silencing marginalized people is a well-worn pattern of behavior that is enjoying a scary revival today.