Mitchell Squire at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts

11 January 201415 March 2014

Omaha has recently had a great deal of media attention surrounding crime, gun violence and the legislation that intersects it. The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts begins 2014 at its new Carver Bank venue with We’re gonna have to do more than talk, an exhibition by Mitchell Squire which explores how and if visual art can contribute to a better understanding and redress for the complex issues surrounding gun violence, particularly as it relates to the black community. The exhibition runs January 11 – March 15, 2014. An Opening Reception takes place Saturday, January 11th from 6:00 – 8:00 pm with a Gallery Talk by the artist at 7:00 pm.

The core of this exhibition consists of “The Young Gladiators” (2013), a series of ten works which feature bulk law enforcement paper gun range targets riddled with bullet holes. Framed in layers with the reverse side facing outward, the practice sheets place viewers in the position of the targeted objects, which, due to the wildly variant shot patterns, resemble a highly abstracted version of the human figure. As non-art artifacts, these artillery targets don’t sensationalize or glorify gun violence; rather they provide quiet, contemplative and tangible portraits of the complex relationship between gun violence, gun control and the mediation of personal and national tragedies. ‘

Dominium, 2006” builds upon the theme of gun violence via a sculptural array of small, toy-like, laser-cut acrylic figurines in the form of target silhouettes. Composed on the floor, they have a playfully precarious aspect to them, particularly when-and if-they are toppled like dominos. This same silhouette motif comprises a pair of large drawings that round out the exhibition. They explore the same afterimage of the practice targets in “The Young Gladiators,” but like “Dominium” they do so by more direct narrative means. The hauntingly quiet “We’re gonna have to do more than talk” and “You can kill a revolutionary…” are hauntingly quiet works Squire created with a rubber stamp and black ink on paper. The works take their title from statements made by activist and deputy chairman of the Illinois chapter of the Black Panther Party, Fred Hampton, who was killed while sleeping in his Chicago apartment during a police raid in 1969 at the young age of 21.

We’re gonna have to do more than talk also features a series of four design workshops targeted toward making connections with creative youth. Workshops will consist of 2-3 hour weekly sessions occurring on the Saturdays of February 15th and 22nd and March 1st and 8th. The final session takes place on the last day of the exhibition, Saturday March 15th, and includes a special presentation of the youths’ works and experiences.

These workshops are complemented by a satellite library composed of a substantial loan from the public design library housed at Theaster Gates’ Dorchester Projects in Chicago. The Dorchester library consists of 14,000 volumes acquired from the now-closed Prairie Avenue Art and Architecture Bookstore in 2009 and is intended as a public resource for research, contemplation and performance. The satellite library, which is accessible to workshop participants and neighborhood residents, will fill approximately 70 lineal feet of shelving located at the rear of Carver Bank and will serve as a learning sculpture for the duration of Mitchell Squire’s exhibition.

Taken together, the comprehensive exhibition of the works in We’re gonna have to do more than talk combined with the design workshops makes for a smart, impactful, timely and highly sophisticated exploration of gun violence, one that reflects and reflects upon the pressing issues facing the black community in Omaha.

About the Artist:

Mitchell Squire is an artist and educator whose practice engages material culture, architecture and visual art. He is known for creating deeply cerebral work that explores a broad spectrum of American culture through collecting and archiving artifacts. Using a combination of found and salvaged objects, his collections, assemblages, sculptures and performances offer complex socio-political associations and elegiac narratives that underline particularly potent historic events and institutional practices that quietly and continually influence the national dialogue. His work has been exhibited at the New Museum (NY), the CUE Art Foundation (NY) and White Cube (London). He has also completed residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (ME), the Banff Centre (Alberta), the Ox-Bow School of Art (MI), and in 2014 he will be a visiting artist at the Fabric Workshop and Museum in Philadelphia and will participate in Cannonball’s Visiting Artist Residency in Miami. In 2011 he was listed among 25 artists in Art Review Magazine’s annual issue “Future Greats.”

As a nationally recognized educator in the field of architecture, Squire currently holds the position of associate professor of architecture at Iowa State University, where he earned both B.Arch and M.Arch degrees. He received the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) New Faculty Teaching Award (2005) and the ACSA Creative Achievement Award (2009) for his course “Craft and Crafty Action: On The Relationship Between Creativity and Mischief.” His published works include the poetic narrative “Paris Done Burnt!” in White Papers, Black Marks: Architecture, Race and Culture (Athlone Press) and the object collection “cultureWARE: Implements of Desire; or EAT THIS!” in Eating Architecture (MIT Press). He has been a visiting professor at the University of Minnesota, the University of Michigan and the University of California Berkeley.

About Carver Bank

Located on the site of the first African American-owned bank in Omaha, Carver Bank aims to become a space of public participation and cultural adventure and serve as a hub for the creative and public life of its neighborhood and community. Opened in late March 2013, Carver Bank joins other place-based initiatives launched by Chicago-based artist, cultural planner and performer Theaster Gates and Rebuild Foundation in Chicago and St. Louis. The 2,600-square-foot Carver Bank facility is fully renovated and offers exhibition and performance space, artist studios, Big Mama’s Sandwich Shop as well as 3,000-square-feet of transformed exterior landscape. Managed and programmed by the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Carver Bank now hosts regular exhibitions, events and workshops driven by artists and community partners.

About the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts

Through its internationally-recognized residency program, the Bemis Center provides critical time and space to outstanding artists who are working at the cutting edge of contemporary practice.  Jane Alexander, the former head of the National Endowment for the Arts, has called the Bemis Center “one of the great treasures of its kind in the country,” and ArtInfo has recognized the Bemis Center as one of the “Top 10 residency program around the globe.”

The Bemis Center serves the international artistic community by inviting artists from around the world to spend up to three months in Omaha in spacious live/work studios experimenting with the conceptual and material bases of their artistic practices.  The work-in-process that is part of the residency experience is made visible to Omaha residents and visitors through the Bemis Center’s “cutting-edge exhibitions”  (The New York Times).  The Bemis Center also serves the local community by providing direct support to Nebraska and Iowa artists and by developing artistic opportunities that benefit the Omaha-metro area.

For further information contact Kim Carpenter | 402-341-7130

Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts
724 South 12th Street
Omaha, NE 68102
Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 11:00 AM – 6:00 pm