‘Of the People’ @ SMACK MELLON, New York

(ABOVE, F. Schumacher and Co. custom 20th c. wallcovering for the House and Senate Chambers in Washington, D.C., also in the collection of the Cooper Hewitt)

Of the people
Curated by Erin Donnelly
June 17 – July 31, 2016
Opening reception: Saturday, June 18, 5-8pm

92 Plymouth Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Exhibiting Artists:
Lauren Frances Adams
Daniel Bejar
Guy Ben-Ari
Brooklyn Hi-Art Machine (Mildred Beltre and Oasa DuVerney)
Isabella Cruz-Cong
Peggy Diggs
Esteban del Valle
Nicholas Fraser
Emily Greenberg
Jeremy D. Olson
Sheryl Oring
Ben Pinder
Brittany M. Powell
Kate Sopko
Leah Wolff

Public Event Artists:
Alicia Grullon
t.Rutt (Mary Mihelic and David Gleeson)
Martha Wilson
Others to be announced


For this exhibition, I am creating two special projects exploring recent trends in campaign finance. These site-specific installations of painted architectural ornament mimics the House of Representatives chamber in the U.S. Capitol Building, appropriating the relief portraits, wallpaper, and other symbolic decoration of this quintessentially American political space. Classical temples served as archetypical models for the buildings of Washington, D.C. Statues and friezes with allegorical figures became the models for America’s national symbolism in our burgeoning democracy. Symbols of civic life and learning, strength and endurance as well as classical pagan figures were ideal for the symbolism of the American Enlightenment. In the case of the Capitol’s House Chamber ornamentation, there are 23 marble relief portraits that depict historical figures noted for establishing the principles that underlie American law (such as Napoleon I, Moses, Hammurabi, Suleiman, Thomas Jefferson, Lycurgus, George Mason, etc.). In New Century Lawgivers, I flip these carefully chosen subjects with portraits of contemporary top political financial donors.

These donors (such as Tom Steyer, Sheldon Adelson, and the Koch brothers) reflect a new political reality in which an elite group of superaffluent partisans exert more influence over the campaign landscape than millions of donors of more average means. This project assumes that the massive shift in campaign financial contributions by some of the wealthiest persons are indelibly affecting the political process of the United States — effectively turning our democracy into an oligarchy (or plutocracy, as Noam Chomsky would assert).

Highlighting income inequality and the loss of access to the democratic process by the lower and middle classes, these outsize campaign contributions can dominate policy concerning crucial issues of wealth- and income-protection, as well as public services and policies concerning the environment, labor rights, healthcare, etc. Visualizing these mega-donors through classical architectural symbolism moves their influence into the public dialogue around the state of our shifting democracy.

In the second installation, Dark Money Damask, the historic wallcovering from the Senate and House Chambers, which features images of a liberty cap and liberty bell, has been remixed to incorporate references to recent trends in political spending by SuperPACS and other dark money organizations.


Friday, June 17, 11:30am-8:00pm: Filibuster #2 by Alicia Grullon
For this live re-enactment of Senator Bernie Sanders’ Bush Tax Cuts filibuster, the interdisciplinary artist will follow strict filibustering rules: continual speaking, no bathroom break, no sitting or leaning and no eating or drinking until the 8.5-hour performance is complete.

Drop In Activity also on Friday, June 17: Make your own political button while supplies last. This event is part of the Etsy Craft Party taking place in the neighborhood.

Saturday, June 18, 4-6pm, Thursday, July 7, 6-9pm; Saturday and Sunday during the run of show, 2-6pm: Campaign Office, performance/installation by Jeremy D. Olson
Campaign Office creates new presidential candidates. Visitors are invited to launch their campaign by announcing their candidacy on camera, and will receive the paperwork necessary to be an official candidate for president.

Saturday-Sunday, June 18-19: T.RUMP Bus
The t.Rutt artist team purchased Donald Trump’s actual campaign bus on Craigslist in the fall of 2015. Since being recast by artists Mary Mihelic and David Gleeson as an anti-Trump rolling art project, it has traveled across the United States during the election season, creating a platform for responding to the presumptive GOP nominee’s outrageous statements and behaviors.

We are offering special members-only tours of the T.RUMP Bus. Join today and support Smack Mellon! Become a member by clicking here.

Saturday, June 18 and Saturday, July 16, 12noon-6pm: Mapping projects #7 and #8by Nicholas Fraser
A series of mapping performances will be conducted that examine the absurdities inherent in the media’s visualizations of the presidential election process.

Thursday, July 28, 5:30-8pm: Silkscreen Workshop by Brooklyn Hi-Art Machine
Come to Smack Mellon to make your own political poster copy. The evening includes a screening the Democratic National Convention when the party’s candidate will be announced.

Sunday, July 31, 3pm: Martha Wilson as Donald Trump – Politics and Performance Art Are One and the Same
Martha Wilson embodies her trademark “invasions” of other people’s personae.

Immediately following performance: Community practices: Art and Intervention Panel Discussion Select exhibition artists discuss their projects of social and political consequence. Participants include Isabella Cruz-Chong, Brooklyn, New York; Sheryl Oring, Greensboro, North Carolina; and lead artist Kate Sopko, Cleveland, Ohio, who will be joined by a fixer from her project; moderated by Erin Donnelly.

Closing Reception: 5-6pm.

Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award

I am thrilled to announce that I have been awarded a 2016 Pollock-Krasner Foundation Award.

The Pollock-Krasner Foundation was established in 1985 to assist individual working artists of merit with financial need through the generosity of Lee Krasner (1908-1984), a leading abstract expressionist painter and widow of Jackson Pollock.

The Pollock-Krasner Foundation’s dual criteria for grants are recognizable artistic merit and demonstrable financial need, whether professional, personal or both. The Foundation’s mission is to aid, internationally, those individuals who have worked as professional artists over a significant period of time.

Pollock-Krasner grants have enabled artists to create new work, purchase needed materials and pay for studio rent, as well as their personal and medical expenses. Past recipients of Pollock-Krasner grants acknowledge their critical impact in allowing concentrated time for studio work, and in preparing for exhibitions and other professional opportunities such as accepting a residency.