Juxtapoz Magazine – As I Live and Breathe: Angela Hennessy @ SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco

ByMary E. Alvarez

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Coming into As I Stay and Breathe at the SOMArts Cultural Center in San Francisco is walking into a galaxy produced totally by the arms of a Black woman. Not that I’m persuaded that the earth that we inhibit could be orchestrated by any one else, but investing a morning gazing around Angela Hennessy’s creations only expounded my inclinations. 


Not like classic art areas, Hennessy has painted the gallery partitions all Black. An ode to quite a few things–its partnership to white, the distress (and comfort) of darkness, the coloration of Black skin–but most curiously a remark on neutrality. “The conventional in the artwork globe is a default to white partitions, as if these walls are neutral. As several of us have been chatting about for so very long, there is no neutrality,” she shared. And as we continued our dialogue inside the space, that topic stuck with me. Nothing is at any time actually neutral. And normally in our tries to do so, the distance is extra so accentuated.

As Hennessy observed herself, “Black is a color that has several layers of that means, and typically meanings that are even contradictory. Black can be the absence of colour, all colors blended. Some continue to say it’s not a color at all. It is employed as a phrase of racial identification. In Western European cultures it is a main signal of grief or mourning. But Black can also be a comforting shade. Physiologically, it is significantly less stimulating on your eyes.” Almost each work in As I Reside and Breathe has a key part of Blackness, making this dizzying effect as you enter the gallery house. Some will work pop in advance of your eyes, when other individuals carefully vibrate in opposition to the wall.

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If neutrality is a line, then its reverse mother nature is cyclical. Circles and orbits are central to the do the job. Inside Hennessy’s cosmos are items that pull the gaze upwards, the way a taking pictures star catches your eye in the evening sky. A person perform entitled Orbits 2 features rectangular and circular rings that appear to dance all-around every single other, like a portal planning to transportation you into a distinctive dimension. A different is a ball produced of synthetic Black hair, sparse with sprigs of Hennessy’s individual tresses, which hangs from the ceiling. Enveloped with a golden ring of blonde loops, it’s challenging to not make one more galactic comparison to Saturn’s planetary rings. 

Regardless of the universe that Hennessy’s constructed over you, every single 10 minutes Hennessy’s voice will convey you back again to Earth, (one more cyclical component.) An audio poem that Hennessy wrote to accompany the do the job, its words and phrases implore us to imagine about our existence on this world and the bodies that tether us in this article. “system black, entire body brown, surrender to blue. Just one breath, Then two…Then no cost, Of course free of charge.” When the poem echoes throughout the gallery, the place normally takes on a heaviness. Like a weighted blanket laid over you, it gently pushes you into the Earthly ground. 

As I Are living and Breathe is a display that reminds me that while demise and grief has been a extra constant existence in our planet the earlier several several years, its visual appearance is not the opposite of daily life, but instead an extension of it. “You testify as a result of your residing respiration overall body. And as we’re below living and respiratory, there’s so significantly electricity heading on. The lifeless go by. The stars go by. We’re not neutral witnesses. We’re members at the very same time.” —Shaquille Heath


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