at bric biennial, diversity is not a trend

February 12, 2019

For a master-class in modeling a 21st century politics of inclusion, look no farther than the BRIC Biennial: Volume III, South Brooklyn Edition. The exhibition features the work of 20 artists in its main space, the Gallery at BRIC House, along with five satellite exhibitions under the theme of “The Impossible Possible.” The presentation sidesteps diversity as a trend, prioritizing creativity over soulless conceptualism. Wall text offers biographical and descriptive information, while the works themselves obfuscate phenotype or baseless reactionism, reflecting inward responses to the current political climate.

Dale Williams, “Awareness Day Portraits (Rashaan Roland Kirk)” (2018), charcoal and acrylic on paper with collage; acrylic paint on wall.

Much of the work feels refreshingly raw, filled with non-obvious use of composition and color. Yet the textile paintings of Palestinian-American artist, Jordan Nassar, offer a stunning counterpoint. Working in the tradition of Palestinian tatreez embroidery, Nassar creates intercontinental call-and-response collaborations with Palestinian embroiderers. As if in dialogue across space and time, he sends the artists templates; they choose colors and where to leave blank spaces; and then Nassar reacts in kind, completing designs that feel both contemporary and laced with centuries of practice.

Qiana Mestrich, “Notes on Whiteness — Yellow Hair” (2018). inkjet prints on satin vellum paper.

Photographer Qiana Mestrich explores deceptively ethereal aspects of whiteness through the lens of her mixed Panamanian and Croatian heritage. Using vellum and light as a filter in photographs of objects — lace, white flowers, her own hair, classical sculpture — Mestrich creates hazy layers of white that make visible the pervasiveness of the association of whiteness with purity in the human psyche.

Frank Wang Yefeng, “Rotation Method – Crossing the Alps” (2018), framed digital photograph, mixed media.

Shanghai-born artist, Frank Wang Yefeng’s experimental 3D animation video, Rotation Method, and his 2D work, Rotation Method – Crossing the Alps, a digital manipulation of Kehinde Wiley’s Napoleon Leading the Army over the Alps (installed at the Brooklyn Museum) address the fantastical. Yefeng’s sci-fi renderings suggest an unorthodox conflation of a post-apocalyptic world, tropes of heroism and the primacy of creativity in confronting an unknown future.

Yi Xin Tong, “Nose Ring (2017), ceramics, glass, and hardware.

Overall, much of the work in this third BRIC Biennial mines lived experience in a way that cannot be explained away in words or ideas. Its strategy seems to entail the dissolution of static constraints put on the body by society, and instead opts for the more fluid and charged environment of living souls. Quay Quinn Wolf’s funerary references in the context of Black Queer men; Las Hermanas Iglesias’ insertion of family members within their process of artmaking; Bobby Anspach’s unexpectedly centering, brute-techno meditation chamber; or, Yi Xin Tong’s exploration of animal spirits as well as fishermen in both Hong Kong and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to name a few.

Jordan Nassar, “Whom Should I Go To” (2018), hand-embroidered cotton on cotton.

BRIC Biennial: Volume III, South Brooklyn Edition is on view at BRIC House and satellite locations around Brooklyn, through April 7th.