Text by Michaela Mullin | VIEW IMAGES
Jordan Weber’s new show, Crabs in a Bucket, at Moberg Gallery is broad: large-scale works, big on culture and history, large on social, and wide on dearth of justice. His paintings and mixed-media installations are not-so-subtle civil orders of a particular disobedience, and those orders stand or loom tall, depending on your position. For the truths that do not declare themselves as self-evident, are at least, in Weber’s practice, evident in their exploitation or lack. In his career, he has pointedly taken on or taken down the accoutered life, be it about luxury fashion as related to hip hop culture, the uniform and uni/conformity of celebrity athletics, or that of law enforcement and their vehicles—what these coverings and decorations mean or strive to do in the statuses of our world. Weber builds up his paint, earth, tar, forensic powder, AstroTurf, house panels and doors, taking over and reactivating spaces with multi- mixed- media as conveyance to a stripping down or baring truths with the allegorical and symbological.
Weber “push[es] the black body into the museum space.” With his works, he enacts the position of student, as well as teacher. And in all of his practice, he is conscious of and engaged as a member of society. These three things are put forward as operative elements within the power dynamics of society, and what Weber relates and relays with his art. Starting at 5 years of age, he visited the Des Moines Art Center with his mother every Sunday. It helped shape him as an artist, and helped inspire his passion for community building by art intervention as well as disruption. In a recent talk he gave at the Association of Midwest Museums conference, he asked the audience, “How do we push forward the voices that aren’t being heard?”
He deals not in consumer culture, per se, but in how that particular culture affects African American, Latin and Native American persons. Continuing where his 2016 Moberg exhibit NGC 6052 left off, Weber continues to investigate “controlling power constructs through historic pillaging of native lands and bodies.” But with his new work, he focuses intently on the transportive, as it plays in many realms or definitions, but also deals heavily in earthly speed—vehicular velocity. Because velocity is about the direction we are headed, based on the direction from which we’ve come. This new body of work evokes the philosopher Paul Virilio, who wrote, “Speed now illuminates reality whereas light once gave objects of the world their shape” (The Administration of Fear).
Weber’s two sculptural installations, “Chaco Canyon” and “Chaco Canyon #2,” bring into the gallery the consequence and nature of social power constructs, and how loss of resources within agricultural communities can “lead to social unrest and violence.” The sudden stop of something that once had speed and growth is shown in its collision with obstruction. Both of these pieces are encased, but barely, in handmade rough-hewn vitrines of acrylic, wood, metal—and are missing sides. The motorcycles and wood are pushing the boundaries of their modern day crash-site reliquaries—literally jutting out and crossing into non-framed or –boxed space. “Chaco Canyon,” the larger of the two works, appears to harbor parts from two motorcycles on either side of a tree trunk. This bike, and the ghost rider we can only infer from such a manmade accident, has found the mayhem, which is spelled out on one of the fiberglass elements of the remains.
“Chaco Canyon #2” is smaller in scale. Encompassing only one bike, “intact” but folded over onto itself, the less spacious quarter of this piece houses the bike in a more vertical fashion, its impact coming from a velocity thwarted again by a protraction—a living, or once living, species. This KX motocross machine is known for its torque and suspension. These characteristics or properties, when applied to life and power, whispers into the viewer’s ear that Newtonian truth—a body in motion stays in motion, and one at rest remains at rest. The life and death of communities and individuals depends on the very same communities and individuals.
Weber’s work, “Untitled,” mixed media on panel, is of the image of Speed Racer, or Go Mifune (from the Japanese original). It has layers cut out of it, streams of gold paint applied within these slashes, which appear to come from both cutting and burning and tarring. All of this gives the appearance of movement or “speed,” in its extremist form, but also works as a special-effect visual, indicating a transition from “reality” to dream. The story of family dynamics, or brotherhood, and the competitiveness therein, are perfectly caught in this close up of Go’s face, determined to fight, go faster, win—to beat the brother he doesn’t even recognize as such. The use of racing and speeding is both a way to face adversity, and also a way to escape it.
“Mothership Earth” is a startling work that at first sight appears as a scene from a camp B-movie, where there is a white female in distress/being saved. With its burn and carve and grain, however, it works as an explanative scene of the history of humans on earth. This image is suggestive of a haunting spirit that is carrying a vulnerable woman, but the more time spent in front of it, the more comfort it brings. There is a transformation from a dark figure, or unknown other, into the cradle that rocks us, or as actual carriage of our flesh and bones by the ancestral mother. This dark guide is our heritage. The pressed wood panel that serves as substrate for this portrait offers a patterning that indicates growth and cross sectioning, but also creates a semblance of visual dizziness, to blur the lines that already barely exist of the held body, and between it and the dark figure. The subject composition resembles a contemporary Pietà, Michelangelo’s Renaissance masterpiece of Mary holding her son after his crucifixion.
“Tiger Swan” brings to mind, of course, the security firm hired during the protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), among other actions. Weber’s mixed-media large-scale painting uses the animation motifs he is known for, and in black and green on white, creates a stark yet full compositional commentary, complete with comic-font text in bubbles. The bandit with face covered in a bandana covered in stars, points a gun at a figure drowning into the bottom of the frame. The disappearing figure asks, “Mercy, what are you going to d-do?” to which the bandit responds, “Nothin’ much—just steal your land.” The transportation of oil becomes the line drawn through territories, connecting power with power, razing and depriving and thieving that which belongs—is native—and which is also now in its way.
Weber’s large-scale and glowing works are in perfect pairing with the smaller selected works of Zora J Murff. Murff uses the art of black and white photography to create portraits that “challenge perceptions of Black masculinity and perceived threat through age, posture, and gaze”. These seventeen works, covering a wide range: young and older Black men, padlock and soiled shirt on fences, tattooed hands, an obstructed stop sign, water beading, black fists, black birds below a glowing sun, black birds without the burning sphere in sight, public housing, tossed shoes over wires, an absent figure cut out of plywood. The stereotypes and myths are dispelled and made human by the simple power of really looking at people and things in order to elevate them. Each photograph tells a singular story, and together, these photographs speak of community and commonality, while embracing differences. The hooded man and the shirtless young black boy with basketball are both vulnerable and hopeful. The man sitting on a stoop, staring directly at the viewer, becomes an invitation to dialectics. To visibility and recognition.
Crabs in a Bucket is a moving show of empowerment—self and assistive—and about supporting those outside of and within our own communities. Don’t miss this visually, socially, and historically engaging exhibit; it’s on view through Saturday, August 19th.
For additional information and to purchase works contact:
firstname.lastname@example.org | (515)279-9191 | MobergGallery.com