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Kim Rice and Paul Rucker Critique American History Through Materiality

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BmoreArt’s Picks: December 12-18

In our series of intimate gallery exhibitions at Connect+Collect, the idea of conversation remains central. Over the past year we have paired two artists who harvest their art media from Baltimore City (Jordan Tierney and Adam Stab in Post-Consumption Benediction) and two artists who design architecture to envision fantastical worlds (TlaLoC and Alyssa Dennis in Arcadia Futura). What conversations could occur, our team wondered, if we paired the work of Kim Rice and Paul Rucker, two artists who use specific historical events and documents to offer an unflinching view of the reality of race in America? The result has been Liberty and Injustice, a compact but dense exhibit that examines gun violence, lynching, the role of police, inheritance, redlining, and white privilage.

Kim Rice and Paul Rucker are both prolific makers of labor-intensive, clever, immersive works of art that captivate and inform. Both repurpose unusual and historic materials with an ability to harvest the hidden stories that animate these objects and challenge common assumptions about our collective history as Americans. Beyond this, both artists are fearlessly, passionately socially engaged and their work is informed by the history of injustice in America. Research is primary to their process and historical documents, events, and statistical data is interpreted in surprising ways through new translations of familiar forms and materiality, which are surprisingly inviting–at least at first glance.

Seen together for the first time in Liberty and Injustice, their artworks offer an expansive conversation about race and gender, America’s evolving legal system, intersectionality, violence, coordinated systems of exclusion, and the ethics behind collective political thought. This conversation is complex and sensitive, uncomfortable at times, challenging and wholly necessary.

How do we talk about liberty and injustice honestly, intertwined with aspects of race and gender in America? What language can we use? What actions can we take to have transformative rather than symbolic change? And how do we effectively critique and educate one another with respect and authenticity? With genuine care and reverence, Rice and Rucker offer us an American conversation that addresses a subject that cannot be simplified.

 

For Kim Rice, a white woman originally from Oklahoma, this journey began when she discovered that her ancestors had owned other people. Rather than hiding this fact, Rice took the legal document, a last will and testament naming the property (including people) being handed down to the next generation, and made it into a luminous, flickering grid. She copied and printed the text huge and then meticulously cut out every letter with an Xacto knife. Hung a few inches from the wall, the artist directed a spotlight through the piece, so that the text could only be read as a shadow crawling down the wall, partially hidden behind the white armature.

This is just one work, but for me emblematic of the way this artist transforms historic and legal documents into haunting memorials to America’s greatest shame. Rice links the personal to the universal and makes herself vulnerable in the process, but she also reclaims her own voice as a white woman who has benefitted from racist structures in this act. So much of Rice’s work is powerfully succinct: she relies on unconventional but specific materials (bootstraps, caution tape, quilts) to tell the American stories that we did not learn in history class.

 

Paul Rucker is an award-winning artist whose practice is based upon his background as a South Carolinian, a cellist, and an archivist of Black American historic materials. In the past I described Rucker’s work as “scorching” because it leaves no room to hide from painful American truths. Like Rice, Rucker doesn’t tell you about specific historic events and carceral / legal policies that have ravaged African American communities–he shows you in ways that you can immediately perceive and feel. In addition to well documented historical research, Rucker offers nuance, metaphor, and sometimes even beauty through aesthetic and material choices that code history with personal reflection, adding hope, and solemnity to the narrative.

Together these two artists are fire and we are pleased to have created a limited edition art book for this exhibition designed by Raquel Castedo. Inherent in the design are feelings of discomfort and frustration, coupled with gorgeous photography by Vivian Marie Doering of labor-intensive, intricate, and stunning works of art.

 

Liberty and Injustice artist book, designed by Raquel Castedo with interviews by Ines Sanchez de Lozada

We hope you will join us on Thursday, Dec 14th, from 6-8 pm at the Connect+Collect gallery for the closing reception of Liberty and Injustice, works by Kim Rice and Paul Rucker. It will be the last chance to see the show!

Thursday, December 14th :: 6-8 pm Open House: Liberty and Injustice
Connect+Collect Gallery (2519 N. Charles Street)

RSVP to Attend here.

 

Paul Rucker is a multimedia visual artist, composer, and musician. His practice often integrates live performance, original musical compositions, and visual art installation. For nearly two decades, Rucker has used his own brand of art making as a social practice which illuminates the legacy of enslavement in America and its relationship to the current socio-political moment. His work is the product of a rich interactive process, through which he investigates community impacts, human rights issues, historical research, and basic human emotions. Rucker’s work has been supported with numerous grants and awards including: a Guggenheim Fellowship, Creative Capital Award, MAP Fund Grant, Joan Mitchell Fellowship, Robert W. Deutsch Foundation Fellow, and a Mary Sawyers Baker Award.

In 2016, Paul received the Rauschenberg Artist as Activist Fellowship and the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, becoming the first artist-in-residence at the National Museum of African American Culture. Rucker is an iCubed Arts Research Fellow and an Assistant Professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. He is Curator for Creative Collaboration with VCUarts and the founder and executive director of Cary Forward, a museum opening in 2025. Supported by the Art 4 Justice/Ford Foundation and Mellon Foundation, Cary Forward will support histories that include enslavement, incarceration, systemic racism, and the destruction of communities, as well as the stories of resilience, perseverance, and the thriving communities that once existed in Richmond and beyond.
I G @ R E W I N D E X H I B I T I O N

Kim Rice creates artworks that focus on the construct of race through the lens of whiteness. She uses common materials and craft-based media as a meditation on systemic racism and the policies that affect American society today. Crocheted, sewn, and linked together, Rice’s labor intensive art practice reveals the ways in which whiteness is woven into our everyday lives. Rice earned her BFA in Sculpture and MFA in Printmaking from the University of Oklahoma.

Her work has been exhibited at public and private institutions throughout the country including: the Alexandria Museum of Art, the Fred Jones Museum of Art, the Northern Illinois Art Museum, the Delaware Museum of Art, the Peale Museum, and Prospect 4 Satellite. She has received multiple awards, including a Maryland State Arts Council Creativity Grant, and the McNeese Grant for Socially Engaged Practice. Born in Kentucky, raised in California, educated in Oklahoma, loved in New Orleans, and now home in Baltimore, Kim’s work is influenced by her two children and the pile of books by her bed.
I G @ K I M R I C E A R T I S T

Paul Rucker, in conversation with Ines Sanchez de Lozada: “If I’m engaging with someone who is openly racist, part of one of the many organized groups, I know where they stand, and they’re unapologetic about being racist. But someone on the left, who considers themselves progressive, who doesn’t think they have anything to do with the problem… They want to separate themselves from organized hate groups, but they actually benefit from the system. Most progressives don’t acknowledge that. They think that just thinking differently is enough to separate themselves from that problem.”

 

Kim Rice, in conversation with Ines Sanchez de Lozada: “Over the past ten years, my work on whiteness has to do with trying to have conversations with and getting pushback from white people who claim that race doesn’t exist or it doesn’t involve them. That’s where data becomes really important and why my redlining series is designed to showcase the data. You can’t argue with a document that exists—and either your city looks exactly the same as it did in the 1930s, or it’s been flipped, due to gentrification.”

 

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