Suplex Presents: Three Exhibitions
Justin Boyd, Jamal Cyrus, and Lauren Moya Ford
On view through November 23 by appt. only
1517 Alabama St., Houston, TX 77004
Jamal Cyrus – October 17, 2014 | 6:30PM
Justin Boyd – October 24, 2014 | 5:30PM
Lauren Moya Ford – November 22, 2014 | 6:00PM
Suplex is pleased to announce Suplex Presents: Three Exhibitions, a series of three solo exhibitions featuring Texas-based artists Justin Boyd, Jamal Cyrus, and Lauren Moya Ford. Transforming a previously abandoned location in Houston, each artist will activate the space through site-specific installations, performances, and artworks. Three Exhibitions is inspired by socially engaging participatory performance in contemporary art and an impulse to respond to those histories within the context of Houston. Each artist will determine the nature of audience engagement in each exhibition. By presenting artwork outside of typical institutions or white wall galleries, Suplex hopes to structure a new dynamic experience for local audiences.
Join us on October 17, 24, at and November 22 for the opening reception events held in conjunction with each artists’ solo exhibition. Admission is free and open to the public.
Justin Boyd is an artist living in San Antonio. He received his BFA from the University of Texas at San Antonio, and earned his MFA from the California Institute of Arts. He is currently the Chair of the Sculpture and Integrated Media Department at the Southwest School of Art. Justin has been the recipient of an Artist Foundation Grant, Artpace Travel Grant, and was a finalist for the Arthouse Texas Prize, while having had the privilege of participating in numerous solo and group exhibitions including The Contemporary in Austin, Artpace in San Antonio and the Contemporary Art Museum, Houston.
Jamal Cyrus was born in Houston in 1973, where he currently resides. He earned his BFA from the University of Houston, participated in the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, and then received his MFA from the University of Pennsylvania. His work has been featured in solo exhibitions at The Kitchen in New York and Bryan Miller Gallery in Houston, as well as group exhibitions at The Studio Museum in Harlem, the New Museum, the Menil Collection, the 2006 Whitney Biennial, the Lawndale Art Center, and Project Row Houses. In his performances, sculptures, drawings, and collages, Cyrus appropriates and reinterprets culturally charged items, thereby offering a revisionist account of American history. He is chiefly focused on the construction of African American identity resulting from cultural and political movements such as the 1960s & 70s Black Freedom movements, and their subsequent appropriation by a broader culture.
Lauren Moya Ford is an artist and writer. Her work has been featured at the Blaffer Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Joanna, the Brandon, and the Wendy. She was the 2013-2014 recipient of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center Fellowship for Interdisciplinary in the Arts and was awarded a Freed Travel Grant for study in Mexico City. Lauren's Suplex project explores borders in their literal and figurative manifestations, and uses both language and images to investigate the linguistic, cultural, and biological diversity found in border spaces.
Suplex Presents is made possible through the support of the Idea Fund.
Jamal Cyrus: A Jackson in Your House
On view through November 23 at 1517 Alabama St.
The Show Is Over: An Interview with Jamal Cyrus
Max Fields (MF) Could you talk a bit about how you felt when you first heard Suplex wanted to hold exhibitions in an abandoned space, and what ideas that brought to your mind when we presented the idea for you to hold a solo exhibition here?
Jamal Cyrus (JC) The inclination to make work in this type of environment is something I’m used to and it’s a way of working that I’m familiar with. I started thinking about how I would respond to the architecture and original function of this building, and I ended up with two separate site-specific work proposals. Both works are tracked the changes that are happening to the 3rd Ward/midtown area. The first piece I proposed dealt with the physical destruction and transformation of the architecture of the buildings located in that neighborhood. But, the fully-realized work at the Axlerad Building isn’t dealing with physical destruction, instead it’s targeting the people who have historically lived in that area and who have a long-time connection with the neighborhood. I’m presenting them with a message describing what is at stake right now. 3rd Ward sits in between two forces that are encroaching on the neighborhood, both of which have an interest in acquiring as much property in that neighborhood as they can. From the west side, it’s the real estate developers, and from the east side it’s the University of Houston. And what you see as a result is an uncomfortable situation in which all of the people in between those two forces are being squashed by that inward movement. That’s the reality of 3rd Ward. I don’t know if it will be a total transformation or if it will look totally different from the way it looks now, but both of the pieces I proposed are in response to that.
MF What were some of the influences when you chose the text for this work?
JC Going on 2 years now, I’ve been working with a 3rd Ward sign painter named Walter Stancill on a project where we’re taking famous works of text- and language-based painting and retranslating those works through his hand. Sometimes it’s a graphic thing, when we take an entire work and Walter redoes it in his own font and language as a sign painter, and then other times we’ll take bits and pieces from paintings and Walter will retranslate that. This painting was translated from an untitled Christopher Wool painting. The original painting by Wool consists of a longer quote “THE SHOW IS OVER, THE AUDIENCE GETS UP TO LEAVE THEIR SEATS,” yadda, yadda, “Time to collect their coats and go home” and toward the end of the lines it says “No More Coats and No More Home.” That painting got me thinking about displacement, and it really resonated with some of the ideas that I was already thinking about for this project. I decided to pull from that painting, but only to use “THE SHOW IS OVER” text and have Walter repeat it twice.
MF How do you see this exhibition functioning with respect to the impending gentrification of the neighborhood? What’s your perspective on doing an exhibition in a space that has been mostly forgotten, but not using the space in a way that it becomes permanently repurposed, via these three art projects?
JC First of all, it’s an interesting location because if you talk to people in that area they’ll call it Midtown, but it’s actually the 3rd Ward and to some it’s even considered the center of 3rd Ward. Even just thinking about the location, we’re bringing up these discrepancies and differences of opinion about geography and what’s happening to the neighborhood. The wall I’ve used is oriented in a way that the people who see it are coming from the east side of town—the area that’s traditionally known as the 3rd Ward. When I first started considering this project, I thought that this wall would be a really great place to present a message or statement. I see this exhibition as an opportunity to add to a conversation more than contributing to some kind of gentrification via art. But I guess too, that’s just how I see art functioning in this discussion. I don’t think art has to be read as helping gentrifying forces come into the neighborhood.
MF Maybe the question is, when the gentrification happens, how do you see that affecting the city’s culture?
JC I don’t exactly know how that’s going to affect the culture, because most of the diversity that Houston is known for lives outside the loop in the suburban areas of Houston already. One reason this exhibition is so important is that there aren’t a whole lot of artists who are responding to these issues in Houston. Holland Carter just wrote about an exhibition that Otebenga Jones and Associates was a part of and he basically ends it with “It’s a great exhibition…but what good will it do?” When people make statements like that it’s more about quantifiable change or examples of resistance of gentrification, but as an artist I don’t work with that in mind. I have to work on more subtle things because I come from a studio-based practice and if you make an artwork, you can quantify what the outcome of that work will be. So, I guess I’m a bit more hopeful of the power of art to change people’s lives in different ways.
Not Responsible for your Memories
By Garry Reece
“Displacement? Hhhmm...that’s what they calling it nowadays? And they say that it’s what…. “the natural and unavoidable consequence of market forces.” I’ll say.
It’s true, for a fact, it’s a problem of low wages and high priced property. But it’s more than that ole tit for tat cream of wheat that they spoon feeding you. Cause ain’t no secret, whose gonna be off the ground and stuck in the air, in that see-saw game. Them roly-polies and butterballs always have a say when their fat pockets hit the ground. Yes sirree boss. And I guess that it’s about as natural as you want to make it out to be. Except, at the bottom, it makes you lose sight of the fact that although this was a slave city in a slave state, that at the bottom it was about commerce and political say-so. Even after they turned us loose, they needed someone to still do the work. Wasn’t too particular about who did it either. Poles, Italians, Mexicans, Jews and Greeks were added with us to the mix; that’s all 6th ward was, ‘The League O Nations’. And mind you, they didn’t want to have their help too far removed from that work. That’s why 2nd and 4th and 6th Wards was where they were. The first real ‘planned communities’, that’s a fact.
‘Cept you didn’t have no say of who lived round you. The people that lived around you was usually the people who worked around you. Close to Buffalo Bayou and the railroads. All them warehouses over there off Main and San Jacinto, backsides all them on Commerce and Runnels by that new soccer stadium, clear up to Fish King, back of Dowling at Leeland. I know it’s straight Mexican now but when I was a little boy there was all kind of businesses, major businesses, over there. There was the Anderson Lumberyard, my Uncle Glasco was carpenter, and he use to get his lumber there but I remember ironwroks and canning companies, groceries stores all kinds of businesses, mostly white. If you look at that neighborhood now, condos, lofts, bars and restaurants, it looks like new money, people forget about how bad it use to be, them Clayton Homes was something else.
Less folks forget them Jews and the few remaining whites started scurrying out of 3rd Ward in the early 50’s it was cause of them fair housing laws and the fact that they wasn’t going to be forced to live next to no ‘colored people’. That’s how ole man Edwards got that big house off Wichita with the brick wall around it. He has just come from the gambling house over there off Gillette. Told me that he had stopped at Irma’s to get him something to eat, had been up all night and wanted to eat him something before he laid it down. Bill Lawton was there running his mouth about his brother-in –law buying a house for little or nothing. So the next time he was over that way, he rode up through ‘Sugar Hill’ and found that house.
Now the whole thing has been thrown in reverse. Bound to happen like that. Those upper level degrees and all that social media can make up a whole lot of ground. Can’t blame it all on the fact that there ain’t no zoning laws. What it comes down to is that there is no regard at all, none, for the past. Constantly looking to knock down something that spoke of a place, a landmark or building, ignoring cultural events that marked a community. And scratching out neighborhoods one after the other, like MacArthur hoppin’ from island to island to island.
Moving people out and tearing down houses don’t do nothing to the soul of a place. At least not right away. Too many ghosts and stories that haven’t been laid to rest for that to happen overnight. What runs me hot is all these little Lewis and Clarks, bravely foraging in the urban wilderness, (I got their Northwest Passages rite here), scouring for old properties to renovate, communities to turn around. All the time knowing that soon after their little stakes are claimed, stuff starts jumping off all around them. And in 5 years or less these little trailblazers gonna sell these properties and move to a loft downtown or a real nice home in the Montrose or West University.
I tell you there’s more of them Laws riding up and down Dowling than when the Republicans came here in ’92. And my boys from solid waste getting worked like Hebrews… and I don’t mean under Nebuchadnezzar, I’m talking about under Phᾱraoh! Little Amp and Prevost stopped by last week after they had come from fishing, brought me some nice sized crappies. They told me they been working close to 60 hrs a week for the last three months. All this new construction in and around 3rd Ward, lot of money being put in here.
I remember when them dope fiends use to shoot up leaning on those low swinging branches of them old live oaks in Baldwin Park. Use to pack my pistol walking past there going to Paradise. Now you got a dog park and young mothers pushing baby carriages late in the evening. Tell you the main culprit, quiet as kept, that METRO Rail ain’t nothing but a pipeline to help bring in that change. As Downtown gets bigger, people want new places to party and shop and entertain, want to spend that money. Don’t know body want to drive no more. Want to walk like they in NY, everything within walking distance, work and play. So you see, they laying down two sets of tracks, one that’s above ground bringing in a new way of life. And another, that laid underneath all that ‘corrosion and them at-risk places’ to cart that out everything that don’t fit that image. Everything.”
Excerpt from an interview of Bukka Doopeyduk, longtime resident of Houston and writer Garry Reece
Suplex Presents: Justin Boyd
On view through November 23 at 1517 Alabama St.
Interview with Justin Boyd
Max Fields (MF) I’m sure that your exhibition will bring out an eclectic audience, some of whom may not be familiar with your practice: when did you first begin recording sound, and what influenced you to use those recordings in your artwork?
Justin Boyd (JB) From the very beginning, sound has been an important part of my life. I had very sensitive hearing as a small child, so lots of things hurt my ears—in fact most of my early nightmares had to do with loud sounds. I also had a small turntable very early on, and loved to play records every morning when I woke up. It wasn’t until the third grade that I actually started to record sounds. My dad had a hi-fi with a small microphone so I would record my own radio show straight to cassette tape. I remember when he showed me how to plug it all in; I was so amazed! It made sense to me that this thing I was holding was connected to a wire that went into this machine, then to that tape, then out to the speakers. I could understand the flow of it. I didn’t record sound continuously from that early age, but I got back into it through the electronic music I started listening to. I started recording found sounds to cassette again to use as source material for ambient dj sets and mix tapes. At this same time I was an undergrad in art school and was encouraged to make work that meant something to me, so at that time I started to incorporate sound into my ceramic pieces. I haven’t stopped since then, so I guess that makes twenty years now.
MF There are similarities in the way you explore landscapes and the way that your audience engages with your work. It’s as if when walking through your exhibitions, your memories, personal histories, and the narratives of the local landscapes are instantaneously translated to the engaged participants as new nostalgia. For example, in Days and Days, where you explored your relationship with the San Antonio River and its history, the sights and sounds of the water became a catalyst for your audience to explore their own memories with water, rivers, etc. I’m curious to hear about some of the reactions you’ve gotten from your exhibition audience and friends – if they ever reveal their memories that are related to the sonic/physical landscapes you explore in your exhibitions.
JB Sure, there are many. Beyond just my fascination with sound, it has a very direct path to our memory and imagination. In fact I feel very strongly that sound leaves much more to the viewer/listener’s imagination than visuals do. Because of that, I feel no hesitations about making work that might be abstract; the sounds open up a really wide door of access to the work, allowing the viewer to make associations and connections of their own. For example, I often hear many stories about specific sounds reminding folks of their past, a bug sound they heard on the farm, a fiddle tune they used to know, etc… I’ve had people give me records that they owned, whole collections in fact. They may not be getting the use they once had, so they want to share the music with me in hopes I’ll be able to keep its spirit alive. And many times I do, if not in a piece, then playing it on the radio show for sure.
MF I’m interested to hear about your personal relationship to Houston. You’ve shown work here numerous times; did you visit the city before your career as an artist?
JB No, I don’t remember visiting Houston really until I went to see some DJs there in college. Then a little later in school, once I started taking modern art history courses and realized so many amazing things resided at the Menil, I started to go see art there more often. Since moving back to Texas in 2005 I try to get there at least 3-4 times a year. Art, music, and good friends make me wish I could visit more than I do. There is no doubt about the gravity Houston pulls when it comes to art, and not just the museums; the gallery scene is vibrant and supportive of all types of work. It feels like a bigger stage, but you know you still have mostly friends in the audience.
MF Could you talk about the process of finding/creating the physical objects, sound and video, and perhaps give us some insight into the type of research you’re interested in exploring when you’re creating a site-specific work such as the work created for Three Exhibitions?
JB The research I do almost always starts with recording sounds. I start there because it helps me to understand a place or environment much faster than with my eyes alone. I was recently in Berlin and I know that if someone played me a street recording of that city, I could pick it out from another European city. Mankind’s imprint on a sound environment leaves lots of clues about what we do and why we do it, so it is a different way to understand a place and ourselves in that place.
MF How does the work in this exhibition relate to the themes and histories that you’re exploring in your overarching practice?
JB I usually describe myself as a landscape artist because I feel almost all of my work deals with that subject directly. I’ve been really excited to have the opportunity to explore an area of town that is under rapid change and to use a space that mirrors in many ways the upheaval happening around it. I’m very much interested in how houses and buildings in a neighborhood reveal histories, how neighborhoods relate to the others around it, and how the intersection of those things create culture in the city.
MF After spending some time in the Axelrad building, and working mostly only with the materials available in the space, how did you approach making work for this exhibition? Specifically, how did the materials influence the direction you took?
JB This show is unlike anything I have done before, and I really appreciate the opportunity Suplex has given me to experiment with a new way of working. You’re right—besides a couple of minor things, I chose to only to use materials on site to create the works in the show. This way of working is a real challenge and at times I felt like I was on Iron Chef, using only one ingredient to make several dishes. The main difference being that I imposed the one dish on myself. With that said, I feel the resulting work is unlike anything I have done before and I wouldn’t have been able to create these works without that restriction. The layout of each room and the abandoned objects found in them directly influenced where the works were installed.
MF There are threads in the exhibition that can be connected across the four room installations, but I’m curious to ask how you feel about the connections between the works. The materials used in each room say a lot about the histories of the building, but there’s also an emotional thread throughout the works that echo an overarching history of urban housing abandonment, as experienced from the perspective of a tenet who may return again. These are some of the first ideas we talked about as we walked the space, but I’m interested to hear your thoughts on these connections after having some time to think about the work.
JB Thoughts of dislocation, transience, and transformation were bouncing around my head the whole time I was in the space. The neighborhood and the building have seen a massive amount of shifts. So I really wanted to filter all the work through those ideas and have them come out the other side transformed in time in some way... So the time in one of the spaces feels as if a tenet is maybe coming back, another abstracts time and space with reflections, while the last space is more of imaginative realm of time.
MF When we spoke last, we talked about how the recordings would interact in the space within each room, connecting the outside space with the building’s interior—could you expand on that?
JB Nowhere is the make up of the neighborhood more visible than at the light at Alabama and Almeda. The transformation isn’t visible though, it’s audible. I spent a long time at the second story window just listening to folks while they sat at the light. The sounds were Tejano, Trap, Love and Drugs, punctuated by the busses announcing their stops. Since there isn’t any real commercial destination at the corner, you get a sense of where the people are going to or coming from. So I wanted to carry that characteristic into the show in some way. I am leaving the windows open on both sides and I am placing a microphone outside to capture the sounds passing by. Those sounds will then be filtered through the cast iron bathtub and the wooden structures in the other room. Again, allowing the building and its materials to filter and process its own sounds, and then have those played back upon themselves. In this way I feel the sound will echo the processes I used to create the objects in the room.
Suplex Presents: Lauren Moya Ford
On view through November 23 at 1517 Alabama St.