Historical Echoes: Mel Chin in UTA

Two of the central works of art at the latest Mela China exhibition, Inevitable history, on display at the UTA Gallery until March 30, are diptych images in a circular shape, resembling a solar body. They are called together, Persistent emanations of denial and disease Awakening of a lasting and deepening shade of resistanceand in the artist’s description: ají They have an eye-like shape, they respond to the Wide Awakes ’movement of the 1960s [Union] soldiers offended by slavery.

The Wide Awakes, whose flag contained a single open eye, were suspected of collaborating with enslaved people in a fire in 1860 that destroyed downtown Dallas. Disinformation and rumors spread by local newspapers led to the lynching of about 30-100 people in North Texas. year, as well as the militarization of white reaction groups, which foreshadowed the rise of the KKK, in a series of events later referred to as the Texas Trouble.

A well-known saying says that history does not repeat itself, but rhymes. In 2022, when there was talk on the Internet of an “awakened crowd”, of vigilance escaping justice and misinformation filled with fever, the historical “rhyme” in Chin’s work is, of course, practically like a limerick – if history were available. According to the artist, the events of the last few years “may also have revealed what America really is. Deeply divided, resilient to science. ”He says it has“ confirmed the work that needs to be done ”.

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Speaking as a classroom educator in a suburb of Dallas just 130 years after the Texas troubles, I’ve been able to tell you much more about Davy Crockett’s hat lately than about this case of pre-Eve massacre. That’s why these pieces at this point seem like what Chin likes to describe as a “catalyst.” He explains, “I use the word ‘force’ much more than ‘inspire.'” The project, which was later exhibited at the Queens Museum, was an example of what Chin calls the “catalytic possibility of a work of art.” [A] a platform for a language that doesn’t even exist yet. ”Thousands of bottles of water are a sign of Flint’s continuing need to import bottled water due to infrastructure failure under the political neglect of a corrupt local government. Chin’s project “was not about solving the main crisis, but about offering hope.”

Because the purpose of the work is “action to provide opportunity”, Mel Chin focuses on ideas through the medium. At the same time, he is dedicated to his craft and has clear eyes about its limitations. “I don’t know if art can do that much.” Art should not be about power. It’s interesting that people talk about how much it costs, value depends on it. “He says,” You have to put everything in one piece so that it can radiate all these thoughts. ” Google’s simple search of Chin’s work reveals dozens of projects in near and far locations with collaborators and the media of all kinds. “You can do art almost anywhere,” he says. “Being largely a conceptualist … there may not be a consistent market.” His studio practice is one of “reactive and forced”. Like some other artists, the pandemic over the past two years has brought unexpected but not unwelcome calm. “The pandemic was a luxury because I didn’t have to travel. It was a different kind of schedule, a time to think about what might be important. ”

Although Inevitable history presents works from several periods of Chin’s career, it is not a retrospective in the traditional sense; A better word could be repetition. Like the historical echoes it refers to in the individual works, the show itself reflects the collaboration between China and curator Benito Huerta in 2005. the long-term relationship between curator and artist or has evolved to encompass our entire national story. “Working with a friend is great. We are lucky to have someone who understands that, “he says.

“The world is full of worrying things,” Chin muses. The last few years have given us a “very honest approximation of where we are,” he says, rejecting “this delusion of symbols.” He is the most prominent in the exhibition Flag of America (with 25 stars on each side), a banner with red and white stripes with two polarized blue fields of stars at opposite corners. Chin is adamant that “systems that do not give us full opportunities,” and art is a way of thinking outside of these systems. Like a rasp delivered to a prisoner inside a frosted cake, it offers us some way to escape. It should “provide us with opportunities we didn’t know we had before.”

As for his own side, Chin seems open to any possibility that might arise. “I really don’t know what I’m going to do next.” He got into a position where I don’t know. “He says,” From my point of view, I’ve tried to accept the state of affairs. I don’t think I should be done. It’s a mutational force. “

– CASEY GREGORY

David Berry

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