Press Release

Jenkins Johnson Projects is pleased to present, Disobedience: Lavar Munroe and Rodrigo Valenzuela, which takes protest as a flash-point to explore current social and political unrest. Through new large-scale paintings, photographs, and a collaborative site-specific installation, Lavar Munroe and Rodrigo Valenzuela create a dialogue between their very different styles and mediums.  Munroe, from the Bahamas, creates bright and colorful mixed media paintings that integrate found materials, while Valenzuela, from Chile, creates black and white photographs that capture temporary installations.  Yet, both artists find a close correlation on how they think about and research their subject matter.  Looking at historical figures and current gestures of dissidence against colonialism and capitalism, the artists point to the aesthetics of protest to discuss their own socio-political position in America. In relation to what they have experienced in their native countries, the almost monthly marches in the United States can be critiqued as unhappy obedience with the political situation, rather than protest.

 

Lavar Munroe’s project examines and critiques the journey of the martyr within protest times, specifically looking at acts of self-immolation as statements of discontent. His historical references reach back as far as the 1600’s to Guy Fawkes’ Gunpowder Plot in Britain. Fawkes became involved with a small group of English Catholics, led by Robert Catesby, who planned to assassinate the Protestant King James and restore a Catholic monarch to the throne. This act of protest, though failed, serves as a significant marker and one that is integral in forging the history of Monroe’s home, the Bahamas—a Commonwealth Nation that still recognizes Queen Elizabeth as monarch and celebrates Guy Fawkes Day through the burning of effigies, parades and fireworks. More recently, the iconic Guy Fawkes mask has been used by protestors of all types as an anti-government symbol. It is within the march and journey of protest, and the resulting martyrdom, that Munroe finds inspiration. 

Drawing on personal experience and history in his native Chile, as well as research about other countries such as Venezuela and Ukraine, Rodrigo Valenzuela’s photographs focus on simple structures and gas masks that people build in times of oppression as expressions of civil disobedience. These images are part of a larger body of work called General Song, after Pablo Neruda’s Canto General, an encyclopedic poetic history of the New World told from a Latin American perspective, which depicts Latin American history as an epic and continuous struggle against oppression. The hand-made gas masks, which appear through his photographs, reference the improvised masks worn by protesters to protect themselves from tear gas and allude to the more brutal physical dangers encountered when enacting change.

 

Lavar Munroe was selected for Trevor Schoonmaker’s Prospect 4 New Orleans and Okwui Enwzor’s 56th Venice Biennale, as well as the 2016 Dak’art Biennale.  He is currently preparing for a ten-year retrospective at the National Art Gallery of the Bahamas.

 

Rodrigo Valenzuela has had notable solo exhibitions at the Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, Santiago, and was in Open Sessions 10 at the Drawing Center, New York. His film, The Unwaged, premiered at the Portland Art Museum in fall 2017.

 

For more information on this exhibition please contact the gallery at (212) 629-0707 or nyc@jenkinsjohnsongallery.com