Jacob Lawrence Gallery, Seattle, United States 28 Jan 2021 - 23 Feb 2021
Ariel René Jackson and Michael J. Love. Descendance. December 2020. Photographed by Eliot Gray Fisher. Pool design by Eto Otitigbe, Subwaves, 2018.
The Jacob Lawrence Gallery premieres Ariel René Jackson’s Descendance, a drone-shot video featuring interdisciplinary tap dance artist Michael J. Love and an original score by jazz musician Joseph C. Dyson Jr. Set inside an empty swimming pool at the George Washington Carver Center, Descendance explores ideas of lineage and generational change by transforming an American flag stenciled with soil. The exhibition, created as part of Jackson’s 2021 Jacob Lawrence Legacy Residency, also includes two-dimensional panels that use the same soil and flag stencil as the performance.
“The piece was influenced by dance and movement, by history that lives in the body,” Jackson says. Over the course of Descendance, Jackson and Love organically change the flag as they move through it. “I’m interested in the action of developing culture.”
The piece builds on Carver’s Message in Blue, an earlier project in which Jackson and Love altered a soil-made American flag in the Carver Center pool to a recording of George Washington Carver reciting his favorite poem, “Equipment.” Jackson frequently works in video, but this is their first video without language or text.
Now in its sixth year, the Jacob Lawrence Legacy Residency supports new work by Black artists. Due to the pandemic, Jackson adapted their residency this year to function remotely, an adaptation they say allowed for new possibilities.
“It’s helpful for Black artists to receive this kind of support without having to travel and to really consider what our resources are. Ultimately, residencies are about building relationships,” Jackson says, pointing to the powerful opportunity to bring together Jacob Lawrence and George Washington Carver with this work. “One was a scientist and one was an artist,” they continue, “but Carver also made paint and paintings using soil.”
About the Artists
ARIEL RENÉ JACKSON
Jackson’s film-based multidisciplinary practice considers land and landscape as sites of internal representation. Through sculpture, video, and performance, they explore themes of loss and transformation. Exploring how culture is learned, Jackson modifies familial and antique farming, household, and educational tools and furniture, considering each object’s purpose before translation to a writing utensil, size expansion, or embedment within topsoil. Their recent work explores oral testaments and local histories, through repurposed meteorological tools and site-specific performances.
Born and raised in Louisiana, Jackson currently lives in Austin, Texas, where they completed their MFA at The University of Texas at Austin in 2019. Jackson is an alum of the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (2019) and completed an exchange program at the Royal College of Art in 2018. Their work has been shown at various galleries and institutions such as the SculptureCenter; CUE Art Foundation; Contemporary Art Center, New Orleans; Depaul Art Museum; Studio Museum in Harlem, and RISD Museum.
MICHAEL J. LOVE (DANCER)
Love is an interdisciplinary tap dance artist, a choreographer, scholar, and educator whose embodied research intermixes Black queer feminist theory and aesthetics with a rigorous practice to engage in thinking on the Black cultural past and Black futurity. He earned an MFA in Performance as Public Practice from the University of Texas at Austin and a BS in Marketing Communication with an emphasis in entertainment marketing and public relations from Emerson College. Love’s work has been supported and presented by Fusebox Festival, ARCOS Dance, and the Cohen New Works Festival. He has collaborated with Ariel René Jackson on a number of videos and performance pieces that have shown at CUE Art Foundation, the New Museum, SXSW, the University of Northern Colorado, PARA Foundation (Berlin), Vox Populi, and elsewhere. Love is an Austin Critics’ Table Award winner and a B. Iden Payne Award nominee. He was a laboratory cast member of the Savion Glover and George C. Wolfe Broadway musical Shuffle Along.
JOSEPH C. DYSON JR. (COMPOSER)
Dyson wrote “Pious Walk,” the music used in Descendance. Dyson began playing music as a drummer in his father’s church. His musical education began at Mc Donogh #15 Creative Arts/Magnet Elementary School in New Orleans and continued at NOCCA. Dyson has honed his skills over the years as a participant in the Project Prodigy Summer Music Camp, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong Summer Jazz Camp, Berklee’s Five Week Summer Performance and Jazz Workshop, Port Townsend Jazz Workshop, Tipitina’s Internship, and the New Jazz School Jazz Camp. He has received numerous scholarships, including the full tuition presidential scholarship to Berklee College of Music from which he graduated with honors. He has studied with the likes of Donald Harrison, Alvin Batiste, Clyde Kerr, Herlin Riley, Chico Hamilton, Adonis Rose, and Jerry McGowan among others. His professional performing credits include gigs with Donald Harrison, Ellis Marsalis, Ernestine Anderson, Dr. John, Branford Marsalis, Stefon Harris, Christian Scott, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Nicholas Payton, Allen Toussaint, Bryan Lynch, hip hop producer Darius Harrison, Irvin Mayfield, Terrance Blanchard, Harry Connick Jr, and Esperanza Spalding.
ELIOT GRAY FISHER (VIDEOGRAPHER)
Fisher is an interdisciplinary artist working at the intersection of performance and technology. He has composed music and designed sound for film, theater, and dance, and has created documentary and animated shorts, built interactive installations, and written and directed several theatrical productions. As a director and core collaborator of interdisciplinary performance group ARCOS, he has presented work and won awards at festivals including Currents International New Media Festival, Online Performance Art Festival, and Edinburgh Fringe, created commissions at interdisciplinary symposia at Connecticut College’s Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology and Texas State University, served as a guest artist at institutions such as Colorado College and University of Texas at Austin, published peer-reviewed writing in Theatre Design and Technology, and participated in numerous residencies.
ETO OTITIGBE (POOL DESIGN)
Otitigbe is a polymedia artist whose interdisciplinary practice investigates the intersections of race, power, and technology. With history as the foundation for exploration, Otitigbe sets alternative narratives into motion; creating spaces for people to experience a unique mixture of concepts.