#InTheLoop | Art Shows Explore Safe Spaces and Social Justice
BY QEDC It's In Queens
Jackson is the capital of Mississippi. The City With Soul has fewer than 200,000 residents with two very dominant ethnic groups — about 80 percent of residents are African-American, while roughly 18 percent are white.
Queens is part of New York City. The World’s Borough is the most diverse county in the United States with more than 2 million residents who speak an estimated 170 languages. (Just more than half was born in a foreign country.)
These two vastly different geographic and demographic areas are united in the exhibition 11439 – 39202, which is on display at the Dr. M.T. Geoffrey Yeh Art Gallery in Sun Yat Sen Hall at St. John’s University.
On view until April 23, the free solo show consists of more than 30 textile works by Azikiwe Mohammed, a native New Yorker who has held residencies at Pioneer Works and Mana Contemporary. Made mostly from found denim jackets, the large quilts and embroidered pieces are layered portraits of American Blackness. According to Mohammed, they look at issues of inequality that COVID has exposed in places like Jamaica (11439) and Jackson (39202) as related by Black, brown, and marginalized communities. The pieces are displayed in an immersive log-cabin environment, reminiscent of the domestic spaces where quilts have traditionally been produced. The artist wonders what safe spaces Black people will build in the future.
Check out 11439 – 39202 on weekdays from 10 am to 5 pm or by appointment. (Enter the campus at 80-00 Utopia Pkwy. in Jamaica Estates.) Mohammed talked about his show during an online program on Dec. 14. Click here to watch it.
For those who prefer the internet, the Yeh Art Gallery is also streaming Unprecedented: Posters from a World on Pause online until March 31.
Curated by four SJU Museum Administration students — Taylor Lyons (2021), Madeleine Schulz (2021), Stephanie Zambrana (2021), and Mengke Zhang (2022) — this virtual exhibition includes several dozen posters, GIFs, and videotapes selected from art made available by Amplifier Foundation and the United Nations in partnership with Talenthouse Business, an online art network and brand-collaboration agency.
Unprecedented addresses such issues as personal hygiene, virus symptoms, and misinformation. Working with public health officials and art curators, the activist Amplifier Foundation released a global request for submissions that support Black Lives Matter, promote mental health, celebrate front-line and essential workers, foster COVID awareness, amplify social justice, and envision positive change after the pandemic. The curators then culled the crop from the thousands of submissions around themes of “Borderless Hygiene,” “Social Justice Amidst a Pandemic,” “What We Owe Each Other,” and “Pandemic Heroes.”
There’s another treat, according to SJU Graduate Director for Museum Administration Susan Rosenberg, who oversaw the project. Said she: “I hope visitors also take time to visit the virtual exhibition’s second room, where they can watch a thirty-minute videotaped conversation among the student curators about their collaborative work to realize this impressive project.”