September 02, 2016
Last summer, Philadelphia artist Cynthia Groya’s son was going to Afghanistan for a military mission. As she thought about his trip, as well as the fighting raging in Syria, she explains she was “aware of brothers killing brothers on the other side of the world,” while “in our own country, unarmed young black men are constantly being killed or incarcerated without justice.” Groya then felt compelled to make art exploring the painful past and present of racism in America, going all the way back to the history — however incomplete, inaccurate or skewed it might be — we’re taught in school books.
Groya’s new solo exhibition, “Tangled Roots,” will present abstract works commenting on key events in American history; the “tangled roots of slavery in our country — the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address and the Civil War — in order to smash through the stereotypes written on our mental maps by historical narratives of the past,” Groya writes. Pointing to the “intentionally omitted information in the textbook history of our country,” Groya explains that by embracing such “missing history,” she is “striving for some understanding.”
In her artist’s statement, Groya also reflects on the August op-ed by David Brooks in The New York Times, “How Artists Change the World.” “How much should artists get involved in politics?” Brooks asks. “How can artists best promote social change?”
Groya explains she feels a responsibility to be involved, through her art, in discussions of social change.
“What I want people to take away from my show are questions. I want people to be curious, as I am, to know,” Groya says. “I believe that if people start asking questions about history, they'll discard the … historical mistruths and perhaps develop a little empathy and understanding.”
Friday, Sept. 2, 5-8 p.m., through Oct. 1, Muse Gallery, 52 N. Second St.
As if the concurrent Fringe Festival wasn’t enough art for you, this show is a big one: You’ll need some spare time just to read through the list of artists alone. “A Body Has No Center” is a rotating exhibition series by dozens (and the list is still growing) of artists, poets, activists, musicians — you name it — that takes place at many sites around town. It kicks off at Tiger Strikes Asteroid on Friday night, and curator Ricky Yanas writes of the idea: “The project will be defined by a series of non-harmonious moments, events and atmospheres rather than a singular theme, specific space or particular kind of work. Decentralizing the focus of the exhibition makes possible a space of play and informality where moments and relationships are privileged over the constant and concrete positions.” You can catch performances, exhibitions and shows at little berlin, Vox Populi, W/N W/N and more: full list here.
Friday, Sept. 2, 6-10 p.m., through Oct. 16, Tiger Strikes Asteroid, 319-A N. 11th St., #2H
Hey, maybe you’ve heard of the Philly musician Moor Mother/Moor Mother Goddess, who’s toured all over Europe and America? She’s also known as Camae Ayewa, and she’s one of seven artists from the U.S. and Australia coming together in this group show, where the artists’ “practices are rooted in action.” Expect performance, photography, video and more. You’ll see new work from Ayewa, plus extended and existing works by Ella Barclay, Marley Dawson, Catherine Pancake, Wilmer Wilson IV, Mike Parr and Adri Valery Wens.
Friday, Sept. 2, through Oct. 23, Vox Populi, 319 N. 11th St., third floor
Honestly, this goes on the list because it just sounds so damn seasonally idyllic as we close the book on Summer 2016. The news cycle may have us feeling like we live in a giant, stinking garbage heap, but at least the sun is shining and you can eat a popsicle in short shorts on a stoop, right? New Orleans-based artist Max Seckel’s show, a collection of drawings, prints and paintings, is “inspired by thunderstorms, bouncy balls, the night sky, bicycles, cold beer, sidewalks, long days, shiny objects, wet grass, bright colors and strong wind.” Does it get more summery than that? Besides the whole “turning a dumpster into a pool on a Philly street” thing, obviously.
Friday, Sept. 2, 7 p.m., Space 1026, 1026 Arch St., second floor