Introduction by Artist Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr. and Berlin Wagar Kim
While a group of us are credited as co-curating this show, the premise and curatorial direction of Subcult: An Ex- change Between Artists had extensive influence from prison’s version of dem- ocratic dialogue. Each class, conversa- tions took place with the whole room about what should, would, or could be included in this show. Questions arose: Should there be a zine to accompany the show? Who owns the collaborative art- works? How would the works be sold? Should the works be sold? How should everyone be credited?
Through an exchange of prompts written by street artists to inspire the Resident Artists to create individual artworks, and blanks (partial drawings copied and completed by other artists) used to create the paste up wall, all art- ists involved were able to explore the collaborative nature of street art from the inside out. The process of creating the work in the Subcult show serves to bridge the gap between the subculture of people living in prison and the sub- culture of street artists.
The idea and format for this show was reached after churning a few ideas around and landing on a premise the RA’s at the Columbia River Creative Initiatives (CRCI) felt represented their interests. Once the format was chosen, facilitators and participants of the CRCI program worked together to unpack the meaning of subculture while also grappling with the depth and gravity of building a cohesive exhibition including work from so many different artists, and how to manage so many creative styles for an exhibition in a modest amount of gallery space. The process involved, sketches, drawings, and diagrams, learn- ing some new skills, and multi-hour long conversations which broadened our in- dividual and collective perspectives of art and how to make it.
For some of the curators and all of the AiR’s, this is their first time prepar- ing artwork for a gallery exhibition. As the work for the show developed, each artist’s practice grew by trying new methods, developing new sensibilities, and working together in ways they had never done before. On their last day before being released, one of the four primary artists in the exhibition men- tioned that he was thankful for strug- gling through all the conversations that resulted in this show. They shared that, while challenging, the process of collab- oration helped him to see beyond their current understanding of what art could be. Co-curator and artist JetCet men- tioned their excitement to help facilitate an exhibition of artwork from artists in- side and artists they know on the out- side, networking groups in ways that, for someone in prison, almost never hap- pens. In fact, this show may be one of the few if not only paste up walls created in a prison and exhibited outside in the history of prison.
Through what at times felt like insurmountable obstacles the artists involved in the curation and creation of this exhibition participated in an exchange of thoughts and ideas that evolved from a conversation between us and them into something that we all created by working together. Individu- ally extending our current awarenesses into a common space creating a plat- form for our new subcultural collective to make something we can all be proud of. The opportunity to have an exhibi- tion always represented something more than just showing artwork. It was also an opportunity to build relationships, to deepen one’s understanding, and to open a dialogue between AiR’s facing incarceration and the wider world be- yond the wall.
– Berlin Wagar-Kim and
Artist Michael Bernard Stevenson Jr.
To download the full publication, click here.