Initially, I wanted to print out someone else’s review of Gaylen Gerber’s exhibit, Supports, at The Arts Club of Chicago and paint over the text with similar shades of gray and white that cover the objects deployed in his work. The review would have looked like a stack of gray rectangles inhabiting the space where reviews are normally found. It would have intentionally presented itself as a void. Its content would have been the absence of content. But a good friend challenged my idea. They said that a grayed-out review would fall into the same trap as Gerber’s exhibit. We would both be playing it safe. We could sit back and rely on other intelligent, thoughtful, and patient people to generously pump warm blood into our ashen avatars. Our ambivalence would have made us untouchable because our audience has a natural desire to bring things to life just by thinking about them. Instead, my friend argued that I should use my actual words and accept the full range of emotions activated when a human being expresses themselves. So, I chose to write these short paragraphs.
It’s been explained to me what the exhibit aims to accomplish and I get it. However, within the context of our current political climate, I can no longer ignore when shadows are cast into places where I know there should be light. The texts in the elegantly designed publication accompanying the exhibit are open and generous but act as makeup on a pallor face. Lipstick, eyeliner, foundation, and blush are cosmetics used to emphasize but also to hide. Gerber genuinely highlights the very important notion that each of us is a small part of a larger functioning network. Recognizing this is a healthy step toward abolishing the fallacy that individual fulfillment and success is the result of some autonomous solitary action beyond the realm of external influence or support. We need each other. While these collected texts do emphasize juicy things worth thinking about, they also aid in obscuring the one big gray, wrinkly thing in the room that nobody seems to be talking about. Why has The Arts Club of Chicago chosen now for this particular exhibit? One that openly heralds a singular voice that is inseparably tied to the obvious act of hushing and eventually smothering the nuanced voices of so many others. I don’t want to be presented with another example of how easy it is for a patriarchal, hegemonic force to whiteout whatever money can buy. What I searched for at this exhibition, in every work, but never found, were tiny battles. I wanted evidence of even the slightest resistance, an unruly chunk to convince me that in the end, we don’t all just kneel down, close our eyes, and submit ourselves to the giant tidal wave working to wash us out of the picture completely.