Shainman School is Out for Summer
Enter and you’re greeted by Radcliffe Bailey’s brilliant contemplation of DNA — an ocean of what one comes to find out are piano keys, but which resemble a pile of lumber, like the steps of the twisting DNA ladder wrenched and strewn for a sparkling pitch head to drown in, while a miniature ship in the same hue floats away.
...The lesson continues: “I traced my family to Sierra Leone. My father was a railroad engineer. My family went through the Underground Railroad and established a township in South Jersey — so I’m thinking about all of that. History is a play between history and mystery.”
The artists in this exhibition each have their own syllabus and final exam for your term in Summer School:
Brad Kahlhamer will be your professor-in-residence on Alternative History — weaving huge, intricate dreamcatchers out of fine wire, he blends the Native American tradition with materials reminiscent of electronics; a woven chandelier recalls European ideas of luxury, the pieces gigantic and delicate simultaneously, much like the traditions they cue to.
Shimon Attie has built an immersive installation combining video and sound around a whitewashed raft recalling Huck Finn — American Literature 101. Math Bass is our theatre instructor: her pieces are props that have become static sculptures that ponder their own static-ness and the space they control. Leslie Wayne teaches shop class combined with political science with studies of broken windows — ‘nuff said. Lynne Lapointe takes up 4-H with her hay-strewn room, tossing around the concept of “stuffing” — or what lurks within, (in this case literal hay).
Gym class is taught by Valerie Blass, her ideas of the body and its capabilities captured in her fascination of the invisible, the unseen — a pair of frozen sweatpants could be a Grecian study in contrapposto, and the pyramid of nude males to form a larger figure, then printed directly onto a roughly-hew piece of wood in the same shape is a totem to both artistic ingenuity and the human body’s unexpected wonders. Co-teaching gym is the remarkable Nina Chanel Abney, who doubles as basketball coach — her graphic, simple paintings, flat and quirky and colorful, depict black men engaged in various sports, mostly basketball, strewn with letters and numbers like the confetti at a winning game, they are a refreshing joy as well as a contemplative wonder.
As for art class? The legendary Margaret Kilgallen strips things down to their graphic essentials in her iconic Coney Island billboard pieces. For a lesson in photography and journalism, scattered throughout the hallways of The School, Gordon Parks lends his two cents via imagery from the archives — a combination of documentary and artistry.