Exhibit Review: Trace

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trace exhibit

The exhibition, Trace: Site/Memory/Diaspora is on display at the African American Library at The Gregory School through October 5, 2019. Father and daughter artists Israel Mccloud and Ayanna Jolivet Mccloud explore the changing landscape of African American neighborhoods and histories through a variety of media including painting, poetry, and digital photos. 


Israel Mccloud, Gone, 2019​

Many of Houston’s landmarks, hangouts, businesses, and homes have been lost to time or bulldozed in the name of progress; gentrification of the Third and Fourth Wards/Freedmen’s Town and other historically black neighborhoods will continue to alter and erase these areas. This exhibition attempts to remember some of the culturally significant locations and evoke the black experience in Houston through the decades.
 
Sites that have faded into the ether have been reclaimed and given physical permanence once again by the hand of artist and fourth generation sign painter Israel Mccloud. His precise hand can be seen in a faithful recreation of The Majestic Theatre sign in The Majestic OST, painted with enamel paint, a traditional medium for sign painting. This precision offers an interesting juxtaposition with his other works, Gone and Happy Hour @ Club Laveek, which feature nostalgic lists of the names of locations painted in his own imperfect handwriting.


Installation view of “Trace: Site/Memory/Diaspora,” 2019

Ayanna Mccloud’s minimalist approach to the changing surroundings can be divided into two distinct series: Botany & Ancestors Series and Black Landscapes & Archives Series. Mccloud traveled to historic African American sites throughout Houston in order to create the two series. The first set of works focuses on the flora of locations like the former home of Reverend Jack Yates, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, and the former site of Camp Logan in Memorial Park. 


Installation view of “Trace: Site/Memory/Diaspora,” 2019

For her second set of works, the artist spent time researching in the archives at the African American Library at The Gregory School and derived inspiration from the historical photographs she found within the stacks. She identified the locations where the historical photographs were taken and then photographed the earth at those spots. The overlay of the historical photo atop her photo connects past and present.
 
Like so many of the landmarks represented in the artworks, this exhibition will become a distant memory, so come see it before it’s too late! To better relay this urgency, I leave you with this poem by Israel Mccloud:
 
Glancing Back yet striving 
FORWARD… it is the 
Evidence of Things
built, seen and experienced
that bore Witness to
the tenacity of our spirit
And commerce even and Always
against all odds.
 
The testament of Truth, the burden
of Proof, is in the Beauty of
our resilience and continuity
Long after the “yesterday” vanishes
without
a
trace.
 
- Israel Mccloud, Gone, 2019

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