Critics’ Picks

Nathaniel Donnett, The Off-Center of Invisibility, 2015, mixed media, dimensions variable.

Nathaniel Donnett, The Off-Center of Invisibility, 2015, mixed media, dimensions variable.


“The One and the Many: A Self-Portrait in Seven Parts”

Project Row Houses
2521 Holman Street
March 28–June 21, 2015

With a quiet yet undeniable force, this exhibition provides the emotional sense of absence or yearning brought on by migration or displacement. Cuban-born artist Alexandre Arrechea exhibits three photos from his “Architectural Elements” series (all works 2015), in which he holds pillars of building materials in front of brick or stone walls, obscuring his own laboring body behind paper, cement, or metal. A steady pulsing sound in Ayanna Jolivet McCloud’s installation accompanies a text piece on borders, bridges, and the reverberations of violence for Score (How to Hold On to Chasms and Fill with Matter). A crocheted white blanket by Erika and Cita DeFreitas, Sometimes the Metonymic Object is an Absence, is paired with an open invitation for the viewer to undo as many stitches as desired. Elsewhere in Nathaniel Donnett’s work The Off-Center of Invisibility, a brick wall has collapsed in the middle of a row house that has literally turned inside out with exterior walls and boarded-up windows installed within.

In a lyrical essay about the works, curator Sally Frater refers to them as a self-portrait, a reflection on her time in Houston and a lifetime of crossing borders. Throughout, these pieces seem to ask how individuality asserts itself within and through the expressions of the many. The exhibit provides a space for critical reflection on immigration and movement, nomadism and violence, while being careful not to posit polar binaries between the individual and the community but rather constructing a field of tensions in which these works are located. As Frater says, “In moments of recognition and in moments of disjuncture, I can find myself. Both are familiar, as is the space between them.” These artists have similarly created a profound place of reflection for both identification and detachment.