We are currently installing. Please Join us for the free, public reception for “Acting On Dreams,” Saturday, June 13 from 6-8pm.


Acting on Dreams: The State of Immigrant Rights, Conditions, and Advocacy in the United States

“Acting on Dreams: The state of immigrant rights, conditions, and advocacy in the U.S.” is an original group exhibition curated by Yaelle S. Amir for Franklin Street Works. It will be on view from June 13 – August 23, 2015. Opening reception is Saturday, June 13 from 6:00 – 8:00 pm. With a VIP members preview from 5:00 – 6:00 pm.

Acting on Dreams explores the work of artists who use creative, often process-oriented, strategies and community collaborations to advocate for authorized and undocumented immigrants and propose innovative alternatives to immigration reform. Exhibiting artists are: Andrea Bowers, CultureStrike & JustSeeds, Chitra Ganesh and Mariam Ghani, Ghana ThinkTank, Marisa Morán Jahn (Studio REV-) in collaboration with National Domestic Workers Alliance and Caring Across Generations, Jenny Polak, QUEEROCRACY in collaboration with Carlos Motta, and Favianna Rodriguez.

Immigrants now comprise approximately 13 percent of the total U.S. population (41.3 million), of which over a fourth are undocumented (11.4 million) and close to a fifth live in poverty. Despite numerous roadblocks, many in the United States have called for an overhaul of the immigration system, seeing it as a necessary and crucial step in the development of a more humane and just American society. Yet many others still fail to acknowledge immigrant hardships or to empathize with their conditions, prompting individuals, such as community activists and artists like those in Acting on Dreams, to attempt to fill the enormous gaps in immigration services and knowledge.

With a recent surge in border crossings on the one hand, and stalled legislation in Congress and increased deportations on the other—the work of community and grassroots groups to raise awareness and ease immigrant living conditions has become more essential. The works included in this exhibition chronicle several efforts of immigrants and their advocates, while drawing connections between various communities and concerns within this highly complex issue. The artists apply their creative skills to further compassionate and respectful policies, and strive to communicate the immigrant experience in the United States—the frequent sense of isolation and uncertainty, but also courageousness, pride, and anticipation.

The projects presented in Acting On Dreams include installation, sculpture, and video. Together, these artists present informed perspectives on U.S. immigration today via strategies such as research, storytelling and activism. In her video Sanctuary, Andrea Bowers tells the story of Elvira Arellano, an undocumented immigrant who entered into sanctuary on August 15, 2006, at the Adalberto United Methodist Church in Chicago in order to avoid the prospect of deportation and separation from her 8-year old son, a U.S. citizen. Arellano was ultimately deported a year into her stay at the church, and continues to organize from Mexico. The work attaches a face to the ruthless federal deportation policies that often go overlooked and reinforced in the discussions of policy reform.

The Index of the Disappeared is an evolving multidisciplinary, physical archive and platform for public dialogue that embodies a haunting chapter in U.S. history. Artists Chitra Ganesh and Mariam Ghani have worked to compile an archive around post-9/11 disappearances to highlight the uncertainty many immigrants have experienced as a result of the geopolitical and policy shifts in the U.S. since 2001. Through official documents, secondary literature, and personal narratives, Index traces the ways in which censorship and data blackouts have enabled unprecedented disappearances, deportations, renditions, and detentions in the lives of immigrant, “other,” and dissenting communities in the U.S. A portion of the archive is included in the exhibition with a purpose of confronting audiences with the human costs of public policies, connecting domestic and foreign policies and policing, and challenging viewers to reevaluate the abstractions of political rhetoric in individual terms.

In ThinkTank at the Border, Ghana ThinkTank has developed a multi-year project in an effort to investigate the seemingly un-crossable divide between “opposing” sides of immigration-related issues, collecting problems from citizen border-patrols like the Minutemen, and bringing them to recently deported or undocumented immigrants to solve. They collect these problems through focus groups, street interviews, and postcards, and present the immigrants’ solutions back to the Minuteman-like groups, working to find ways to have them implemented. The exhibition presents an iteration of the project, Border Cart – a mobile cart designed to fold into the back of a Tijuana Taxi, and then unfold at the border to provide shade, a seat, and a public think tank process to people crossing the U.S. – Mexico Border. Their border project is an outgrowth of a longer term project initiated in 2006 to “Develop the First World” by sending problems from the so-called “first” world to think tanks in Cuba, Ghana, Iran, Mexico, El Salvador, and the U.S. prison system to be solved.

In an ongoing body of work entitled “CareForce,” artist Marisa Morán Jahn (Studio REV-) in collaboration with the National Domestic Workers Alliance and Caring Across Generations uses an artistic framework to develop tools that assist domestic workers in learning their rights and advocating for their socio-economic justice. Bridging public art, law, tech, and design, their projects have taken on various forms. From a mobile design lab and sound studio, to dance and movement, to an informative app accessible by any kind of phone—they offer crucial support to those who take care of our children, family, and homes.

Jenny Polak has worked with residents and immigrant activists in Illinois and Indiana to advance recent struggles in blocking the construction of for-profit immigrant detention centers in their midst. Polak maintains an ongoing relationship with key figures in these communities—collaboratively developing imagery to create custom domestic objects that raise awareness to the effects of detention centers on jailed immigrants and on their surrounding communities. The photographs, drawings, and figurines that comprise (n)IMBY also assist the campaigners in documenting their achievements so that others can refer to them as a model.

On Columbus Day in 2011, Queerocracy in collaboration with the artist Carlos Motta organized the distribution and collective public reading of excerpts from A Timeline of Queer Immigration – an exhaustive list of significant events in the global queer and immigrant movements. The intervention took place at Columbus Circle, the site commemorating the individual who marked the official start of immigration to Northern America. The timeline begins with Columbus’ arrival in 1492 and continues with dozens of seminal events that highlight the parallel struggles of immigrants and queer individuals to be recognized as equal citizens.

Artist Favianna Rodriguez co-founded CultureStrike, a grassroots arts organization that engages cultural producers in migrant rights. Her work stems from the belief that art is necessary in promoting awareness of the disastrous effects of U.S. immigration policies, and in countering the often-negative perception of immigrants. As part of these efforts, Rodriguez initiated the campaign Migration is Beautiful featuring the now-iconic monarch butterfly symbol. The exhibition includes a coloring station by Rodriguez that provides advocates with on-site tools to construct their own butterfly wings in a public display of support for immigrant rights, as well as Migration Now!, a comprehensive print portfolio by CultureStrike and JustSeeds.

Review of our last exhibition “About Like So: The Influence of Painting”

Click HERE to read review at www.artcritical.com

So It Goes: A Survey of Painting’s Influence on Other Media

About Like So: The Influence of Painting at Franklin Street Works

November 22, 2014 to February 22, 2015
41 Franklin Street (between Broad and North streets)
Stamford, CT, 203 253 0404

Installation view, "About Like So," 2014-15, at Franklin Street Works, Stamford, CT. Photograph by Chad Kleitsch, courtesy of Franklin Street Works.

“About Like So: The Influence of Painting,” recently on view at Franklin Street Works in Stamford, Connecticut, was a cogent group show on the effect of painting — its “histories, forms, materials, and other qualities” as the curator, Terri C. Smith, concisely puts it — on contemporary art and its conceptual grounds. An expansive exhibition, it succeeded in showing a wide spectrum of ways in which painting has goaded contemporary practice, extremely effectively. All of the ways painting can rear its head in contemporary art making, in media other than what we traditionally know as painting, were on view, which was quite a feat in the three-room space.

Franklin Street Works opened in the center of Stamford in September 2011 in one building of a row of brick townhouses constructed in the late 1800s. The community has evidently embraced the on- and off-site arts programming, experimental music nights, site-specific performance art projects and community gatherings offered by the space, which includes an adjoining cafe. Smith, creative director since its inception, wrote an informative gallery handout to accompany the gathering of works. This noted that the catalyzing question for the exhibition was, “In an era where painting no longer has the art historical primacy it once did, what can it contribute to the dominant art practices of today — art that is often not medium specific and is rooted in the theory driven practices of conceptual art?” The exhibition revealed that painting still has plenty to add to current art-world conversations, in ways apparent and less so.

Sonderborg, Wolfgang Hannen, Günter Christmann and Paul Lovens, In actu - Music & Painting, 1993. Video, TRT: 32:55, Dimensions variable. A production of the Institute for Music and Acoustics of the Center for Art and Media, ZKM Karlsruhe, Germany. Courtesy of the artists.

Sonderborg, Wolfgang Hannen, Günter Christmann and Paul Lovens, In actu – Music & Painting, 1993. Video, TRT: 32:55, Dimensions variable. A production of the Institute for Music and Acoustics of the Center for Art and Media, ZKM Karlsruhe, Germany. Courtesy of the artists.

Some of the connections came easily. A collaborative 1993 performance by K.R.H. Sonderborg, Wolfgang Hannen, Günter, Christmann and Paul Lovens, presented as a video, was the earliest example shown of painting seeping into other media. It’s a good backdrop from which to consider the show at large. Action painting is performed along side experimental music as the two dip in and out of sync. In moments it appears as though each medium has nothing to do with the other, before painting either falls into a type of symmetry with the sound or appears to lead it.

Leslie Wayne’s series, Paint/Rag (2012 and 2014), where the surface of a glossy, seemingly still-wet painting has been peeled from its flat surface and draped over a hook like a damp towel, was sensorially enticing. It was almost like the artist had taken a novel approach to hanging them up to dry; I so badly wanted to touch what I knew was a sturdy sculptural piece that was imploring me to explore its folds.

Ragnheiour Gestsdottir, As If We Existed, 2010. Video with sound, TRT: 30 minutes,  dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artists.

Ragnheiour Gestsdottir, As If We Existed, 2010. Video with sound, TRT: 30 minutes, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artists.

Ragnheiður Gestsdóttir’s As If We Existed (2010) mused on the theme of the pained, but enigmatic artist stereotype. Featuring performance artist Ragnar Kjartansson as the troubled, wordless painter, repeating tasks from day to day against the setting of Venice’s glinting canals, it was food for thought on the “baggage” of painting — what histories and assumptions follow the medium and those who use it.

Taylor Davis’s 2012 sculpture, TBOX No. 1, made new the tradition of trompe l’oeil. The artist’s birch plywood box construction is plastered with blue painters’ tape arrows, that, on very close inspection only just betray themselves as a illusion. They are, of course, not tape but a painted replication of it.

Taylor Davis, TBOX No. 1, 2012. Oil paint, birch plywood, 14 x 16.5 x 16.5 inches. Photograph by Chad Kleitsch. Courtesy of a private collection.

Taylor Davis, TBOX No. 1, 2012. Oil paint, birch plywood, 14 x 16.5 x 16.5 inches. Photograph by Chad Kleitsch. Courtesy of a private collection.

In a show where conceptual links were being made in so many different ways, the handout was important for understanding some of the conversations between painting and ideas in individual works, and served as a type of wall-text document to facilitate the making of intellectual connections. Occasionally more information was needed. The challenge was that in many of the pieces, painting, as a concept, was not necessarily the primary theme at play.

The multiple conversations in Tameka Norris’s video projection, Purple Painting (2011), which snatched the viewer’s first glance on entering the space, were hard to access with so much happening around it, and the work could have benefitted from greater explication. Similarly, some works that appeared to have a simple relationship to painting, like Paul Branca’s Untitled, for Rodchenko(2013), where monochrome paintings in bright red, yellow, and blue are made on canvas tote bags, could have been helped by more explanation on how this fits into Branca’s practice (the tote bags are a recurring theme), and what concepts outside of painting he deals with in this work and in his practice at large. In both cases, the connection to painting was clear but the works perhaps suffered by not being able to tell any other stories.

The amount of work that came together in three rooms, with 20 artists and 34 works, was impressive. “About Like So” showed the pervasiveness of painting in a whole horde of ways. The beauty in the show was its freedom. You didn’t have to love every work there, and indeed it would be rare with such a diverse grouping. But in each the argument for the conceptual link between the piece and this storied medium was undeniable, and overall the show made some important connections between the art-historical canon and current conventions and functions of art that any contemporary art viewer will benefit from having in mind.

Opportunities: Internships

If you are interested in an internship at Franklin Street Works, please email Terri C Smith at terri@franklinstreetworks.org. Curatorial, marketing,and development internships are available on an ongoing ongoing basis.

We are also looking for a part-time archiving intern to process an international collection of mail art we gathered as part of our last exhibition “It Narratives: The Movement of Objects as Information” for more on that internship, go HERE.

While we wish our budget allowed for paid internships,Franklin Street Works Internships, currently, are only unpaid or for credit.

Franklin Street Works interviewed on WPKN and a feature in the Stamford Advocate!

Franklin Street Works’ Creative Director Terri C Smith talks with Jennifer Bangser from the Cultural Alliance of Fairfield County on WPKN. Click HERE to listen!

Also, check out Scott Gargan’s article on The Sunken Living Room HERE.