May: Open Inbox
New Work From Barry O’Keefe
Gallery5, 200 West Marshall Street, Richmond, VA
On view in main gallery May 5-27, 2017
This May, Gallery 5 is presenting Open Inbox , an exhibition of work by artist Barry O’Keefe. Open Inbox draws on research into the intersection of printmaking, sculpture, urban planning, and social action in a series of functional public sculptures and prints, each designed for a different neighborhood. The gallery show will be on view during gallery open hours (Wednesdays 4-10 and Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays 11-5, weekly).
Barry O’Keefe is an artist from Richmond, Virginia working in printmaking, painting, and public art. Thematically, his work engages with cultural amnesia, neglected public spaces, and the design of the contemporary landscape. He has created woodcut posters for the Black History Museum of Virginia , and massive public murals focusing on local history in Ohio . In 2014, he created a series of letterpress portraits to raise funds to support reclamation at the abandoned grave sites at Richmond’s East End Cemetery. In 2015 , his handmade artist’s book on the invisible history of slavery in Richmond’s landscape was collected by UCLA, the University of Washington and Ohio University. In 2016 he transformed a derelict boxcar into a mobile mural and performance stage for a national music festival. His work has been exhibited in five countries and seven states and can be found in many private and public collections, including the Valentine Museum, the Black History Museum, and the Library of Virginia in Richmond.
Jane Jacobs, in the foundational urban planning text The Death and Life of Great American Cities, suggests that it is the sidewalk which lies at the core of public life. Our direct interaction with strangers and neighbors consists of a series of journeys along streets. Jacobs writes of these brief public interactions “Most of it is ostensibly trivial but the sum is not trivial at all. The sum of such casual, public contact at a local level […] is a feeling for the public identity of people, a web of public trust and respect.”
These crucial interactions, however, are often diminished by the priorities of urban design. Streets hollowed out by parking lots, highway interchanges and big box stores deny the scale and speed at which human connections build. Anthropologist Marc Auge defines this category of contemporary geography as non-space, those places where history, culture, and social relationships are denied. These hollow, antiseptic environments are designed for, and enforce, anonymity and transience.
Each sculpture in Open Inbox is designed to push against the speed, anonymity and transience of the contemporary street. In opposition to the neighborhood-as-billboard, it engages with the neighborhood as a palimpsest – a surface covered and recovered with new layers of historical and personal experience, each visible beneath the other. In opposition to the neighborhood-as-turnstile, it engages with the street as a porch – a personal stage for public connections to be made, and a place for conversation. In opposition to the neighborhood-as-hotel, it engages with the neighborhood as a grave – a place for mourning and reverence and a place of permanent residence. These works draw on traditions of spiritual and funerary art to make sacred the alienated architecture of the street. Through craft, they seek to elevate and dignify the “ostensibly trivial” and make visible a “web of public trust and respect.”
Work by Kappa Pi International Honorary Fraternity at VCU
On view in rear gallery May 5-June 30, 2017.
Tandem: team, organization, grouping. Kappa Pi International Honorary Art Fraternity at Virginia Commonwealth University has brought together work exploring themes of dualities and parallels, balances and tensions.
Kappa Pi is a society of student artists across disciplines and majors who seek to support each other, to grow as individuals and as a collective, and have the same common goal of building a stronger artist community in Richmond. Kappa Pi at VCU is currently made up of 25 students from across the university that create in a wide variety of mediums and motives.