Songs for Ritual and Remembrance
June 17 – September 17, 2023
Songs for Ritual and Remembrance brings together the work of four artists that uplift suppressed historical narratives, honor embodied forms of knowledge, and center community memory through ritual and storytelling. The exhibition will bring together the work of Adebunmi Gbadebo, Ken Lum, Guadalupe Maravilla, and a new commission by Mary Ann Peters. Spanning works on paper, sculpture, and installation each of the works meditate on a social fabric revealing the imbalances of power that condition cultural memory.
Gbadebo’s work engages with the histories held in materials, specifically those of her enslaved ancestors at the True Blue plantation in Fort Motte, South Carolina. In her paper pieces, Gbadebo uses indigo and rice, both of which were produced at True Blue, as well as Black human hair, which itself carries a history through time and DNA. Gbadebo’s ceramic vessels are crafted from clay made from the soil on which her ancestors once labored. “The making of the work has been a practice of healing and a practice of care for their memories and what remains of their physical bodies—it’s in the soil,” Gbadebo says.
Lum, the University of Pennsylvania’s Marilyn Jordan Taylor Presidential Professor and Chair of Fine Arts, is known for his conceptual and representational art. Songs for Ritual and Remembrance includes a letterpress print from his Necrology series, which creates nuanced portraits of fictionalized characters based on fragments of real 19th-century obituaries. Lum’s work imagines the life of a textile worker—using historic fonts and typesetting inspired by an actual obituary of Abraham Lincoln—and illuminates social structures that continue to condition society today.
Maravilla’s Disease Thrower #16 is created from objects that the artist collected by retracing his migration route to the United States, which Maravilla combines with gongs intended to create space for meditation and recovery. Maravilla’s autobiographical and transdisciplinary practice explores the systemic abuse of immigrants.
For Songs for Ritual and Remembrance, Peters created a new work in her impossible monuments series, which offers monuments to individuals that are unlikely to be memorialized. The piece offers a rare account of the 19-century Syrian silk workers who successfully negotiated with the French government to increase their wages and better their working conditions. A Lebanese American artist based in Seattle, Peters has been making studio work, installations, and public art projects for more than 30 years.
Songs for Ritual and Remembrance will offer a series of programs that aim to cultivate community memory and create space for embodied healing after the prolonged period of illness, stress, and confinement brought on by the pandemic.