constant escape

Betelhem Makonnen + Adrian Aguilera + Tammie Rubin
March 7, 2019 - July 27, 2019
George Washington Carver Museum, Cultural and Genealogy Center
Austin, TX

Constant escape is uneasy. It demands the blinking intermittence, the radical flight, of a certain experience of constraint  that will have been best understood as sustained, unflinching fantasy, as a look through or away, listening to and playing over, under. Perhaps constant escape is that which is what we mean when we say freedom.

-Fred Moten

Founding members of the Austin based Black Mountain Project Adrian Aguilera, Betelhem Makonnen, and Tammie Rubin will debut a new body of work in sculpture, photography, text, and video. Their works reject and resist the confining limitations of authority and absolute definition of identity, cultural background and of who we are as a people. Each artist in their individual exhibited works approaches their practice in markedly different ways. What the artists share is a commitment to making work that is not easily labelled, and asks questions about the world around us, and how we see ourselves. The concept for this exhibition is inspired by text from Fred Moten’s, Black and Blur (Duke University Press, 2017).

constant escape brings together a range of work by three Austin-based visual artists for a fascinating and intriguing exhibition. These three artists could be regarded as each coming from a different social background and embodying a distinctive cultural identity. Yet, Adrian Aguilera, Betelhem Makonnen and Tammie Rubin prompt us to look at and appreciate their practices for what they are – the works of three individual practitioners who actively reject the imposition of cultural and societal labels, expectations, and boxes. Within their respective practices, we can never be absolutely certain that we fully understand what has captured our gaze – fixed meanings with stable and settled readings elude us.

Each artist creates installations that respond to the formal, architectural and perhaps more than anything, the cultural dimensions of the gallery space. Of course, what the artists ultimately bring to us is an insistent challenging of the materials they each use, a constant interrogation – how they can be used and what they might signify. It is this playful, yet determined and penetrating questioning, that makes constant escape such an engaging undertaking.

Aguilera, Makonnen and Rubin delight in undermining the very idea of easy legibility of their respective practices. Their work always begins with, and leaves us with, the question, “What are we looking at?” But this experience does not stop when we as viewers exit the gallery. Nor should it. constant escape clearly communicates that we would do well, or do better, to set aside all the constraining signifiers of personhood on which our society thrives and relies.

-Eddie Chambers, Ph.D.,
Professor of Art History University
of Texas at Austin

Fusebox Festival
Art in America
Austin Chronicle

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