2017 National Juried Art Exhibition

Histories & Memories

Exhibition Dates: January 23 - March 3, 2017
Reception and Juror's Lecture: January 26, 2017, 4-6 p.m., Tom Thomas Gallery

“For every image of the past that is not recognized by the present as one of its own concerns threatens to disappear irretrievably.”
–Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History”

To quote Walter Benjamin’s seminal essay, Theses on the Philosophy of History, “to articulate the past historically does not mean to recognize it ‘the way it really was’ (Ranke). It means to seize hold of a memory as it flashes up at a moment of danger.” In this era of heightened domestic and global tensions, perhaps it is important for us to think about our past, present, and future as individuals as well as a collective unit in a holistic, and yet diversified manner. For this exhibition, artists were invited to submit works in which personal experiences and memories are points of departure and/or inspiration for the work as well as those works that address the concepts of collective history and/or memory, no matter how controversial.

Over 500 works were submitted for inclusion from 40 states and the District of Columbia, from which 36 works were chosen by this year’s juror, Josh Hagler.

Ann B. Kim
Assistant Professor of Fine Arts
Indiana University East

The Juror

Joshua Hagler


Based in Los Angeles, Joshua Hagler’s work has followed a natural evolution from an intense interest in religious thought and its history, Westward Expansion, notions of progress and exploration, and ideas in theoretical physics. With a focus in painting, Hagler’s ideas and interests expand into installation, video, animation, book-making and other projects. Feelings alternately of amnesia, redemptive yearning, and the freezing or collapsing of time weave through various projects and media.

Since 2006, Hagler has exhibited with galleries and museums throughout North America, Europe, and Australia, including many solo exhibitions. He has participated in residencies in Norway, Italy, and in California, and was included in last year’s debut of Torrance Art Museum’s studio program in the Los Angeles area. His most recent solo exhibition, “The Adopted” traveled from La Sierra University in Riverside, California to JAUS Gallery in Los Angeles in late 2015 and early 2016. Recent features and reviews include the New York Times, Vogue (Italy), Art Ltd., Juxtapoz, Beautiful//Decay, Fabrik Magazine, and the San Francisco Chronicle.

2017 will debut two of Hagler’s most ambitious projects to date at the Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami and the Brand Library Art Center in Los Angeles. The exhibitions will include sculpture, video, sound installation, and new experiments in his painting practice.

In addition to making art, Hagler writes a monthly column for Venison Magazine entitled “How To Give a Shit,” chronicling adventures in the Los Angeles art scene in alternately funny and deeply felt, though altogether unadvisable ways.

Juror's Statement

Jurying an exhibition by perusing 500 or so jpegs of work by artists I’ve never met, whose studios I’ve never entered, and whose private stages of evolution I could not have traced, is an overwhelming exercise in both imposing judgment and then questioning it. How aware am I of my inherent bias? Why do I like what I like? John Cage famously said, "The first question I ask myself when something doesn't seem to be beautiful is why do I think it's not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason.” Since there is no reason that something is not beautiful, what can I describe to you, the reader, in this small space provided, which would give you at least a somewhat accurate account of what emerged in these 500 jpegs?

I found patterns of shared concerns, obsessions, and histories among artists who had never met each other. I found domestic artifacts—embroidery, chairs, dresses, crocheted photo frames—suggesting a paradox of safety and trauma in the omitted histories of everyday life. I found there to be power in work that whispered, private memories disquieted with the distance that time provides, in which untold stories, often women’s, wait to be excavated by the artist.

The visual repetition of circles, whether photography, video, painting, or sculpture, seemed more intentional than they possibly could have been among all these disparate works. Nevertheless, I wanted to trust that the artists had their reasons and that the viewer might find a connection to the very sensation of history and memory in them, if for no other reason than that they evoke, in general terms, things like cycles, wombs, eyes, the sun, the moon, and passageways.

I found so many little teeth and toothlike objects. Lead teeth, the teeth of coyote skulls, the words “my teeth my teeth my teeth” ominously quilted into tapestry, eucalyptus pods and seashells that themselves looked like teeth and looked as if they had teeth, utilized to form a rough veneer on handmade vessels. I thought of teeth that fall out with age. Teeth that crumble in dreams. Teeth examined by traders of animals and of slaves. Teeth pulled out after death to be traded again.

I found depictions of water eroding surfaces and in receding, revealing what the landscape hides. I found books that kept records—intentional records, accidental records. I found family photos and home videos hiding truths in plain sight. I found fog. I found soot. I found empty buildings.

Perhaps most importantly, what I found in most of the work I saw was a sincere regard for nooks and crannies in time and space, that in day-to-day life many of us would prefer not to regard, then, given new life. History, I found the best of these works to demonstrate, is hidden right here in the present, and it will be confronted.

The Artists