Juxtapoz Magazine – As I Live and Breathe: Angela Hennessy @ SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco


Entering As I Are living and Breathe at the SOMArts Cultural Centre in San Francisco is strolling into a galaxy designed totally by the palms of a Black lady. Not that I’m persuaded that the earth that we inhibit could be orchestrated by any individual else, but expending a morning gazing all over Angela Hennessy’s creations only expounded my inclinations. 


Contrary to classic art areas, Hennessy has painted the gallery walls all Black. An ode to numerous things–its relationship to white, the distress (and consolation) of darkness, the color of Black skin–but most interestingly a comment on neutrality. “The conventional in the art environment is a default to white partitions, as if these walls are neutral. As numerous of us have been talking about for so prolonged, there is no neutrality,” she shared. And as we ongoing our discussion in just the place, that topic trapped with me. Absolutely nothing is ever truly neutral. And typically in our makes an attempt to do so, the length is a lot more so accentuated.

As Hennessy noted herself, “Black is a color that has lots of layers of indicating, and frequently meanings that are even contradictory. Black can be the absence of shade, all hues mixed. Some continue to say it’s not a shade at all. It is made use of as a term of racial identity. In Western European cultures it is a primary signal of grief or mourning. But Black can also be a comforting coloration. Physiologically, it’s less stimulating on your eyes.” Practically each operate in As I Stay and Breathe has a significant element of Blackness, making this dizzying outcome as you enter the gallery area. Some functions pop right before your eyes, while others gently vibrate against the wall.

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If neutrality is a line, then its reverse character is cyclical. Circles and orbits are central to the operate. Within Hennessy’s cosmos are items that pull the gaze upwards, the way a taking pictures star catches your eye in the night sky. One perform entitled Orbits 2 features rectangular and round rings that look to dance around each other, like a portal planning to transport you into a various dimension. A different is a ball produced of synthetic Black hair, sparse with sprigs of Hennessy’s possess tresses, which hangs from the ceiling. Enveloped with a golden ring of blonde loops, it is tough to not make a different galactic comparison to Saturn’s planetary rings. 

No matter of the universe that Hennessy’s constructed above you, each individual 10 minutes Hennessy’s voice will bring you back to Earth, (another cyclical component.) An audio poem that Hennessy wrote to accompany the do the job, its phrases implore us to think about our existence on this earth and the bodies that tether us here. “human body black, physique brown, surrender to blue. One breath, Then two…Then cost-free, Certainly no cost.” When the poem echoes across the gallery, the place takes on a heaviness. Like a weighted blanket laid about you, it carefully pushes you into the Earthly ground. 

As I Stay and Breathe is a present that reminds me that although loss of life and grief has been a extra consistent existence in our environment the previous couple a long time, its visual appeal is not the opposite of existence, but instead an extension of it. “You testify by way of your living respiration entire body. And as we’re here residing and respiration, there’s so a great deal power heading on. The dead go by. The stars go by. We’re not impartial witnesses. We’re contributors at the exact same time.” —Shaquille Heath


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