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Edgar Arceneaux, Until, Until, Until…, 2015

Presented via the MAC website from 15/07 to 31/08

In the wake of the unfortunate cancellation of an exhibition devoted to works by the Los Angeles based artist Edgar Arceneaux due to the COVID-19 crisis, the MAC is presenting as part of its digital programming,  the film of his performance Until, Until, Until… which was originally commissioned by Performa in New York, for the Performa Biennial in 2015. 

The film is presented via the MAC website from July 15 to August 31, 2020.

Until, Until, Until… unpacks a particularly complex episode in recent American history. At Ronald Reagan’s inaugural gala in 1981, Broadway actor Ben Vereen paid homage to Bahamian-American Vaudeville entertainer Bert Williams (1874-1922). Performing in blackface, as Williams would have been forced to do in his time, Vereen inscribed into his performance an indictment of the shameful history of racial stereotyping and civil-rights abuses in America.  Tragically, the media broadcast of the event the following day omitted the critical intention of the performance and effectively derailed the prominent actor’s career for decades. Arceneaux has restaged, reconstructed and deconstructed the event, inserting himself, and Vereen’s point of view into the narrative.

With the global recognition of historic police brutality, systemic racism and cultural appropriation being hotly debated today, Arceneaux’s probing work invites us to consider the role of art and artists in challenging preconceived ideas and revealing contradictions and ambiguities in histories that are often disregarded or overlooked.

Edgar Arceneaux was born in 1972 in Los Angeles, where he continues to live and work. In his sculpture, drawing, installation, performance and film work Arceneaux brings together disparate narratives in order to critically examine received histories, thereby complicating constructions of knowledge. Materially sophisticated, his works explore race and memory, bring to light connections between history and the present, and propose counter-narratives that include the viewer – physically, emotionally and psychologically. From 1999 to 2012 he was the director of the Watts House Project, a non-profit neighbourhood redevelopment project. Solo exhibitions of his work have been mounted at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco; the Henry Art Gallery, Seattle; the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Mass.; Kunstverein Ulm, Germany; Kunstmuseum Basel, Switzerland; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. Edgar Arceneaux is represented by Vielmetter Los Angeles and Nathalie Obadia Galerie in Paris.

Lesley Johnstone, curator

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