Paula Crown’s solo exhibition, I am FOR, was the inaugural exhibition for the For Freedom’s 50 State Initiative at their working headquarters Fort Gansevoort, NY. The exhibition explored themes of social activism, racial taxonomy, and political factionalism through large-scale sculpture and installations activated by viewer participation. Each of Crown’s works confronts the trajectory of our legacy and challenges us to reconsider.
Included in the exhibition, a number of works explore the historical idea of the “blackball” often used by a club or authoritative body to register a negative vote against a person, existing as a symbol of faceless rejection. The exhibition invites viewers to consider their responsibility for and implication in systems of oppression. Working with symbols that have been laden with negative, divisive meaning throughout history, Crown recontextualizes and seeks to invert images we take for granted.
In keeping with For Freedom’s spirit of engagement, the central work of the exhibition invited viewers to reflect on what they stand FOR in this moment, rather than a divisive vote against, and to add their voice to the exhibition. Here, Crown inverts the historical use of a black ball to cast a negative vote and instead accumulates ideas of the future that we are FOR. Gallery visitors penned their own supportive statements on these black balls and then dropped them into an open atrium from the roof of Fort Gansevoort into the gallery’s interior space. The performative gesture challenges us to take a stand and speak up.
Created at various scales, Crown also transformed sports balls to upend the historical meaning. Works on display included Crown’s ENtitleist, an enlarged, 3D-milled, alabaster golf ball, made imperfect through natural aberrations in 3D scanning and by the material’s irregular and fragile disposition. By purposefully showing these scars and cracks, the artist highlights the injury and pain of being excluded by others. In Crown’s words “in a binary system of 1s and 0s… we are all 1s.”
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