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artfor(us) by Sherrill Roland

Exhibition Dates: April 20 – May 12, 2018

April 21, 4pm-6pm | Artist Reception + Community Conversation: Resilience

May 10, 7pm-9pm | Spoken Word Response with Dasan Ahanu

Presented in partnership with The Black on Black Project

“The fate of millions of people – indeed the future of the black community itself – may depend on the willingness of those who care about racial justice to re-examine their basic assumptions about the role of the criminal justice system in out society. “

~ Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

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2.3 million people are currently detained in more than 6,000 correctional facilities in the United States. African Americans comprise only 13 percent of the general population but make up nearly 40 percent of America’s incarcerated population. They also comprise 47 percent of those who were exonerated of their alleged crimes. These grim statistics represent reality for artist Sherrill Roland, who was incarcerated in October 2013. 10 months after his imprisonment, Roland was released and eventually fully exonerated. While this experience is not uncommon, particularly for black men in our country, Roland was in the midst of earning an MFA from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. His incarceration happened at a time when he was discovering his voice as an artist and beginning his entry into a highly elite world. The experience of prison not only changed his entire understanding of himself, it transformed his view of art from a purely aesthetic endeavor to an agent of social change.

artfor(us) presents the view with 12 new pieces that combine Roland’s interest in object-based work with his desire to communicate the far reaching implications of his personal experience. As a means of remaining connected to the art world while incarcerated, a family friend sent issues of Artforum International magazine to Roland every month. However, it wasn’t these publications that resonated with the young artist, but the cards from family, his journal, and passages from the bible. The majority of the mixed media works on view are created by pulverized issues of the magazines he received, each piece corresponding to the month of the issue. They are embellished with materials available to him in prison such as kool-aid, toilet paper, and sharpies. The aesthetic combines high art with the saccharine imagery of greeting cards, reflecting the artist’s struggle with his identity as an artist. According to Roland “The deconstructive process to build something new, is an attempt to express how objects can change based on context. This process of making is parallel to my journey of being wrongfully incarcerated.” The process, materials and subject merge to create a body of work that speaks to issues of family, faith, elitism and mass incarceration.

Annah Lee | Director of Artistic Programs





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About Annah Lee

Annah Lee is the Director of Artistic Programs at Artspace.

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