EXTINGUISHING SWEETNESS AS A THREAT
Rodney Ewing's site-specific wall installation Extinguishing Sweetness as a Threat (Elijah McClain), will be on view at Jack Shainman Gallery's upstate location The School in This Tender, Fragile Thing, opening January 15 (11am-6pm) and running through April 30, 2022. Black Panther memorabilia from the gallery's collection will serve as touchstones throughout the presentation of works by Ewing and other notable artists including Carrie Mae Weems, Hank Willis Thomas, Gordon Parks, Kerry James Marshall, Theaster Gates, Barkley L. Hendricks, Nick Cave, Radcliffe Bailey, and Nina Chanel Abney, among others, to open up dialogue between the cultural movements of the 1960s and contemporary artists carrying forward that spirit today.
The impetus for Ewing's piece came from an online conversation he was having with two curators about Elijah McClain and the last words he spoke to the police and the paramedics, trying to convince them that he was not a threat before he died. As Ewing describes:
"We were all equally hurt, broken-hearted, and frustrated that Elijah was targeted and killed because he was 'singing while black.' One of my friends said it was like the police, paramedics, and the person who reported him to 911 'were trying to extinguish sweetness as a threat.' That description of his attempt to define himself in a peaceful and articulate manner that fell on deaf ears stayed with me. When the opportunity to participate in This Tender, Fragile Thing came about, I knew this was the concept I wanted to illustrate. Not only does the title of the exhibit have parallels with Elijah's life and character, but I wanted to memorialize Elijah in a way that celebrated his life and emphasized the tragedy of how he died. The circles and the use of bright colors represent the 'sweetness' of his nature. Some of the circles are complete, while others are broken or faded, symbolizing the 'extinguishing' of his life. By creating this work, I also created a composition that describes how Elijah's death was another blow to the concept of innocence and how the most simple acts (like singing) can be weaponized as a reason for institutional racism."
Watch a time-lapse video of Ewing's process behind creating Extinguishing Sweetness as a Threat (Elijah McClain) here.