Edgar Arceneaux

 
 

Edgar Arceneaux’s drawings juxtapose disparate people and places that at first seem connected primarily through circumstantial relationships or etymological association and wordplay. His early Spock, Tuvac, Tupac (1997) presents portraits of two characters from Star Trek together with that of an iconic rapper. A recent body of work forges connections between the 1967 Detroit riots, the birth of techno music, and the work of land artist Michael Heizer, which together form a picture of Detroit as a ruinous cityscape from the future. A conversation with art historian Julian Myers was the starting point for the project, which explores Detroit’s repressed, half-forgotten histories and struggles. On a trip to Detroit, the two friends located the site of what was once an afterhours drinking club—known as a “blind pig”— where the 1967 riots were sparked, and which is now a decaying plaza. There they encountered a monumental abstract public sculpture, which Arceneaux would come to associate and depict in his drawings as the monolith from Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. This body of drawings references a literal and figurative “underground” in Detroit, from the buried ruins of the riots to the city’s “underground” music scene. Arceneaux locates ghosts of Detroit’s past in the techno of Drexciya, who in the 1990s created a mythology about an underwater civilization in the great lakes of Michigan, descended from slaves thrown overboard during The Middle Passage from Africa to the U.S. Arceneaux’s drawings, with their varied points of reference, do not attempt to explain or resolve Detroit’s histories, but instead unsettle them, opening up a shifting space in which past and present, memory and fantasy, coexist.

2011
acrylic, graphite on paper
80 x 130 in
Courtesy the artist. © Edgar Arceneaux 2011. Courtesy Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects; Photo Credit: Robert Wedemeyer
2006
nine channel video installation
Courtesy of the artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects © Edgar Arceneaux
2011
acrylic, graphite on paper
72 x 129 in
Courtesy the artist. © Edgar Arceneaux 2011. Courtesy Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects; Photo Credit: Robert Wedemeyer