Ghaleb Al-Bihani, Robert Chase Heishman, Todd Mattei, and Betsy Odom
April 28 - June 2 2018
By conceptual leaps and bounds crossing time, space, and maximum security, Mobile connects four disparate bodies of work by four separate artists to elicit a sympathetic response. Despite their individual concerns, the works call out to each other—from prison cells, bedroom floors, filing cabinets, and within cybernetic labyrinths—describing a volatile world that is sometimes unbearable.
Robert Chase Heishman’s photographic still lives reach for empathy and compassion in their meticulous reconstruction of paintings and drawings made by detainees at Guantánamo Bay. Hung against a pallid, faux wood-paneled backdrop that recalls a makeshift office, the photographs ruminate on the artworks and lives of those indefinitely detained at Guantánamo Bay by the U.S. Government (currently 41 individuals; formerly 780). Also included in the exhibition are two paintings by artist Ghaleb Al-Bihani, who was detained in Guantánamo for nearly 15 years before being released, without ever being charged with a crime, in 2017. His paintings are a direct glimpse into a rich interiority of humility, imagination, and longing.
Todd Mattei’s digital animation video indicates sensory overload in the swirling mess of modern life. Utilizing a first-person video game perspective, the animation proceeds through a maze interrupted by media. News and entertainment screens pop up at random intervals, impeding the progress of the viewer, while overhead a pair of red ominous eyes watches every move.
Inspired by the Hanky Code, a system that originated in the Gay bar scene of the 1970s to indicate sexual interests by wearing color-coded hankies, Betsy Odom’s hand-carved handkerchiefs signal unspoken desire. Their sensual curves and suggestive folds are painstakingly carved from solid raw materials like graphite, plywood, and cork, leaving the viewer to ponder their intended erotic meaning. But as isolated objects, seemingly discarded by their wearers, Odom's hankies may also suggest the heartache caused by loneliness and unfulfilled longings.
These works may rightly be called sensitive for a number of reasons—their attention to detail, allusions to secret information, and empathetic aims. Taken together, they become reflections on a collective emotional state in crisis. In their various attempts for communication and solace, they call attention to persistent human needs, basic requirements which are continuously under threat.
A special thank you to the Center for Constitutional Rights for their support. CCR is a progressive non-profit legal and advocacy organization based in New York City. For more information about Ghaleb Al-Bihani and his art, visit: https://ccrjustice.org.
Ghaleb Al-Bihani, a Yemeni citizen, is an artist living and working out of Oman. For nearly 15 years, Al-Bihani was detained at the Guantánamo Bay prison before being released in January 2017, just days before Donald Trump took office. He was never charged with a crime. He discovered a talent for art in routine classes offered to detainees at Guantánamo. Most of his paintings and drawings were created after 2014, when he was cleared for release, and sometimes depict his musings on what his life would look like as a free man. His work has been exhibited at the President’s Gallery, John Jay College of Criminal Justice (New York, NY), Gallery 102 (Washington, DC), and other private events. Al-Bihani is represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, New York.
Robert Chase Heishman is an artist living and working in Chicago. His work has been exhibited at McIntosh Gallery (London, ON), The Tetley (Leeds, UK), H&R Block Artspace and Paragraph Gallery (Kansas City), Propeller Centre for Visual Arts (Toronto, ON), Open Space (Baltimore, MD), and widely around Chicago at ADDS DONNA, Sullivan Galleries, LVL3, Roots & Culture, Document, Gallery 400, and Johalla Projects. He has worked with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Sigur Rós, Radiohead, and Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz. Recent grants and awards include participation in the 2016 Silver Eye Editions from Silver Eye Center for Photography (Pittsburgh) and a 2015 project grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events. He holds his MFA in Studio Art from Northwestern University (2012), and BFA in Photography and Art History from the Kansas City Art Institute (2008). His work is in the permanent collections of the BNY Mellon Collection, Walker Art Center, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Todd Mattei is a media artist working in animation, video, music, sound, and performance. He has screened and exhibited nationally and internationally. Screenings have included Rencontres Internationales Paris/Berlin, Pacific Film Archives, the Chicago Underground Film Festival, Sober and Lonely Johannesburg, and a retrospective screening night at Roots and Culture. He has exhibited at Carrie Secrist, Publico Cincinnati, Pittsburgh Filmmakers Gallery, Gallery 400, Peregrine Projects, and Foley Gallery New York. Mattei also collaborates with the dance artist Victoria Bradford, most recently at MCA Chicago, as part of programming in conjunction with the Merce Cunningham exhibition. Mattei and Bradford also collaborated via a DCASE Residency at the Chicago Cultural Center.
Betsy Odom (b. Amory, Mississippi) received her MFA from Yale University School of Art and her BFA from the San Francisco Art Institute. She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including a DCASE Grant, Illinois Arts Council Artist Grant, and West collection Acquisition Prize. Recent solo and group exhibitions include Let’s Be Honest at 4th Ward Project Space in Chicago, Oh No at Terrain Projects in Oak Park, IL, and Freedom Culture at The Journal Gallery in Brooklyn, NY.
Mobile is organized by ADDS DONNA, in Chicago. A version of the exhibition was first shown in Chicago in 2017 titled Landline. It travels to Open Space in Baltimore as a part of the Artist-run Exchange Program, a program initiated by ADDS DONNA with support from The Propeller Fund to exchange exhibitions with other artist-run galleries around the country.
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