What We Leave Behind features intergenerational artists Michael Kelly Williams, Dennis RedMoon Darkeem and Estelle Maisonett, who work with found materials to transcend the mundane and overlooked. Made up of debris sourced in and around the city, their work is intertwined with the urban fabric and the communities that they represent. All three artists have strong ties to the Bronx. Darkeem and Maisonett were born and raised in the borough, and Williams had a studio in the South Bronx for 13 years, and taught art classes in Bronx public schools for more than 20 years until his retirement in 2016. The discarded objects that they use as art supplies speak to connections with both personal and collective histories, suggesting shifting perceptions of value, use and disuse, longevity and ephemerality, all of which form a portrait of the culture that accumulated and consumed these goods.
Working with materials that some would consider rubbish, these artists show their concern for the environment by removing this debris from the waste stream. Williams creates sculptures and works on paper inspired by music, literature, nature and the art of the African diaspora, driven by such concepts as the spiritual in art, environmental issues, equality, justice and Afrofuturism. In his sculptural assemblages, installations and collages, Darkeem blends indigenous practice and urban culture to guide the viewer toward an understanding of their connections to history and to reflect on the ways that the past, present and future intertwine. Maisonett uses found objects, photographs and fabric to create life-size collages that document her lived experiences. Repurposing garments and materials, she creates environments that feature figures whose bodies are absent but implied through clothing to examine notions of identity, sense of place, consumerism and material culture.
This exhibition is organized by Gabriel de Guzman, Director of Arts and Chief Curator, and Eileen Jeng Lynch, former Senior Curator of Visual Arts. The curatorial concept for the exhibition was initiated with Jesse Bandler Firestone, former Assistant Curator. Cecilia Lu, Curatorial Assistant, has provided additional curatorial and production support.