Anthony Barns (In Plane Site: Fugitive)
Acrylic, wire, plexi, graphite on gallery wall
360 X 114 inches, 2016
This work asks viewers to experience geometric forms—lines, grids, curves, optical illusions—and light as a way of seeing hidden histories in architectural space. Interested in how built and natural environments express power and how people negotiate freedom in unfamiliar terrain, this work consider the lives of Anthony Burns, Henry “Box” Brown, and Harriet Jacobs individuals in 19th-century who hid in architectural spaces—ship hulls (Burns), a shipping crate (Brown) and an attic crawl space (Jacobs)—on the path from enslavement to freedom.
Beavers and Walls, 2015
Wood, acrylic paint, Plexiglas, ink, graphite
Here I present a wall that doubles as a research station where I constructed site-specific drawings through the duration of the exhibition. This wall hosts a suite of abstract sculptures and drawings informed by the maritime and geographic history of Pier 17, otherwise known as the South Street Seaport. Inspired both by cartography and architecture as technologies of place making, these works engage local histories of black space in New York City. My sites of research include auction blocks, witch trials, shipping routes and the wall that enslaved Africans built in 1653 to protect Dutch settlers from Indian raids—an artifact that would later lend its name to Wall Street—as well as the environmental and economic impacts of a post-Sandy reality.
The Color of Crude
Video installation variable
I journey clandestinely underwater in sites such as the Gulf of Mexico and Cape Town, South Africa exploring coral reefs, kelp farms, oil rigs, tankers, and pumps to familiarize myself with the Atlantic Ocean's atmosphere. With each dive I become more fascinated by this massive body of water occupied with marine life and steel structures extruding into the sky. Simultaneously, I’m aware this body of water also helped spatialize black populations and ultimately position our bodies in places that would not honor our humanness. Studying our current ecological crisis in relationship to the Trans Atlantic slave trade, I consider these waters my collaborators in discovering the immensity of being human. While placing my body in this network of black spatial history and the oil extraction industry of the present, I’m interested in composing what I call an orchestra intimacy. I mean to capture with my lens particles, light, air, refraction, value, motion and darkness to give the audience a visceral experience that is contemplative of the conditions our oceans host. The moving images in this multi-channel video installation are an amalgamation of footage I’ve captured from my travels. With each dive I layer images combining the site-specific footage into filters of blue, brown and black colors. What I produce is a work that explores indelible ties of geography, economy, time, sensoria and what it means to be a human body of these ecologies.
Video in single channel