On June 22, the Momentary in Bentonville opened its first temporary exhibition of the 2021 summer season. Three new solo exhibitions on display throughout the contemporary arts space offer unique perspectives on social issues, racial politics and the current moment through the lens of three artists working today.
New York painter Kenny Rivero's "The Floor Is Crooked" fills the long corridor of Gallery 1 and was the first of the three to debut. The exhibition is a look back at how Rivero's artistic practice has evolved over the past decade, and it presented the opportunity to dig into the work of an artist "who is exploring topics such as identity, spirituality and this current moment," explains the exhibition's curator, Lauren Haynes, former director of artist initiatives and curator, contemporary art.
"As we were developing the 2021 visual arts program for the Momentary, it felt important to look at the year as a whole and to think about projects that would balance with what happened in 2020 to continue to give visitors the opportunity to see the range of projects we could have at the Momentary," she explains.
"'The Floor Is Crooked' came from me thinking about this whole year, and thinking about the pandemic, and just how I've had to re-situate and sort of reestablish my ground," Rivero revealed in a conversation with Haynes. "I've really had to think about the integrity of the things that I built for myself as foundations, which haven't felt secure, necessarily.
"So it's understanding that the floor is always crooked; there's no level plane on the planet, if you think about it. So why approach it that way?" he poses. "In treating the floor as crooked all the time, there is a chance to have a different vantage point, or new and more realistic ways of navigating things like spirituality, romance and intimacy."
In Galleries 2 and 3, New Orleans-based artist and filmmaker Garrett Bradley uses the cinematography of her medium to investigate race, class, social justice and more through a multi-film installation. "Garrett Bradley: American Rhapsody" opened July 3 and will be on display through Sept. 19.
"For this exhibition, our team was committed to creating an immersive experience that invites contemplation and reflection on issues that affect us all, such as the criminal justice system and underrepresented histories in the U.S.," offers Assistant Curator Kaitlin Garcia-Maestas, who organized the exhibition for the Momentary.
Bradley will expand visitors' awareness of the history of American film, while also presenting new opportunities for visitor engagement in a gallery setting, Garcia-Maestas told What's Up! in the spring when the schedule was announced.
"I'm particularly excited for folks to experience 'America,' a multi-channel video installation that has been shown in New Orleans, Houston, and most recently, the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. At once timely and timeless, this multi-dimensional work encourages visitors to move within and around the projections, allowing each visitor to have their own unique experience in the gallery."
Opening July 20, "Cauleen Smith: Space Station, Radiant Behind the Sun" will fully transform the Lobby Gallery at the Momentary. A "space station" with a 1970s aesthetic, multimedia works and immersive elements will draw visitors into the worlds of Smith's interdisciplinary filmmaking.
Smith's work creates a world that draws from Afrofuturism, science fiction and experimental cinema to explore spaces of radical hospitality across time, explains the exhibition's curator Allison Glenn, former associate curator, contemporary art, at the Momentary's big sister space, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.
"The film 'Sojourner' explores the idea of utopias through the work of visionaries including Alice Coltrane, Noah Purifoy and Simon Rodia. It is arguably one of the most important films Cauleen Smith has created," Glenn says of just one of the pieces on display through Oct. 17.
Summer Exhibition Schedule
‘Kenny Rivero: The Floor Is Crooked’
On display June 22-Oct. 24
‘Garrett Bradley: American Rhapsody’
On display July 3-Sept. 19
‘Cauleen Smith: Space Station, Radiant behind the Sun’
On display July 20-Oct. 17
COST — Free
INFO — 367-7500, themomentary.org