Art + Culture

Smack Mellon Tackles Broken Justice System

In the wake of police violence in New York City and across the country, DUMBO gallery Smack Mellon (92 Plymouth) turned over its 5,000 square foot gallery to community organizers, activists, artists, writers and performers to organize, collaborate, speak, perform, teach, lead and act.

The resulting exhibition, RESPOND, features 200 works that “affirm that black lives matter, express frustration and anger with the institutional racism that enables law enforcement to kill black members of the community with impunity, and imagine creative solutions and visionary alternatives to a broken justice system.” The exhibition runs from Jan 17-Feb 22, with an opening reception on January 17 from 5-8pm. For a full listing of community events, performances, and workshops, click here.

Smack Mellon’s description:

After learning of the grand jury’s decision to not indict Daniel Pantaleo, Smack Mellon postponed a planned exhibition in order to respond to the continued failure of the United States to protect its black citizens from police discrimination and violence. In order to channel our outrage into actions that can facilitate systemic change, Smack Mellon’s gallery space will be used to present events, performances and artworks that affirm that black lives matter, express frustration and anger with the institutional racism that enables law enforcement to kill black members of the community with impunity, and imagine creative solutions and visionary alternatives to a broken justice system.

Smack Mellon’s current Studio Artists Esteban del Valle, Molly Dilworth, Oasa DuVerney, Ira Eduardovna, Steffani Jemison, and Dread Scott worked with Smack Mellon staff as lead organizers of RESPOND.

Over 600 artists working at all levels and in all media submitted work for the large exhibition that serves as the focal point of RESPOND. More than 200 voices of artists living across the country and internationally from seven countries were selected and will be represented in sculpture, video, and two-dimensional work—including emerging artists, mid-career artists, and young people exhibiting side-by-side.

Esteban del Valle, a Smack Mellon studio artist and muralist with Groundswell, will work on a mural with local teens to be included in the exhibition. Other works include: Heather Hart’s participatory drawing Skinned, where she invites visitors to press a piece of gold leaf onto the prepared surface of the drawing in exchange for a wish, responding specifically to the context of police violence; Mel Chin’s 1993 prototype of Night Rap, a weapon/tool hybrid made from an actual enforcement officer’s nightstick;  and Nina Berman’s photograph Funeral for Jose Luis Lebron, 1990.