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Kidnapped Pagans: A Charlotte Arts Project

Kidnapped Pagans: A Charlotte Arts Project

Mint Museum UPTOWN   /  April 29 - May 20, 2017. Engaging in issues of history, culture, and the black experience, artist Antoine Williams combines drawing, painting, and collage to present and challenge the spaces that people of color occupy within our society.

project Highlights

About The project

Kidnapped Pagans is not your traditional exhibition. Organized by Jonell Logan, founder of 300 Art Project, this arts public/private art installation features work by former Charlotte resident Antoine Williams. Engaging in issues of history, culture, and the black experience, Williams combines drawing, painting, and collage to present and challenge the spaces that people of color occupy within our society. This show is on view April 29-May 20th, 2017 in the Level 5 exhibition space at Mint Museum Uptown at Levine Center for the Arts, and throughout various neighborhoods in Charlotte. 

Kidnapped Pagans is one model for community ownership and engagement in the arts. As an independent curator, Logan partnered with The Mint Museum, individual property owners, Charlotte Center City Partners and Charlotte Urban Design, City of Charlotte, to bring the work to Charlotte. In addition to being at the Mint, work by Antoine Williams will be installed on newspaper kiosks and private buildings throughout Charlotte. The intention is to expand the exhibition beyond the museum boundaries, foster personal interaction with the work within our communities, and expand our collective understanding of how and where art can impact our lives. We will announce the installation and de-installation schedule so that Charlotteans who are interested in meeting Antoine can not only see the process, but talk to him one on one about art, culture, and the questions raised by the work. These installations will remain in Charlotte for 1-3 months, depending on site. 

This dually-installed, public exhibition allows for a continuation of support of new and experimental methods of contemporary art making in Charlotte. Kidnapped Pagans creates a timely and creative dialogue around class, race and narrative within the African America perspective. As Charlotte investigates its challenges with economic mobility and cultural exchange, Williams’ work provides a unique opportunity to engage contemporary art, culture, narrative in a way that can foster greater exchange and understanding in a growing and learning Charlotte. 

This project was made possible with support from the Knight Foundation and the Pollination Project. 

Exhibition Description: 

Kidnapped Pagans 

“…And this is what it means to be an American Negro, this is who he is -- a kidnapped pagan, who was sold like an animal and treated like one…”  - James Baldwin 

“I'm African-American, I'm African. I'm black as the moon, heritage of a small village 

Pardon my residence. Came from the bottom of mankind, my hair is nappy… my nose is round 

and wide.” -Kendrick Lamar 

Kidnapped Pagans is a site-specific installation of semi-autobiographical narrative vignettes by artist Antoine Williams. The installation, which spans the entirety of the front gallery, consists of life-size figures made from wheat-paste and found object. These distorted figures are a part of the artist’s personal mythology, which, serves as metaphor for larger systemic issues that rest at the intersection of class, race, geography, and semiotics. 

Also, within the space there are one to two large to mid-size mixed media paintings that will encapsulate the narratives. Essentially this show will reflect the specifics of Black life in the southeast United States but echoes of contemporary issues we face as a nation. 

About the Curator: 

Kidnapped Pagans is organized by Jonell Logan, an independent curator and founder of 300 Arts Project. Logan recently curated the Lilith exhibition at The Light Factory, on view through April 6, 2017. Logan has worked at various museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Studio Museum in Harlem. 

About the Artist: 

Antoine Williams’ art practice is an investigation of his cultural identity through the exploration of societal signs as they relate to institutional inequities. He has created a mythology, which have become a narrative catalogue of loosely autobiographical humanoid beings that personify the complexities of perception, which can affect race, class, and masculinity. His work is heavily influenced by sci-fi literature from such authors as Octavia Butler and H.G. Wells. Themes in science fiction can be analogous to the Black experience in America. Therefore, Williams has created a world of beings that personify the complexity within hierarchies of power in everyday life. These figures manifest as mixed-media installations, paintings, drawings, and collage. These entities reference the Dadaist, who appropriated and re-contextualized images from society in order to create “anti-art”. Namely Hans Arp, who considered the destruction of “signs” as a subversive act. The signs he is interested in are tropes associated with the Black body within the American psyche. 

In the vein of Felix Gonzales-Torres, Williams has a concern for making the personal, public. These beings (which are nameless) are inspired by personal experiences from a rural working class, upbringing, in Red Springs, North Carolina that related to wider contemporary concerns. Inspired by the Amiri Baraka poem “Something in the Way of Things,” these beings live in the intangible spaces that exist between the nuances of class and race. They are both born of and perpetuate the actions and thought processes due to social reproduction. They exist in an abstracted purgatory.