Walls Turned Sideways features work by artists from across the nation that addresses the criminal justice system, mass incarceration, and the prison-industrial complex. Representing the full range of contemporary art production made in the studio and the social realm, the exhibition includes artworks that take social justice issues as a subject matter; and position the prison and court systems as structures for dismantling through institutional critique. The artworks in the exhibition are extraordinary for the scale and ambition by which they mobilize in order to bring visibility to offenses within the justice system.
Walls Turned Sideways recognizes the artist as a figure capable of changing society and poses the questions: What is the social role and responsibility of the artist in times of political urgency? What functions can only art and artists fulfill in the social and political landscape? Moreover, the exhibition considers the relationship between the museum and the prison, focusing on their shared history of collection. Walls Turned Sideways asks if the museum is the repository for all that society values, how is the prison the repository for all society seeks to disown?
The justice system in the United States is complex; as a result, artists tend to tackle one component at a time. Walls Turned Sideways utilizes the work of artists to construct a dynamic and nuanced portrait of the prison-industrial complex in the United States according to how people move through the criminal justice system. The conditions of being profiled as a criminal makes one more susceptible to arrest. Once arrested, one moves through a set of procedures related to due process, including the courtroom and trial, and onwards toward incarceration. After incarceration there are three potential ways one can exit the physical structure of the prison: a life sentence that guarantees death inside the institution, the death penalty, or the possibility of reentry into society.
The title of the exhibition Walls Turned Sideways comes from a quote by political activist, academic, and author, Angela Davis: “Walls turned sideways are bridges.” The exhibition hopes to serve as a bridge or connecting conduit for conversation, contemplation, and change.
Andrea Robbins and Max Becher | New York, New York
Josh Begley | Brooklyn, New York
Zach Blas | London, United Kingdom
Chandra McCormick and Keith Calhoun | New Orleans, Louisiana
Luis Camnitzer | New York, New York
Jamal Cyrus | Houston, Texas
James Drake | Santa Fe, New Mexico
The Estate of Chris Burden | 1946–2015
The Estate of Martin Wong | 1946–1999
Tirtza Even | Chicago, Illinios
Andrea Fraser | New York, New York
Maria Gaspar | Chicago, Illinois
Danny Giles | Chicago, Illinois
Sam Gould | Minneapolis, Minnesota
Michelle Handelman | Brooklyn, New York
Coco Fusco and Paula Heredia | Brooklyn, New York
Suzanne Lacy with Julio Morales and Unique Holland | Los Angeles, California
Alexa Hoyer | Brooklyn, New York
Ashley Hunt | Los Angeles, California
Improvers | Chicago, Illinois
Richard Kamler | San Francisco, California
Titus Kaphar | New York, New York
Kapwani Kiwanga | Paris, France
Autumn Knight | New York, New York
Deana Lawson | Brooklyn, New York
Shaun Leonardo | Brooklyn, New York
Glenn Ligon | New York, New York
Sarah Ross and Damon Locks | Chicago, Illinois
Lucky Pierre | Chicago, Illinois
Mark Menjivar | San Antonio, Texas
Trevor Paglen | New York, New York
Anthony Papa | New York, New York
Mary Patten | Chicago, Illinois
Jenny Polak | New York, New York
Carl Pope, Jr. | Indianapolis, Indiana
Lauri Jo Reynolds | Chicago, Illinois
Sherrill Roland | Raleigh, North Carolina
Gregory Sale | Phoenix, Arizona
Dread Scott | Brooklyn, New York
Sable Elyse Smith | Brooklyn, New York
Rodrigo Valenzuela | Los Angeles, California
About the Curator
Risa Puleo is the Guest Curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Texas. In 2017, Puleo was the Curator-in-Residence at Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts in Omaha, Nebraska where she curated the exhibition Monarchs: Brown and Native Artists in the Path of the Butterfly. She is currently working on exhibitions that will be presented at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts; Charlotte Street Foundation, Kansas City, Missouri; ArtPace, San Antonio, Texas; Franklin Street Works, Stamford, Connecticut; and the Leslie-Lohman Museum in New York, New York. Puleo holds Master’s degrees from the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College and Hunter College’s Art History program (both New York, New York), and is a student in the Art History doctoral program at Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois. She has written for Art in America, Art Papers, Art 21, Asia Art Pacific, Hyperallergic, Modern Painters and other art publications.
CAMH will produce a significant catalogue to accompany Walls Turned Sideways: Artists Confront the Justice System. The catalogue is being published by the Miami-based non-profit [NAME] Publications, under the editorial direction of Natalia Zuluaga, Lucie Steinberg, and Gean Moreno. The publication includes a forward by CAMH Director Bill Arning, essays by curator Risa Puleo, theorist Che Gossett, and other contributions by Elizabeth Alexander; Jimmy Baca; Evan Bissell; Andy Campbell; Chicago Torture Justice Memorial; Melanie Crean, Shaun Leonardo and Sable Elyse Smith; Laurie Jo Reynolds and Stephen Eisenman; Nicole Fleetwood; Michel Foucault and others in conversation; Sam Gould; Unique Holland; Ben Jones; David Joselit; Theodore Kerr; Chaédria LaBouvier; Suzanne Lacy; Roger Lancaster; Shaun Leonardo; K.Tsianina Lomawaima; Shoshana Magnet; Sarah Ross and Erica R. Meiners; Gean Moreno; Robert Morris; Robert Nelson; Isamu Noguchi; Otabenga Jones & Associates; Anthony Papa; Cameron Rowland; Jared Sexton; Rashad Shabazz; Shawn Michelle Smith; Daniel Tucker and Rosten Woo; and Rebecca Zorach. Artists’ projects in the exhibition and social realm will be documented with full-color images and interpretive essays and include the artists’ voices in interviews and statements. The overall scope and comprehensive material featured in the accompanying catalogue promises to serve as a lasting scholarly document for the exhibition.
Publication design is being completed by Stacy Asher and Aaron Sutherlen, who are faculty in the School of Art, Art History & Design at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Walls Turned Sideways: Artists Confront the Justice System is made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. The catalogue accompanying this exhibition is made possible by a grant from The Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston and a grant from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation.