New York artist Sam Vernon's Rage Wave is a roaring installation at Interstitial gallery in Georgetown.
Xerox copies of photographs, drawings, and writings are strewn on the floors and pasted up across the walls. Shadows flicker across the streaky pages. A few writings or images are clearly legible and suggest a collective history and sources of rage. There's Sandra Bland's name, written with hearts. The phrase "Why fight it?" repeated. A photograph that's a window into a distant museum, where rows of African masks are mounted on poles.
Murder, exploitation, dehumanization, colonization. The images and voices indicate a shared African American history that echoes with rage. But a wave is not a monolith. It is liquid, elusive.
There are personal writings and mantras in various voices on these walls. There are drawings by Vernon, featuring supernatural and symbolic figures. And she arranged the papers and spray-painted segments of the walls so that from a distance as well as up close, she's formed undulating abstractions.
You can't be outside Rage Wave. If you've come to see it, you're in it. It has no points of focus and nothing is deliberately illuminated. The only light sources in the room are the natural leaks from the skylights, adding their own shifting patterns. You look everywhere, in any order—you decide. This is a place for authors.
Unsurprisingly, several literary events will be taking place in conjunction with Vernon's installation. One is set to include the celebrated poet Fred Moten.
In a piece called "Black Optimism/Black Operation," Moten wrote, "For me, color + beauty = blackness which is not but nothing other than who, and deeper still, where I am. This shell, this inhabitation, this space, this garment—that I carry with me on the various stages of my flight from the conditions of its making—is a zone of chromatic saturation troubling any ascription of impoverishment..."
Vernon's Rage Wave feels maybe like a shell, an inhabitation, a space, and a garment that she carries with her on the various stages of her flight from the conditions of its making.