Last time we saw artists Billi London-Gray and Daniel Bernard Gray, they were hosting a political pop-up at Umbrella Gallery in Deep Ellum that featured a pile of dirt and a Trump-inspired hairpiece. The duo is back with another installation to satisfy your appetite for unconventional art, but this time the gallery is a flagpole in their front yard in Arlington.
Billi and Daniel founded their co-curating effort, Zosima Gallery, in San Marcos in 2011. After moving all the furniture out of their living room, they began to host regular exhibitions.
“A house gallery is typically a bootstrapped art space set up in an artist or curator’s home,” Billi says. “We moved to Dallas in 2015, and Zosima Gallery lost its brick-and-mortar location. So we modified the house gallery idea and made it mobile. We’ve organized an international exhibition, Cambio, which travels in one small cardboard box, we put together a show at Umbrella Gallery in Dallas and now we’ve designated the flagpole [series] on our front porch.”
This new series, called Vexillology will feature 10 to 12 flags from artists around the country. Each flag will hang for a month, and the artists will introduce their pieces during a flag-raising ceremony. Daniel says the flagpole-as-gallery model has been done before, and although it may be a bit cheeky, it is not a joke.
“We want to show flags because they are a common public signal but not common public art,” Billi says. “We live in a suburban American neighborhood with American flags and college flags flying from porches. We thought artist flags would be a meaningful form of public art in this setting.”
The first flag of the series, by Susan Sponsler-Carstarphen, is already hanging, and the next one, by Holly D. Gray (who's not related to the gallery owners), will be raised during a ceremony Feb. 19. The latter artist says her flag, "Expectation of Life," is a protest banner that represents identity and consumption within the disability community.
“The act of degradation, change and impermanence speaks to our current president and administration and how they consider the disability community a simple laughing point and not worthy of space in our society,” she says. "This flag is in support of the disability rights community.
"One in five Americans has a disability. This flag is a talking point about consumption, politics and rights in our society. Who has the right to consume and take up space? I know my answer to this question. Humans. All humans should be treated equally.”
Holly D. Gray’s artistic process further reflects her message. Using the alternative photographic process of cyanotype and pieces of medical waste, her flag takes a bold stance for a community she works with closely.
“This process uses potassium ferricyanide, ferric ammonium citrate and water to create a UV-sensitive surface,” she says. “By utilizing the daily waste material, including elemental formula and the plastic packaging of a person with a disability, I am able to speak to a specific type of consumption that our society often deems wasteful.
"The UV development of cyanotype is traditionally stopped by washing the surface with water, but by leaving the banner raw and unwashed, the images, forms and color palette will be altered throughout the monthlong exhibition.”
Daniel says the title of the series, Vexillology, means “the study of flags.” The series will continue with flags by Katie Hargrave, Leah Sandler and others through midsummer.
“We have artists from Texas, Pennsylvania and Tennessee,” Daniel says. “One of the flags features a very large earthworm. It is weird and wacky. We will issue another call for proposals soon, and the series will run through 2018 and might extend beyond.”
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Zosima Gallery is political in nature, but it does not promise to fly any flag.
“We are selective and go for compelling ideas and images,” Billi says. “We don’t consider an artist’s degree of experience. We don’t want to censor ourselves or other artists, but we are in the context of a residential neighborhood with an elementary school in sight.
"We want to engage and provoke rather than alienate our neighbors with the work that we show. I think it is safe to say we would not fly a naked image of Donald Trump. The world does not need that.”
For more information on the series and directions to the home in Arlington, visit zosimagallery.com.