Public Enemy

Bleriot Thompson

Curated by Juno Zago

Culture exists when a set of values comes to be acknowledged as sound and sacred by a group of people. The group is able to hold the meaning of those values with confidence and share different iterations with one another. But for many in the Black community, identifying with American society called for the rejection of one’s blackness, the suppression of their experience, and the erasure of their history, in essence their culture. From this schism came the birth of a dilemma: Where does identity lie in the struggle for equality?

Public Enemy is an exhibition conceived in the wake of evaluating this dilemma. Informed by the experiences of Black cultural icons as well as his own experience as a Haitian-American child raised in America, mixed media artist Bleriot Thompson in his first solo exhibition offers a deep dive into the Black cultural landscape that constantly defines and redefines what it means to be an American citizen. In an effort to create authentic connections between friends, teachers, families and strangers, he explores the different ways to channel the past to build a monument to dignity and understanding.

Born and raised in New Jersey, Thompson often uses art and time to explore the boundaries of portraiture, storytelling, and documentation. He adeptly handles the color, joy, past experiences, contributions, and intimate moments of his subjects’ lives to find ways to embrace and redefine the ugly absurdities that they have encountered through their passage of time.

A graduate of William Patterson University, his work has been featured in exhibitions at the Atrium Gallery, Ben Shaun University Gallery, 10Ten Gallery, Index Art Center, REM Art Studios, Smush Gallery, the Passaic County Arts Center, and Blanc Studios. 

Image: Chad by Bleriot Thompson

Onward Upward Towards the Light

Anjali Benjamin-Webb

Curated by Jordan Mayfield

In Onward Upward Towards the Light, interdisciplinary artist Anjali Benjamin-Webb pays particular attention to the subject of materiality and matter. For their first solo exhibition, the artist expresses a desire to become more intimate with the Earth and all of its matter, using their artwork as an “offering to the senses,” expertly employing sand, dirt, clay, water, fishing nets, and rocks as they experiment with the spatiality and form of Tamil script as art objects.

As a certified end-of-life doula and second degree Reiki practitioner, Benjamin-Webb often explores the parallelism between the major life events of death and birth in their art. Through the use of photography, film, and sculpture, they are able to re-form matter to create new worlds within the gallery space, centering on the universality of death and the stories we tell about where we go.

The title refers to the motto of the artist’s grandmother’s school in Sri Lanka and is a reflection of “light as a destination.” This call to the materiality of light reinforces our internal need for stillness in the wake of monumental loss. Moved by their elders’ willingness to teach them the old ways of creating and mourning, Benjamin-Webb intends to disrupt how we think about death and how to make space for its ubiquitous presence in our lives.

Image: Death Chart by Anjali Benjamin-Webb

Dead Ringers: Portraits of Abandoned Payphones

Amy Becker

Curated by Juno Zago

The new millennium’s rapid embrace of cell phones has dramatically diminished the need for working payphones. As a result, for some, payphones have become a link to collective memories. Yet many remain standing, scattered throughout the landscape—abandoned, beaten, and disfigured. Others, stripped down to a shell of their former selves, reveal a suggestion of sculpture in metal and plastic. At times, the phones’ anthropomorphic shapes echo portraits where comic and tragic personalities coexist.

An ongoing project for Newark-based photographer Amy Becker, Dead Ringers: Portraits of Abandoned Payphones depicts the remains of those machines and the environments in which they endure. Representing one path to human connection, what persists is the need to communicate, anyplace, for any reason, or for no reason at all.

Trained in several traditional formats as well as digital photography, Becker typically explores visual stories that arise from the random interaction and juxtapositions of people, everyday found objects, and moments within those environments. A graduate of Boston University’s School of Communications, her work has been featured in The Guardian, Lenscratch, Fraction Magazine, and most recently in the cover story for Chronogram Magazine.

Image: Ladders by Amy Becker

Poem Booth: The F*cking Reticence

Curated by Emma Wilcox

Dedicated to the memory of Sherry Hendrick, Alley Culture, Detroit, MI

Tell me about wanting, about all the wanting, and maybe even the wanting to not want anything. In the painting Sappho Kissing Her Lyre by Jules-Élie Delaunay, it looks like she is hanging on hard to the lyre, the way you lean your forehead against a counter, the way you might rock to self-soothe. Once thing’s for certain: She isn’t letting go.

Poem Booth: The F*cking Reticence, the latest manifestation of Gallery Aferro’s ongoing Poem Booth Project, was curated by writer and photographer Emma Wilcox, who asked spoken word artists to answer the question: “What does it mean to hold on to your lyre?”

Featuring 10 inimitable voices from across the poetry scene, The F*cking Reticence is a chorus of desire fueled by the everyday push of waking, living, striving, getting through the day … the week … the year all in the hopes of being heard and being free. This unique interactive installation encourages lovers of lingual expression to step inside a vintage 1960s-era wooden telephone booth to bask in an immersive experience that only comes at the intersection of art and technology.

Images, left then right: Sapho embrassant sa lyre by Jules-Élie Delaunay (public domain) | Payphone now gone by Emma Wilcox

Elevator Music 11 – Lynnée Denise presents Case Studies in DJ Scholarship: Folk, Funk, and Toni from Ohio

Curated by Juno Zago

September 29th – December 21st, 2023
Opening Reception – September 29th, 6-9pm
Gallery Aferro, 2nd Floor Installation

A global practitioner of sound, language, and Black Atlantic thought, Lynnée Denise is an Amsterdam-based writer and interdisciplinary artist from Los Angeles, California. Shaped by her parent’s record collection and the 1980s’ music scene, Denise’s work traces the intimacies of underground nightclub movements, music migration, and bass culture in the African Diaspora.

She coined the term DJ Scholarship in 2013, which explores how knowledge is gathered, interpreted, and produced through a conceptual and theoretical framework, shifting the role of the DJ from a party purveyor to an archivist and cultural worker. A doctoral student in the Department of Visual Culture at the Goldsmiths University of London, Denise’s research contends with how iterations of sound system culture construct a living archive and refuge for a Black queer diaspora.

In Lynnée Denise presents Case Studies in DJ Scholarship: Folk, Funk, and Toni from Ohio, the audience is treated to a collection of songs from Ohio artists weaved between Toni Morrison’s 1986 talk/interview at the ICA London. It’s a sound collage that speaks to and through themes of music, literature, and place. From the Midwest to the UK, Morrison, and Ohio musical artists represent regional rhythms and ways of being that deserve closer attention – and more importantly, a closer listen.

Image courtesy of Lynnée Denise