America's original sin - Page 2

Jens Hoffmann finishes his trilogy of literary group shows with a strong take on a Twain classic

Elizabeth Catlett's Sharecropper (1952)

Whereas pieces in the lower galleries are arranged with greater room between them, Hoffmann fills the second floor chockablock with representations of degradation and defiance: Kara Walker's massive and monstrous shadow-play of rape and violence covers one wall; Ruth Marion-Baruch's stoic photographs of Black Panther leaders hang on another. It's as if Hoffmann felt that the only means of adequately depicting "Jim's turbulent quest for freedom," to again quote the program notes' gloss on things, was actual disorder.

Appropriate to a show inspired by Twain, some works also exhibit a sense of humor as they engage with larger issues. Simon Fujiwara's video piece — in which the artist dons a kind of cultural drag, playing an exaggerated caricature of himself being interviewed about his relationship to the character Jim — becomes funnier as his interlocutor's questions become more ridiculous. It is a tall tale — aimed at both critics and artists — about misreading artistic practice as identity formation, and it is worthy of Huck himself.


Through Dec. 11

CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts

1111 Eighth St., SF

(415) 551-9210

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