Speaking Without Words




Artist Edgar Arceneaux avoids the obvious, and delves deeper to capture the peculiar relationships of his subject matter in a multi-disciplinary array of paintings, sculptures and drawings. “There’s a space of genius in certain social conditions,” he says.

He once drove to Gary, Indiana along with another artist to seek out Michael Jackson’s birthplace and developed a series of performances and a photo series about his journey. In another piece “Spock, Tuvac, Tupac,” he used three images in an early drawing to subtly suggest a relationship between these iconic figures. The Los Angeles native is the director of the Watts House Project, a collaborative artwork focused on neighborhood redevelopment.

In his current work, the artist centers on the African-American experience in Rust Belt cities. In his current work, the artist centers on the African-American experience in Rust Belt cities. “What I’m not trying to advocate in my work is not a style, but a method. It’s a process, a way of looking,” says Arceneaux. “When you deal with representation, my way of dealing with that is to produce a juxtaposition between things.”

His investigation in new work focuses heavily on conditions in Detroit. He has centered in on the music of Drexciya— a Detroit techno outfit that imagined a world of Drexciyan warriors, descendents of pregnant survivors who fell from slave ships, who waged underwater battles from bubble carriers.

“Drexciya and Underground Resistance produced an entirely new art form and went to post-human narrative as sort of a progression of evolution,” he says about the project. “I’m focusing energy on the stories we tell ourselves about these places, how conditions can produce something new.”

Drawing from the visual cues of science fiction such as Stanley Kubrick films and using pale blues and browns, his acrylic paintings feature stark metals and household objects and sugar crystals in his sculptures. He examines ideas in popular culture — like the relationship between jokes and miracle — and contrasts them with seemingly unrelated cues. The result is work that’s conceptually rich. “How do you express those things without trying to make a picture? You need to put the right elements there for people to produce a picture on their own.”

Edgar Arcenaux’s work will be included in Greater LA, which opens in New York City in May. His work will also be featured in this September’s Basel Switzerland.