Edgar Arceneaux

This Thursday, November 5th artist Edgar Arceneaux will be speaking at the UMFA, and we are really looking forward to his lecture.
When I first heard about Arceneaux’s visiting artist talk, I immediately did some quick research to get a better idea of who he is and what type of work he creates. At first glance, I thought his art was fascinating. I loved how it seemed to take on an otherworldly quality, which challenged me to see objects, places, and things in a different context.
It was very interesting to see the variety of works that came up in my online search for Arceneaux. His work seemed very different from what we have displayed at the UMFA before and during my internship. I particularly enjoyed an older piece titled Spock, Tuvoc, and Tupac from 1997. In this drawing, Arceneaux makes a side-by-side comparison of three figures: Spock, an alien from the series Star Trek; Tuvoc, the first interracial alien on Star Trek; and Tupac, the infamous American rap artist. In this work, the central portrait of Tuvoc creates a visual connection between the portraits of Spock and Tupac, who are two very opposite figures in pop culture. In a similar drawing, Arceneaux displays a chimpanzee and a prehistoric man connected by an image of a modern-day man, giving the viewer an alternate perspective on humanity.
Another Arceneaux topic that I enjoyed reading about was how he is currently turning a whole neighborhood into a work of art in the Watts Tower Project. This is a redevelopment project that uses art to remodel old houses in a Los Angeles community surrounding the Watts Towers built by Simon Rodia in 1954. In this project, Arceneaux has been taking art out of the museum or gallery and instead bringing it to a neighborhood, where it is revitalizing and inspiring residents. “The idea is that art has the power to change things,” said Arceneaux in an interview with W magazine about the project. “Artists, you know, are amazing problem solvers.”
At today’s lecture, Arceneaux’s piece, Eyes Floating in The Abyss, will be on view in the UMFA’slobby. This work was the UMFA Young Benefactor’s annual modern and contemporary art acquisition for the Museum’s permanent collection in 2008. In this large-scale work, three pairs of disembodied eyes float above a dark and subdued landscape, providing us with yet another opportunity to experience Arceneaux’s unique talent and rigorous ideas.

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