Melanie Crean, Shaun Leonardo, Sable Elyse Smith: Mirror/Echo/Tilt


“Mirror/Echo/Tilt” will be the Department of Education and Public Engagement’s fourth annual Summer Art and Social Justice residency and exhibition.

Cover Image:

Melanie Crean, Shaun Leonardo, Sable Elyse Smith, Mirror/Echo/Tilt, 2019 (production still). Courtesy the artists

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Mirror/Echo/Tilt is a video, performance, and pedagogical project created by artists Melanie Crean (b. 1968, Waterbury, CT), Shaun Leonardo (b. 1979, Queens, NY), and Sable Elyse Smith (b. 1986, Los Angeles, CA) in collaboration with individuals affected by the justice system. Exploring choreographies imposed on the body by the carceral state, the project is developed through intensive artist-run workshops with participants and considers the gestures and language used to define experiences of arrest and incarceration. The exhibition will premiere a multichannel video installation filmed largely in empty decommissioned prisons and courthouses and other psychically charged architectural spaces in New York City. Complicating the relationship between fiction and reality, Mirror/Echo/Tilt alludes to the magical realism and metafiction of its title’s inspiration, Don Quixote, Miguel de Cervantes’s famous novel from the early seventeenth century. The work also takes the form of a living curriculum practiced with court-involved youth, formerly incarcerated adults, and individuals otherwise vulnerable to the justice system. The curriculum focuses on undoing the language around culturally embedded conceptions of criminality and will serve as an open resource that lives beyond the artists and the exhibition.

The residency will include private workshops for community partners, public forums and readings, and a resource room with visions for justice contributed by visitors and facilitated by the Teen Apprentice Program.

This exhibition is curated by Emily Mello, Associate Director of Education, and Sara O’Keeffe, Associate Curator.

Mirror/Echo/Tilt is the collaborative project of artists Melanie Crean, Shaun Leonardo, and Sable Elyse Smith:

Melanie Crean (b. 1968, Waterbury CT) is an artist, educator, and filmmaker. Her research-based practice focuses on how new forms of narrative and interaction can be used to equitably shift relationships of power, and mitigate the impact that social systems of control have on people and their surrounding environment. She was Research Artist at Recess Assembly, New York in 2017. Her current work includes No Such Place as America, supported by A Blade of Grass and created in collaboration with young equestrians from Ebony Horsewomen and local law enforcement in Hartford, CT; as well as a commission with Artspace and Yale University archives, commenting on the current state of the criminal justice system in the US, fifty years after the trials of the New Haven 9. Crean is an Associate Professor of Art, Media and Technology at Parsons School of Design.

Shaun Leonardo (b. 1979, Queens, NY) is a multidisciplinary artist whose work negotiates societal expectations of manhood, namely definitions surrounding black and brown masculinities, along with their notions of achievement, collective identity, and the experience of failure. His performance practice is participatory in nature and invested in a process of embodiment, promoting the political potential of attention and discomfort as a means to disrupt meaning and shift perspective. Leonardo is a Brooklyn-based artist from Queens, New York City. His work has recently been presented at the Guggenheim Museum (2018); the High Line (2017), Recess Assembly (2017), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (2015), Brooklyn Museum, New York (2014–2015); and the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2014–2015), Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, Houston (2013, 2018). He is currently Visiting Assistant Professor, Critic at Large at Pratt Institute.

Sable Elyse Smith (b. 1986, Los Angeles, CA) is an interdisciplinary artist, writer, and educator based in New York and Richmond, Virginia. Using video, sculpture, photography, and text, she points to the carceral, the personal, the political, and the quotidian to speak about a violence that is largely unseen, and potentially imperceptible. Her work has been presented at the High Line, New York (2018–2019); BAM, New York (2018); Atlanta Contemporary (2018); New Museum, New York (2017–2018); The Studio Museum in Harlem (2017–2018); Recess Assembly, New York (2017); MoMA P.S.1 (2016); Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and Artist Television Access, San Francisco (2013); Birkbeck Cinema in collaboration with the Serpentine Galleries, London (2016); and the Queens Museum (2017–2018). She is currently Assistant Professor of Sculpture and Extended Media at the University of Richmond.

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Artist commissions at the New Museum are generously supported by the Neeson / Edlis Artist Commissions Fund.

Artist residencies are made possible, in part, by:
Laurie Wolfert
The Research & Residencies Council of the New Museum

Additional support is provided by the Toby Devan Lewis Emerging Artists Exhibitions Fund.

Further exhibition support is provided, in part, by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.

Special thanks to Creative Capital.

Endowment support is provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund; the Skadden, Arps Education Programs Fund; and the William Randolph Hearst Endowed Fund for Education Programs at the New Museum.

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