Saturday, April 16, 2011

HOUSTON: Jamal Cyrus / "DKONKR" / Bryan Miller Gallery / April 16 - May 14, 2011

Jamal Cyrus. Digitally altered AP image of Egyptian protest scene, 2011.
Bryan Miller Gallery is pleased to present DKONKR, a solo exhibition of new work by Jamal Cyrus.

Rather than being an exhibition of discrete, contained works, DKONKR is more like an elaborately prepared puzzle with clues to the artist's intent spanning eras and epochs. From Egypt's first dynasty to early American slave culture and on to the civil rights era and modern Egypt, Cyrus masterfully finesses the societal and spiritual implications of materials, techniques and images. Placed in relation to one another, these elements suggest intriguing trans-dimensional and supra-historical narratives and connections.

In one series of new works, Cyrus visits the advanced technology of laser cutting upon the ancient material of papyrus. The result is beautiful and delicate, but also powerful in its suggestiveness. This readily available 21st century technique would have struck fear in the hearts of the Pharaohs. By inscribing papyrus with an intensely focused beam of light, Cyrus suggests the searing finger of God, though instead of a divine revelation, the content is a redacted, declassified FBI document from the US government's shadowing of the Black Panther Party in the 1960's.

In another work, an image of a ransacked Black Panther meeting quarters is dotted with catalog numbers extracted from an image King Tut's tomb. By equating a violent FBI raid with the more organized and systematic raid of a divine leader's final resting place, Cyrus illuminates the effect of time and ever-shifting power on the sacred. As one power conquers another, and after enough time passes, sacrilege eventually becomes science.

At any moment in human history, there is always the Conqueror and the Conquered. In both ancient Egypt and colonial America it was brutally clear who the conqueror was. In the early Americas, there was a notable African man who was enslaved and who, despite his circumstance, refused to let his spirit be broken. Through trickery and cunning he eventually evaded his masters, becoming an important and inspirational figure in African American folklore. He became known as John the Conqueror, phoneticized by Cyrus as DKONKR.

In addition to an art exhibition, there is also a medicinal root named after John the Conqueror. It is the root of the Ipomoea plant species, several of which will be included in the exhibition. High John the Conqueror Root has a strong history of use in folk magic. It is an essential ingredient in mojo bags and sexual spells, possibly gaining it's reputation as a libido enhancer because when dried, it resembles the scrotum of a dark skinned man.

Jamal Cyrus is represented by Bryan Miller Gallery, Houston. His exhibitions include "Whitney Biennial 2006: Day for Night", Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY, "Winners Have Yet to be Announced", The Kitchen, New York, NY, "Huckleberry Finn", CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco, CA & "International Artist in Residence, New Works: 10.2", Artpace, San Antonio. Cyrus received his MFA from The University of Pennsylvania in 2008. He lives and works in Houston, TX.

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