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Following her moving sunrise performance at the Hirshhorn in October 2021, artist Abigail DeVille returned for a sunset performance honoring the centrality of enslaved peoples contributions to the foundation of the United States. Inspired by The Invisibles: The Untold Stories of African American Slaves in the White House by Jesse J. Holland, which chronicles the African Americans who were intimately involved in the construction the White House and U.S. Capitol buildings, DeVille called citizens to contemplate the gaps in our narrative history, through a participatory performance highlighting the tensions between illumination and darkness. Dark Matters featured a performance by the internationally acclaimed musical artist Meshell Ndegeocello, as well as a light procession and spoken tribute to enslaved laborers who built our most recognizable monuments to American freedom.
This performance was presented in collaboration with the U.S. Department of State’s Office of Art in Embassies. Democracy Collection.
TALKING TO OUR TIME
For more insight into the performance, watch this insightful discussion between Abigail DeVille and Jesse J. Holland, moderated by Hirshhorn associate curator Anne Reeve.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Born in 1981 in New York, Abigail DeVille received her Master of Fine Arts from Yale University in 2011 and her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the New York Fashion Institute of Technology in 2007. Her recent solo exhibition Abigail DeVille: Bronx Heavens appeared to great acclaim at the Bronx Museum, NY (2022-3); other recent exhibitions include Brand New Heavies at Pioneer Works, New York (2021), and The American Future at PICA, Portland (2021). DeVille’s work has been exhibited at The Whitney, Institute of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, The Studio Museum in Harlem, New Museum in New York, the Punta Della Dogana in Venice, Italy, and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. DeVille has designed sets for theatrical productions at venues such as the Stratford Festival, directed by Peter Sellers; and at the Harlem Stage; La Mama; and Joe’s Pub, all for productions directed by Charlotte Braithwaite. She has received honors fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard, is a Creative Capital grantee; received an OBIE for design; and has been nominated for The Future Generation Art Prize in the 55th Biennale di Venezia. DeVille was the Chuck Close/Henry W. and Marion T. Mitchell Rome Prize fellow at the American Academy in 2017–2018. She teaches at Maryland Institute College of Art and is a critic at the Yale School of Art.
ABOUT ART IN EMBASSIES DEMOCRACY COLLECTION
2023 marks the 60th Anniversary of the Office of Art in Embassies. The Democracy Collection initiative will bring art diplomacy for democracy to every hemisphere through artist exchanges, traveling exhibitions, civic engagements, events at cultural institutions, and an outreach program to expand AIE’s diplomatic art repository at the service of U.S. diplomats for generations to come.
At the U.S. Department of State Summit for Democracy in December 2021, President Joseph Biden declared, “Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it.” At that same Summit, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken called upon fellow democratic nations to develop action plans for strengthening democracy around the world, saying, “Democracy is facing a moment of reckoning.” The Democracy Collection initiative, marking 60 years of Art in Embassies, is a project supporting the Summit for the Democracy convened regularly by the President and the Secretary of State.