Jasper Johns, Flags, 1965
Becoming American is the first annual project of Cefalonia. Exploring how artists engage the ongoing challenges of American iconography, identity, history, and formal inheritances, Becoming American is an international group exhibition sited on the grounds of the American and English camps on San Juan Island, Washington, and satellite venues in Seattle.
Adrian Piper, Jasper Johns / Photo Gene Pittman, Walker Art Center
Brian Jungen, Barricades, 2010
Duane Linklater, Trap, 2016
Gretchen Frances Bennett
Helen O’Leary, Home is a Foreign Country
Done in collaboration with the San Juan Island National Historical Park, the show ranges from site-specific works that respond to the inside/outside dynamics of the remaining historic buildings and the natural beauty of the island, to videos, paintings, photographs, print-based works, and sculptures that examine the perhaps permanent, never-to-be-resolved nature of the larger understanding of the Americas.
Satellite venues in the city of Seattle include Specialist, located in Pioneer Square, and studio e, in Georgetown. A full schedule of accompanying performances, film/video programming, and talks will be offered.
Barbara Earl Thomas
Rodrigo Valenzuela / Mask No.7
Rodrigo Valenzuela / Work in its Place
James Baldwin and Medgar Evers, 1963 / Photo Steve Schapiro
It is exactly the uneasy imaginary of becoming American that novelist and essayist James Baldwin took up in his 1959 meditation, “The Discovery of What It Means to Be an American.” Baldwin opens with the words of compatriot and self-exiled novelist Henry James; a direct salvo toward any fixed definition of American identity: “It is a complex fate to be an American.” That Henry James himself took the extraordinary final step of becoming a British citizen in the last year of his life, 1915, attests to the questioning and differential urge that spurred James’s uneasy body of work, and his decided refusal to take part in American civic life. Aside from two short trips to the United States, James spent the final three decades of his life in Europe, effectively relegating his American experience to the rearview, grist for fictional context and back story. Baldwin rips James’s phrase into the present in order to challenge and pivot his own “direct relations” with becoming American and what that “Discovery” might mean as he moved forward as a writer: “That the tensions of American life, as well as the possibilities, are tremendous is certainly not even a question. But these are dealt with in contemporary literature mainly compulsively; that is, the book is more likely to be a symptom of our tension than an examination of it. The time has come, God knows, for us to free ourselves of the myth of America and try to find out what is really happening here.” Baldwin’s choice was to exist both inside and outside of American experience, shuttling between Europe and the U.S. as a way of life, a native son striving continually to become more American through a self-examination precipitated, and enabled, by distance. [Fionn Meade]
Participating artists: Dan Attoe, Korakrit Arunanondchai, Paul Stephen Benjamin, Gretchen Frances Bennett, Matthew Brannon, Cat Clifford, Jasper Johns, Brian Jungen, Eyvind Kang, Duane Linklater, Lynne McCabe, Jeffry Mitchell, Lavar Munroe, Jenny Perlin, Pope L., Adrian Piper, R.H. Quaytman, Ruth Robbins, Aram Saroyan, Dori Scherer, Barbara Earl Thomas, Rodrigo Valenzuela, Anna Von Martens and Marie Watt.