“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
– The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
In “Dreams and Nightmares”, Kristofer Neely presents iconic images of Martin Luther King, Jr. and some of his chief adversaries. Using enlarged black and white photographs, Neely has fractured, then reassembled the portraits chronologically. A written history of the Civil Rights era is integrated into the portraits, a timeline embedded within the images.
Like great wall drawings, the pictures come apart and re-collect across the gallery surface, linked by the flow of their disintegration and reconfiguration. The effect is haunting, above all as King’s mug shot breaks apart and re-forms in the face of his assassin. The inseparable relationship between activist and antagonist, so fundamental to the theory of non-violent action that King championed, becomes visually explicit here.
The installation seems at first a break from the Guardians for which Neely has become known. Far from the rough, handpainted, folkloric icons of angels that are the basis of the Guardians series, this new work relies on technology to reproduce historical photographs. The painter’s hand has all but disappeared.
Yet “Dreams and Nightmares” powerfully evolves the hope of the earlier Guardians. In place of faceless angels that evoke unseen presences in our times of need, these new images show us the definite face of one who stood in harm’s way to aid the healing of our world. This is a guardian that we know, that we can see, who watched out for us. And we see too those fallen angels who chose violence to protect misguided beliefs at the expense of others.
In short, “Dreams and Nightmares” confronts us with a choice. We are not only subject to the watchful gaze of these angels of our shared history. We see them, and we know: we also must choose who to protect, and whether to be brave in the fight for what is best.
“Dreams and Nightmares”
Art Installation by Kris Neely
The Slide Room Gallery
Daniel Building 221
January 20-February 1
Reception: Friday, January 24 3:00-5:00pm