Visualizing Historic Spaces Through Untitled (Structures)

A brief look into Untitled (Structures): Leslie Hewitt in collaboration with Bradford Young

  • Leslie Hewitt (b. 1977), in collaboration with Bradford Young (b. 1970)
    Untitled (Structures), 2012
    Courtesy the artists and Lucien Terras, Inc.

Former Studio Museum artist-in-residence and 2010 recipient of the Joyce Alexander Wein Prize, Leslie Hewitt (b. 1977) brings a fresh and dynamic perspective into how we visually experience our history in her new film installation, Untitled (Structures) (2012), at the Menil Collection in Houston.

Inspired, partly, by an array of Civil Rights era photographs in the Menil Collection, Hewitt revisits a visual historical narrative through a new lens. Composed with footage shot in primarily in Memphis and Chicago, the film references locations strongly connected to the Civil Rights Movement and the Great Migration. Clayborn Temple AME Church in Memphis, recognized for the civil right photograph by Ernest Withers of the protestor with the “I Am A Man” sign, signifies some of the historic and narrative roles the locations take in the realization of the project.  Hewitt partners again with artist Bradford Young (b.1970) for this 16-minute dual-projection film installation, with whom she collaborated on Untitled (Level) in 2010.

Presented as a series of silent stills, the nonlinear film draws attention to historical spaces and landscapes, giving a sense of spatial awareness, historical context and the passage of time. The visual references to these spaces are unique in that Hewitt addresses their place in history, while visually re-contextualizing them with pacing and figurative counterpoints. In an interview with Menil Collection Curator Michelle White, Hewitt explains her aim “to slow the viewer’s perception of time and encourage reflection on architectural spaces and landscapes”, thus creating depth in the viewer’s perception of the passage of time, history and contemporary life. Drawing from iconic photographs by artists such as Bob Adelman (b. 1931), Dan Budnik (b. 1933), Bruce Davidson (b. 1953) and Danny Lyon (b. 1942) in the collection, White adds that Hewitt commands and directs, “their power [to] provide a provocative basis to the contemporary relevance of such events and images from past decades.”

Untitled  (Structures)  is a commissioned work by the Menil Collection, Houston, with the support of Jerean and Holland Chaney, in collaboration with the Des Moines Art Center and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Untitled (Structures) is on view January 26 – May 5, 2013 at the Menil Collection.