Suné Woods: The 2016 Baum Award For An Emerging American Photographer
1011 Market Street, 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94103
May 5 – June 25, 2016
“There are many kinds of power, used and unused acknowledged and otherwise. The erotic is a resource within each of us that lies in a deeply female and spiritual plane, firmly rooted in the power of our unaddressed or unrecognized feeling.” –Audre Lorde, Uses of the Erotic: Erotic as Power, 1978.
Suné Woods’ solo show at SF Camerawork presents an artist whose work is quiet and subtly subversive. Using photo collage and a multi-channel video installation—flexible mediums that respond to and traverse the boundaries of genre, culture and history—her works are aesthetically framed as photographs. But they cast a wide cultural net woven of found imagery, wabi sabi (the beauty of things worn by being handled, things overlooked or thrown away), crazy quilts, poetry, art history, feminist art, eroticism, intimacy, violence, maps, colonialism, and the continuing war on black and brown bodies.
In many of the collages appear the black fingers of a barber friend, fingers that are photographic interventions, which point to the craft of making things and exploring the world through touch. The juxtaposition of black fingers, lizard legs, machines, mannequins, shells, and rocket ships in Mutter (2016), or Human Achievement in Limbo (2015), are surreal and unsettling. Other pieces such as Befouled Waters and Locusts (both 2015), are crumpled pages that form fragile paper collages pinned unframed to the wall, the lines in the wrecked paper reading like the texture of worn fabric or skin. Her poetic titles—Mistaken for the Enemy, Infectious Agents, In Flight, Landings—are doors into her evocative, critical thinking. In the large piece, Metallic taste in mouth, she uses silver spray paint to partially cover a textured surface of rows of crumbled magazine papers. In Mothership a phallic brown finger emerges from a shell searching for the opening in a mysterious sea creature hovering over what may be a launching pad or an aircraft carrier.
In her two-channel video piece, “A feeling Like Chaos” she collaborates with several performers to create three archetypal personas—Conjurer, Guerrilla, Sage—who transmit knowledge, sensuality, language, joy, the pleasure of the body, the journey to healing, walking sometimes together and other times alone through dream-like landscapes with a refrain repeating in Spanish, French, and English “I am not afraid.” A Feeling ushers you into the disconnect between the bitter history of black political struggle and the optimistic Obama presidency, an era of high expectations that has provided fertile ground for radical thought, increased visibility of violence towards black and brown people, which has been highlighted by Black Lives Matter movement. Woods’ work is a poetic expression of alchemical travel to another planet, or an inner world, mapped by the rejection of images that no longer tell the reality of black lives, work powered by and seeking a transformative erotic intimacy.