Inside the White Cube
7 September – 11 November 2012
White Cube Bermondsey
Mitchell Squire's practice is founded on an exploration of how artefacts are projections of the body and how material culture becomes a lens through which to view society and history. Using a combination of found and salvaged objects his work creates a complexity of socio-political associations and personal narratives that underline particularly potent historic events and institutional practices that quietly and continually influence the American national dialogue.
In the The Annunciation of Johnny (Jack) Trice, (2011), Squire pays homage to a twenty-one year-old footballer who was the first African American to compete for the Iowa State College (now Iowa State University). Trice died in 1923 following his first contest, a violent game where the opposing white athletes beat him severely. As he was being prepared for his funeral, a note written on the eve of the game was found in his breast pocket that read “The honor of my race, family and self is at stake. Everyone is expecting me to do big things… fight low, with your eyes open”. Squire’s ‘Annunciation’ comprises of a knee-length pair of footballer’s trousers sat upright in one corner of the space with the words ‘FIGHT LO’ embroidered on them. A neon halo rests over the crotch, tied by a lengthy, amorphous, taped cable reaching for the nearest socket. For the writer Carmen Winant, The Annunciation... is “a symbol of mortal exhaustion in the face of confrontational violence and profound vulnerability.”
The theme of collapse — which Squire believes to be a resonant condition bracketing the first decade of 21st century American culture — is further evoked in The Intoxication of George Foreman (2009), an assemblage that refers to heavyweight boxing champion George Foreman. Foreman came up against Muhammad Ali in the famous 1974 fight in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo) and although Foreman was the favourite to win, Ali was able to endure his relentless punches and, to everyone's surprise, completely turn the match around until Foreman dropped out. In his sculpture, Squires props up a forlorn frayed and beaded submarine rope on an ACME-LITE tripod while a pair of white boxing gloves collapse around its base, making reference to an overwhelming defeat.
While Squire's sculptures might imply the presence of the body, in Untitled 1- 4 he uses the image of a body in the form of standard law enforcement targets. The overall grouping has the statement “Courtesy Ser(vice), and Protection” stencilled on it and each has been shot through by the Iowa State Patrol during their shooting practise. In The Rape of Tawana Brawley (2011) Squire evokes a human presence by hauntingly constructing an allegation referencing the high profile one that was reported in 1987. In I Do Like America, and America Do Likes Me (2012) Squire celebrates the insubstantial and fleeting body within the infamous performance by Joseph Beuys, via a fetishistic combination of objects that, under lamplight, form a shadow in the shape of Beuys' wily accomplice, the wild coyote.
Born in 1958 in Natchez, Mississippi, Mitchell Squires is Associate Professor of Architecture at the Iowa State University and lives and works in Ames. Solo exhibitions include Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa (2005); UNI Gallery of Art, University of Northern Iowa (2006); University of Michigan (2009); University of California, Berkeley (2010) and CUE Art Foundation, New York curated by Theaster Gates (2011–12). In 2010 he received a fellowship to attend the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture’s summer programme in Maine, and was recently listed among 25 artists in Art Review Magazine’s annual issue “Future Greats.”