Bradley McCallum and Jaqueline Tarry, "Silence"

Art Review in Time Out New York, By Franklin Sirmans

May 2-9, 2002
Issue 344

Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry’s  most recent multimedia history project, Silence, was originally made as a site-specific piece for the historic Center Church in New Haven, Connecticut.  Now installed in Rush Arts in the heart of Chelsea, the work loses some of its context but not of its quiet impact.

Silence centers on an episode in the history of Center Church: In 1820, members of African descent petitioned the church elders to be allowed to move from segregated seating in the balcony to the central pews on the ground floor.  Their petition denied, they established the first black Congregationalist church in America, known today as the Dixwell Avenue Congregational Church.  The installation is composed of three parts: photographs of current African-American congregants of the Dixwell church; a series of granite memorial plaques etched with the biographies of original church members; and an audio-taped reading of address given by Rev. James Wright in 1834 to the Anti-Slavery Society.  

Maroon walls give the gallery a sense of mourning, not just for those who are commemorated b the plaques on the walls but for a history that is still playing out in America.  (The duo’s first collaborative work, of 2000, titled Witness: Perspectives on Police Violence, alluded to the Diallo and Louima atrocities, among others.)  McCallum and Tarry share an interest in forging social awareness through art, an activist spirit gone missing from most galleries for some time.  Silence has all the zeal of their previous collaborations, and it maintains a seductive presence here.  With luck, we’ll be seeing a lot more art that probes deeper into the politics of our present.
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