Aaron Coleman - Things Fall Apart

  • April 1 – 23, 2021
  • Artist talk on Zoom at 6:30 pm, Thursday, April 15
  • View the catalog.
aaron coleman art


Things Fall Apart

This exhibition presents two new bodies of work. Inspired by my ongoing efforts to understand and my life as a biracial person and the impact of settler colonialism both past and present, the two bodies of work dive into stories of personal history and global sociopolitical events.

The first series, Pink and Purple, consists of 14 small, mixed media paintings which continue my exploration of altered, coloring books from the 1950s. These coloring books are used as educational tools to teach children about the colors of the world around them. While there are very few people of color in the book, the pages have yellowed over time and resemble my biracial skin tone. The key on the back of the book gives instruction as to how the pages should be colored, yet missing from this key is any reference to skin tone. I have completed the pages by following the instructions while harnessing various life experiences and stereotypes to make assumptions about the figures in the book. Before alteration, the pages are so fragile that they crumble in my hands. Now, more paint than paper, the pages are literally held together by my visual interpretations of history, tradition, trauma, and tragedy. The figures perform daily tasks and take part in mundane activities which are set to a backdrop of rusting iron. Emerging from the rust are details of bible illustrations, asking the viewer to consider the role of the church in the perpetuation of and benefit from racist ideas.

The second series, Monumental Shadows, consists of nine large-scale mixed media paintings which present stacked silhouettes of confederate statues, materialized through bronze, iron, tar, and screen-print on paper. Responding to the toppling of a large number of these statues in 2020, the oxidized and corroding metals elude to the man-made construction of both physical objects and problematic ideologies, their precarious foundation, decaying façade, and inevitable demise. The floral patterns of Colonial Crewelwork embroidery and African Kente cloth motifs are stand-ins for the oppressor and oppressed, villains and heroes. Mimicking stained glass windows, the works in Monumental Shadows are explorations of authoritarian systems of power. In this case, under the microscope is the legacy of the church and its role in perpetuating white supremacy and the radicalization of indigenous spiritualities.

Thing Fall Apart is an exhibition that marries two seemingly disparate bodies of work. Separated by the perceived gap between personal experience and global history and brought back together by the threads of generational trauma, on display are works that point to the origins and ongoing impact of settler colonialism and white supremacy.


Updated: May 30, 2023