Sheila Pree Bright's current Young Americans exhibit at The High reeks of shallow propaganda. The series is comprised of portraits of young voters, all who appear to be in the 18-25 age group, posing as they choose with the American flag. From the uninspired concept to the naive statements of the models on their ideas of patriotism the entire show was a flop. Perhaps it was that I went into the show with such high hopes. After all, Pree Bright's previous work has been smart and thoughtful commentaries on African American culture. Her Suburbia series was one of my favorites of last year. What made this work so emphatically one-note was that her usual subtlety was completely absent.
The Young Americans portraits were saddled with recycled connotations, but without any undercurrent of commentary. Each of the portraits featured the subjects dressed in what seemed to be their everyday attire against a stark white background. If the point of the portraits was to show the newest generation of voters' relationship to their country, then the execution of the portraits was too blank to convey that. Based on Pree Bright's previous bodies of work, this minimalist canvas shouldn't have been a hurdle, but it was. I wish that Pree Bright had interjected a bit more with the poses, because I have the impression that it was the models' lack of inspiration as opposed to the artist. Unfortunately the exhibit came across as a GAP ad as opposed to a study in Americanism.
For a subject matter that was so revered by our 19th century counterparts, it seems that the idea of nationality has simply turned into another pop cultural notion, as opposed to something that deserves to be looked at with a bit more rigor.
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