Copyright © Mitchell Squire
Bulk paper law enforcement targets, shot through; housed in glazed wood box frameexpand_more
Gift of Mary and Bob Merskyexpand_more 2017.80.3
Mitchell Squire is acclaimed for engaging material culture, architecture, and visual art to examine current and historical social and political issues. His Young Gladiators series addresses present-day police shootings of African Americans, and their aftermath. These assemblages are composed of paper targets riddled with bullet holes, salvaged by Squire from an Iowa police academy. Thick layers of the torn and perforated targets, with shot patterns resembling highly abstracted human figures, are presented with the reverse side facing outward, so the viewer stands in the line of fire. The effect is twofold. As an abstraction of color, form, and texture, independent of any meaning, the torn paper is visually appealing. But once its nature and source become known, myriad associations and meanings take hold. The artist acknowledges this and suggests these responses can coexist. Squire’s assemblages move beyond mere materiality to offer a poignant and sobering portrait of the complex relationships among gun violence, racial discrimination, and personal and national tragedies.
Using allusion and metaphor, Mitchell Squire invites personal reflection, even mourning, for the victims of injustice. These assemblages are elegies, memorials to the dead, and catalysts for dialogue. As such, they possess a visual and conceptual authority that will undoubtedly resonate with Mia’s audience.
Among the artist’s best works to date, these assemblages greatly enhance the museum’s holdings of key works by leading African American artists, while also helping develop Mia’s still-modest collection of postwar and contemporary collages and assemblages.