Bronx Calling Is All About Knowledge and Agency

Late last month, the Bronx Museum of the Arts debuted the first part of back-to-back exhibitions celebrating over 50 artists from the last four cycles of its Artist in the Marketplace (AIM) Fellowship for professional development. On view through March 31, Part One of Bronx Calling: The Sixth AIM Biennial includes works from 26 past fellows who dig into and critique the powers that be, and document lived experiences and personal histories.

As the museum is undergoing renovations through 2026, Part One starts at the front entrance and fills the entire ground level. Despite vastly different subject matter across a variety of media, through lines of introspection and knowledge-seeking cohere the show.

“As I met with the AIM Fellows and familiarized myself with their practices in the last year and a half, I began to notice that critiquing systems of power was a common thread in their work,” Eileen Jeng Lynch, director of curatorial programs at the Bronx Museum, told Hyperallergic. Instead of exhibiting each fellowship cohort separately, she decided to curate a two-part biennial for thematic continuity.

“I was also interested in showcasing work that these artists had produced either during or after their participation in the AIM professional development program,” Jeng Lynch continued.

Visitors are greeted by Syd Abady’s needlepoint on window screens that speak to the evolution of a home in an era of short-term rentals and life on the move, and Bronx-based artist Kim Dacres’s sculptures of important figures from her life crafted from tire rubber. The material alludes to the “wear and tear unique to Black people and women,” as the artist outlined in her statement.

Korean artist Ami Park’s three meticulous fiber works, informed by her attempts to decode the universe through science and spirituality, are complemented by the vibrancy of Judy Giera’s enormous sculptural painting, which celebrates the experiences and joy of trans womanhood, displayed on the opposite side of the same wall.

On opposite ends of the gallery, Maya Jeffereis and Fred Schmidt-Arenales, alongside collaborator Maia Chao, delve into various histories through video installation works sourced from archival materials. Situated on the floor, Jeffereis’s “Passages II” (2024) explores Fijian anthropologist Epeli Hau’ofa’s characterization of Oceania as connected and strengthened as a “sea of islands”; the inspiration is the artist’s ancestral history of Japanese indentured laborers working in the sugarcane plantations of Hawai’i.

“I was thinking about the year 1898 as this particular moment when US forces annexed Hawai’i, coupled with the acquisition of the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico as a result of the Spanish-American War,” Jeffereis explained in an interview with Hyperallergic. “These islands have a shared history of both being sites where the sugar economy really thrived, as well as hosting military bases as extensions of US imperialism in order to wage further control in the Pacific and the Caribbean.”

Unable to locate specific family records despite extensive research, Jeffereis instead incorporated firsthand accounts from other laborers, whose poetry and songs are represented in archival imagery and cyanotypes on 16mm film in her video works.

On the other hand, Schmidt-Arenales presented the two-channel video installation “Waste Scenes” (2024), examining generations of consumerist marketing tactics that he and his project collaborator, Chao, unearthed during the Recycled Artist in Residency program at a construction and demolition waste recycling company in Philadelphia last year.

Schmidt-Arenales expanded on his investigation of “failed neo-liberal visions of the good life” to Hyperallergic, stating that “Waste Scenes” addresses the core consumerist belief that “the various commodities and products available in the modern world provide the best possible life there is to be had.”

“We ended up being more drawn in by the artifacts that point to the behavioral control and conditioning that this system requires — the textual and televisual materials we found in the trash,” he continued, referencing the two-channel presentation of demolition clips and scripted scenes juxtaposed with old advertisements and guides for products of the past. “The ‘neo-liberal vision of the good life’ has to be codified and transmitted via various forms of media before people will participate.”

Both Schmidt-Arenales and Jeffereis told Hyperallergic that their experiences with the AIM Fellowship were critical to their artistic development, especially in terms of carefully considering where their work would be displayed and in what context.

Jeng Lynch noted that while Part One explored contemporary issues, Part Two is “focused on possibilities and speculative futures — particularly narratives about the inseparability of humans and nature.”

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