Smack Mellon’s main gallery (photo courtesy Smack Mellon) Olivia Johnston (Ottawa, Canada), Olivier / Victor White 3, 2014, Photograph, 16 x 20 inches. $500 unframed.

Smack Mellon Gallery, Brooklyn 2015

LPM Gallery artist Olivia Johnston has been chosen to feature one her photographs from the UMARMED Series

@ Smack Mellon Gallery (Brooklyn, USA) entitled RESPOND.

The exhibition dates for RESPOND are January 17- February 22, 2015.
The reception will be on Saturday, January 17, 5-8pm.

Smack Mellon Gallery, 92 Plymouth Street, Dumbo, Brooklyn, USA. /



After hearing about the grand jury’s decision to not indict Daniel Pantaleo, Smack Mellon has postponed a planned exhibition* in order to respond to the continued failure of the United States to protect its black citizens from police discrimination and violence. In order to channel our outrage into actions that can facilitate systemic change, Smack Mellon’s gallery space will be used to present events, performances and artworks that address the institutional racism that allows for the police to murder black members of the community.

Smack Mellon’s current Studio Artists Esteban del Valle, Molly Dilworth, Oasa DuVerney, Ira Eduardovna, Steffani Jemison, and Dread Scott will work with Smack Mellon staff as lead organizers.

We hope you will join us in sending this important message about injustice from the artistic community out to a broader public.


RESPOND: Exhibition information:

RESPOND is a powerful and diverse collection of curated artworks, artifacts, objects, performances, and public programs that respond to the context of police violence. Artists working at all levels and in all media are invited to apply for inclusion in the group exhibition. We hope to provide an exhibition opportunity that enables emerging artists, established artists, and young people to share their work side-by-side.




Photographs by Olivia Johnston

I have become immensely frustrated and fatigued by our society, one in which unarmed black men are executed, apropos of nothing, often by police officers or other authority figures who are ultimately not held accountable for their actions. A society where this can occur is one that is sick, festering in fear, hatred, and racism. The whole value of a life seems to come under question when skin colour is added to the mix.

In this situation, I feel helpless and far too distant geographically, racially, and socio-politically to make a real impact. However, I am determined to stimulate conversation about this complex and incredibly sensitive issue, one that is much closer to home than we often realize. The father of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teen shot in 2012, recently said “…We have a real issue with discussing race. No one wants to discuss those issues. We understand that racism is alive and well, and we just have to be able to sit down at the dinner table at the end of the day and discuss these issues.” Racism must be confronted face-to-face, its evil no longer swept under the rug and left to infect and corrupt but instead torn up at the roots and examined by individuals and communities alike. We must work together to implement safe, non-threatening environments where police officers do in fact protect and serve rather than harass and threaten, and all races are targeted equally in the enforcement of law. I truly believe that art can stand as an extremely powerful tool to stimulate discourse on this topic.

This project pairs portrait photographs of men who identify as black with the names and stories of black men, unarmed at the time of their death, who have been killed in the United States of America in the past fifteen years. Once models expressed interest in participating, they were sent several victims’ names to whom they were close in age in order to choose the story that was the most powerful for them. Each portrait thus became a collaborative project, the artist working alongside the model to create something bigger than photographer and subject. Each photograph stands in for a life lost, but also the lives that remain. This project is an attempt to hold a mirror up to society and the utterly tragic state of affairs in which it struggles. However, I am convinced that hope still remains if we begin to understand and put into practice a local, national, and international discourse on the problem of racism.

In previous bodies of work, I have explored the premise of beauty. In this body of work, I hope to use beauty as a tool to represent humanity in the individual, as well as a means to accessing compassion, acceptance, and understanding. These images are mournful in their role as memento mori. Yet they are also hopeful, in that they present the names of those who have lived; these images can stand in as representations of a less bloody future, one in which races can co-exist peacefully and skin colour is not a crime.

*** 10% of the sale of each artwork will go to the NAACP, an organization in the United States of America that works towards ensuring the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons as well as eliminating race-based discrimination.



Article from HYPER ALLERGIC:


“The nonprofit art space Smack Mellon in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood is planning an open call exhibition in response to the recent killings of unarmed black men by white police officers, and the protests that followed. The gallery has issued an open call for works in any medium, with a submission deadline of December 28. Artists Erica Bailey and Michael Kukla, who were slated to have exhibitions at the gallery early in 2015, have pushed back their shows to accommodate Respond, which will open January 17.

“It was December 4th when the announcement from the grand jury [in the Eric Garner case] came out, I was sickened by it, like everybody else,” Kathleen Gilrain, the executive director of Smack Mellon, said of the exhibition’s inception. “But also confused, because what can you do, aside from go to protests?”

For an organization that plans its exhibitions months and years in advance, RESPOND has been a remarkably rapid endeavor to launch, with every member of Smack Mellon’s small staff and all of its current artists in residence helping. The resulting show will be curated, and hung salon-style, with programming and performances happening throughout its run.

“We who work at Smack Mellon have something that very few people have, which is a platform for artists. Once you have the platform it’s easier to conceive of making your ideas concrete,” Gilrain said. “We want it to be a real, broad example of artists and people making things. It’s going to include high school students’ work, and we hope to get some really well known artists to contribute works.”

The show at Smack Mellon is the latest and among the most high-profile in a series of responses from different sectors of the art world to the killings and the subsequent protests. In October, the Alliance of Black Art Galleries in St. Louis organized Hands Up, Don’t Shoot: Artists Respond, an exhibition that took place at more than a dozen venues throughout the city and in Ferguson. Last week, a group of bloggers who write about museums and the arts released a statement urging museums to join the conversation that has been taking place since the death of Mike Brown.

“Museums may want to use this moment not only to ‘respond’ but also to ‘invest’ in conversations and partnerships that call out inequity and racism and commit to positive change,” they wrote. Hopefully, Smack Mellon’s example will lead other major art organizations to formulate responses of their own.

RESPOND opens on January 17 at Smack Mellon (92 Plymouth Street, Dumbo, Brooklyn) and continues through February 22. The open call deadline is December 28.

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