HooDoo’ gets spiritual

Performance art, sculptures, assemblage, video installations and paintings collectively create the NeoHooDoo: Art for a Forgotten Faith, on view at The Menil Collection.

NeoHooDoo celebrates ritual as a form of artistic expression and further comments on the role of spirituality in contemporary art.

Poet Ishmael Reed, who drew on larger themes and ideas common to HooDoo, first used the term in the 1970s. Hoodoo are the cultural and religious beliefs derived from African ancestry.

Several artists in North, Central and South America adopted Reed’s ideologies and an artistic movement took flight in the 1970s and 1980s. Artists revitalized ancient rituals and traditions through creative expression, which earned their ideas and political critiques greater recognition.

A discarded marquee sign entangled at the forefront with old shoes and silk flowers now reads "liquors" upside down with an emphasis on the letters S, O, U and L. Nari Ward’s eye-catching piece, keenly titled "Liquoursoul," is the first among many to be seen.

A sharp turn leads us into what appears to be a portal from this world into the next. James Lee Byars’ 86.5 inch gilded brass ring, or "Halo," signifies continuum. Our experiences are cyclic, as is the enormous ring.

Rebecca Belmore’s "Fringe" makes a bold statement about violence toward women throughout history. In the illuminated photograph a bareback woman with a laceration from her shoulder blade to the small of her back has been carefully stitched with red-beaded fringe that drips like blood.

Nearby, Robert Gober’s piece "Untitled" comments on the clash between craftsmanship and industry. A wicker basket has been punctured through the middle by a large steel pipe, yet both pieces remain intact.

"Untitled (Go-Go Dancing Platform)" by Felix Gonzalez-Torres is a stage adorned with bright lights and at times a dancer outfitted in a silver bathing suit and headphones. The piece highlights anticipation and fulfillment, as the dancer ascends and descends the small stage.

Video installations include Regina Jose Galindo’s "Limpieza," "150,000 Volitios" and "Confesi’oacute;n," which examines the harsh realities of city life in Santo Domingo.

"Curandera’s Botanica," an assemblage by Amalia Mesa-Bains, points out the healing powers of both holistic and modern medicines. The stainless steel work surface is covered in skulls, potions and plants, as well as lab equipment and syringes.

The NeoHooDoo: Art for a Forgotten Faith boasts undefined ideals about art, its mediums and the implications and interpretations by which it incites. The exhibit is on view through Sept 21.

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