Promoting Art Through Justice: Artist Edgar Arceneaux Video

Artist Edgar Arceneaux. Photo by Kristan Jacobsen.

Los Angeles-based Edgar Arceneaux, a rising star in the art world installed a new sculpture at S.J. Quinney College of Law in February 2017 to represent Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic quote, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”  Watch the video to learn more about the sculpture and how it is designed to inspire future generations of law students.

The sculpture was funded through the generosity of donors who approached the law school with a desire to contribute funds to commission a sculpture to celebrate diversity and to build on the theme of justice visible through King Jr.’s quote on display in the school’s sixth floor moot courtroom. Arceneaux’s concept, “The Crystal Paradox,” is composed of 15 metal and glass vitrine light boxes. The artwork contains crystallize deaccessioned law books and redacted letters from the FBI. The letters are rendered in glass and mirror, and tell the story of the US government’s covert operations against the civil rights movement in 1950-1970s America. The works —which spans two stories in height —is designed to explore the story of the law as tool for the people as well as weapon for people and institutions that want to maintain the status quo.  The art stands as a tribute to the history of a beautiful struggle, while challenging students to imagine how they want to participate in the arc of history.  Arceneaux’s proposal was selected from a pool of artists from around the world who offered submissions and ideas for the sculpture.

Edgar Arceneaux was born in Los Angeles in 1972. He investigates historical patterns through drawings, installations, and multimedia events. In the artist’s work, linear logic is abandoned in favor of wordplay and visual associations, revealing how language, technology, and systems of ordering produce reality as much as describe them. Seemingly disparate elements—such as science fiction, civil rights era speeches, techno music, and the crumbling architecture of Detroit—find a new synchronicity in the artist’s hands, ultimately pointing to larger historical forces such as the rise of the surveillance state. Arceneaux’s installations have taken the form of labyrinths, libraries, multi-channel videos, and drawn landscapes that change over the course of an exhibition, only ever offering a partial view of the whole at any given moment. This fragmentation extends to the artist’s use of historical research in his work, such as FBI documents concerning civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., where redacted passages are presented on mirrors that reflect the viewer’s curious gaze. Edgar Arceneaux attended the California Institute of the Arts (MFA, 2001), Fachhochschule Aachen (2000), the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture (1999), and Art Center College of Design (BFA, 1996). Arceneaux’s awards and residencies include the Malcolm McLaren Award from Performa (2015), Rauschenberg Residency (2013), United States Artists Fellowship (2007), ArtPace Residency (2006), Joyce Award (2005), and a Creative Capital Grant (2005). Arceneaux has had major exhibitions at MIT LIST Center for Contemporary Art (2016); Performa (2015); Biennale de Montreal (2014); Shanghai Biennale (2014); MoCA Detroit (2011); Bienal de São Paulo (2011); and the Whitney Biennial (2008). Arceneaux lives and works in Pasadena, CA, USA.