Amber Robles-Gordon presents Successions: Traversing US Colonialism, a solo exhibition on view at the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center in fall 2021. Successions is a conceptual juxtaposition that celebrates abstraction as an art form while leveraging it as a tool to interrogate past and current US policies within its federal district (Washington, DC) and territories (including Guam, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands) that it controls. By highlighting nuances related to US governance in its federal districts and territories, Robles-Gordon seeks to question who has access to resources, citizenship, and the right to sovereignty.
Robles-Gordon creates artwork imbued with a layered visual language replete with cultural signifiers and abstract gestures. Successions is a celebration of abstraction as an artistic expression. Robles-Gordon utilizes iconic artists like Robert Rauschenberg, Alma Thomas, Romare Bearden, and members of the Washington Color School as vivid reference points for her own dynamic use of color, form, and material within the works she created for the exhibition. These explorations will provide insights into a number of inquiries that undergird the construction of the exhibition. Successions creates a pathway towards discursive criticism around issues impacting marginalized communities oppressed by the United States’ hegemonic domestic and foreign policies. The exhibition features a new body of colorful abstract paintings, collages, and quilts created in 2020 and 2021 between San Juan, Puerto Rico (Robles-Gordon’s birthplace) and Washington, DC (where she currently lives).
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Robles-Gordon’s creative strategies were directly impacted as a result of sheltering in place in San Juan. The lack of access to materials and arduous circumstances she was confronted with in Puerto Rico and upon returning to Washington, DC catalyzed Robles-Gordon to improvise her approach to making works for the exhibition. Moreover, the experience heightened her awareness of how communities on the margin are adversely treated during moments of crisis.
Robles-Gordon’s also uses works featured in Successions to mine the stories, personal narratives, and aesthetics of the women of the Caribbean, particularly of African descent, in an effort to investigate the political, socio-economic, and environmental implications of placemaking, contemporary colonial policy, and notions of citizenship on these social groups. The debate over DC statehood, similar to Puerto Rico, has been a prevalent point of contention in the District but rarely featured in the national conversation. Robles-Gordon seeks to use her “backyard” as a metaphor that would expand our understanding of notions of freedom, liberty, and justice.
A fully illustrated catalog with essays by Ossei-Mensah and Noel Anderson and in-person and virtual programs will accompany the exhibition, enriching the viewer’s experience.