CUE Art Foundation is pleased to present I am the box no roof can cover, a solo exhibition by Cal Siegel, curated by Sable Elyse Smith. Central to the exhibition is a large-scale house-like structure, lacking in windows and doors and sheathed in an exterior of dollhouse shingles, impenetrable by bodies or by light. Shown along with several paintings, photographs, and drawings, this body of work employs visual cues from vernacular colonial architecture to explore the violence and exclusion of American history.
House shingles are a recurring theme in Siegel’s work, used to cover large architectural forms of his own creation (untitled, 2018) as well as pre-existing colonial structures in photographic interventions such as Witch house drive by (2017). As Sable Elyse Smith puts it, “the shingle is as much a drawing tool as it is a skin.” It is both a playful and foreboding material, belittling or taunting the intended force and weight of the architecture and history it references. The United States was and in many ways still is a colonialist playground, and these artworks acknowledge this bitter fact while also calling to mind an image of America’s founders playing with dollhouses; a would-be humorous image if not for the fact that these men treated so many bodies as objects, trapping them in structures of power and oppression that, like Siegel’s work, had no doors or windows in sight.
I am the box no roof can cover confronts a dark and violent colonial history too frequently washed over with nostalgia, reverence, and willful ignorance. The violence and power of structures both physically erected in space as well as on and over bodies are unmistakably intertwined. As Siegel suggests, such forms “cannot be alienated from the people who built them or against whom they were built, nor can they be removed from their contextual landscapes.” His work confronts the scale and scope of violence in the colonial legacy of the United States, questioning how property and architecture function through questions about who made these structures, for whom, and at what ongoing cost?
The exhibition will close with the launch of …In That Empire, an artist book by Cal Siegel and Sable Elyse Smith. Details forthcoming.