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Delicate and Filled with Dynamite by Aaron S. Coleman

Opening Reception: Saturday, August 5th, from 6-9 PM

Exhibition Runs: August 5 - September 3, 2023

Delicate and Filled with Dynamite is about the past, yet it still embodies the present. Aaron S. Coleman’s exhibition is about how wounds from injustice can be transformed into a vehicle to transport those inflicted with scars into a better future, or at least a more hopeful one. 


This vessel is constructed with discarded basketball court flooring from the gym at the Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis campus. This basketball court's eventual location was in downtown Indianapolis, and the construction and development of the city's downtown area displaced a massive and vibrant Black population. Coleman rebuilds from the pieces of disruption and displacement while bringing attention to the pervasive acts of racial injustice. The boat is adorned with the remnants of an abandoned playground found on Coleman’s property, a memorandum to childhoods lost.  This exhibition is a continuation of his previous work, In the Wake, which draws a conceptual anchor from Christina Sharpe’s book of the same title.


“Living in the wake means living the history and present of terror, from slavery to the present, as the ground of our everyday Black existence; living the historically and geographically dis/continuous but always present and endlessly reinvigorated brutality in, and on, our bodies while even as that terror is visited on our bodies the realities of that terror are erased.”

― Christina Sharpe, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being 


Coleman is thinking about the simultaneity of joy and pain in Black life; The cotton field and the football field, the criminal justice court and the basketball court, Tamir Rice on that playground, those lost at sea during the transatlantic slave trade, the ripple effects of that slave trade, and the cleansing and transporting powers of water. He is also conjuring images from Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “The Water Dancer” as the inspiration for this sailing vessel. It is a vehicle for an imagined future. It is hopeful, and it mourns.


Aaron S. Coleman’s studio practice comprises creative processes and historical research. He uses printmaking, painting, collage, sculpture, and installation to address how mundane and seemingly anodyne artifacts embody the complex and pervasive history of race/racism and class/classism in the United States. Employing a multi-media approach, Coleman reworks and re-contextualizes images and objects, foregrounding their past and present interactions in this history. The objects (e.g., picket fences, coloring books, embroidery, or pop-culture ephemera) are visually or physically juxtaposed with contrary or jarring images that release uncomfortable truths and suppressed stories that are both personal and political. Most importantly to him, his creative production is grounded in substantial research. Most recently, this has been a critical analysis of authoritarian systems of information, control, and power. Coleman focuses on how religion, politics, certain methodologies of science, and the criminal justice system contribute to and sustain race- and class-based oppression.

Aaron S. Coleman is a multi-disciplinary artist, Associate Professor, and Kenneth E. Tyler, Endowed Chair at the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis. He received his MFA from Northern Illinois University in 2013. Coleman has participated in international residencies and exhibitions and received numerous awards for his work in printmaking, sculpture, and installation work, including the 2021 Black Box Press Foundation’s Art as Activism Grant. He is a 2022 Joan Mitchell Foundation Fellowship semi-finalist and the recipient of the 2023 New Voices Fellowship from the International Print Center New York. His work can be found in the collections of The Janet Turner Print Museum, the Ino-cho Paper Museum in Kochi, Japan, The National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, The Yekaterinburg Museum of Art in Yekaterinburg, Russia, the National Library of France, and the Artist Printmaker and Photographer Research Archive in the Museum of Texas Tech University among many other public and private collections. Coleman was a co-founder of the Sienna Collective for Students of Color in the Arts at the University of Arizona and, in 2021, received the Provost Award for Innovations in Teaching and the College of Fine Arts Undergraduate Mentorship Award. Aaron Coleman’s hobbies change yearly but currently include the cultivation of rare, terrestrial African orchids.

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