As part of the solo exhibition In Loving Memory, the artist Khidr Joseph will give an informal walk-through and talk about his work, his process, and the themes in his work.
Khidr Joseph’s grandfather, Jerome Cleveland Hilton, enlisted in the Vietnam War in 1967, intending to visit the site where his uncle, Cleveland Foster, was murdered by the men in his platoon a year earlier. While in combat, Hilton was hit by a stray bullet shard and pronounced dead. As the Army transported his supposedly dead body back to the United States, he woke up from a coma. During his time in the army, he developed a drug addiction, a common problem among American soldiers in that conflict. Upon his return to the US, post-traumatic stress disorder and his addiction sabotaged various aspects of his life, including his relationships with most of his family. Five years after his release from the army, he participated in an armed robbery that led to a five-year stint in prison.
The legacy of Jerome Cleveland Hilton's journey to and from Vietnam, the impact of PTSD and addiction, and the ways in which trauma has impacted three generations is the subject of In Loving Memory. While the narrative of a man taken by incarceration, addiction, trauma, and the military, created a single story, Khidr Joseph has worked to make it more complex and explore how mythologies of the past are lived in the bodies of the present. Through the staged tableaux, the past is documented and the future is explored. At once painful and complicated, the images offer a version of history meant to redeem the individual, heal the family, and offer possibilities to the survivors.
For Joseph, reality and facts are starting points. What matters more to him is their emotional impact in the present and how he can use them to transform reality in a positive way. “I'm more interested in constructing realities than documenting them. In this process I have full control over everything within the frame…,” says Joseph
Khidr Joseph has been making public art that interrogates social, political, and historical frames of his neighborhood of Bed Stuy. His work stands out due to its clear and positive messages, emanating from a place of love while also acknowledging the pain and complexity of modern life. Whether in the imposition of gentrification or violence (Everyday We Lose Another Piece of Our Community), notions of masculinity (Teach Your Son How To Clean / Teach Your Son It’s OK To Cry), or other subjects. With In Loving Memory, Joseph departs from work that engages his broader community and turns his focus inward to reflect on his history and the legacies he embodies.
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