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Force of Things: In Conversation with artist Maria Gaspar and Live Performance by James Gordon Williams

Wednesday, June 21, 2023 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm EDT


Join us as Maria Gaspar presents her artistic practice as well as a live performance by James Gordon Williams, as an accompaniment to Gaspar’s installation Force of Things, a commission for Something Beautiful: Reframing La Colección. As part of Gaspar’s ongoing investigations of carcerality, presence, and penal matter, the sonic improvisation attempts to transfigure materials that confine into materials that liberate. The audience is invited to witness how jail debris (bars collected from the Cook County of Corrections in Chicago) can be released through the act of touch and vibrations.

Something Beautiful: Reframing La Coleccion will be open to the public from 4-6pm on this day.

Free Admission | To RSVP, click here.


The demolition of a detention facility is the central component of Maria Gaspar’s presentation in Room 110, commissioned to respond to the multiple urban narratives found throughout Something Beautiful. The extended passage of time in this large-scale projection reflects on how the city is perceived from inside and outside the prison, while the ultimate destruction of the building suggests the need for realized abolition. The accompanying sculptural and photographic installations were created from debris salvaged from the site. Their open-ended configurations transform these charged materials into both mementos and poetic construction elements to build a more just future.


Maria Gaspar is a Chicago-born interdisciplinary artist whose practice addresses issues of spatial justice to amplify, mediate, or divert structures of power through individual and collective gestures. Gaspar is the recipient of Guggenheim Fellowship for the Creative Arts, Latinx Artist Fellowship, United States Artists Fellowship, Frieze Impact Prize, Art Matters Award, Imagining Justice Art Grant, Robert Rauschenberg Artist as Activist Fellowship, Joan Mitchell Emerging Artist Grant, and Creative Capital Award. Gaspar has exhibited at venues including MoMA PS1, New York, NY; the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, TX; and the Abroms-Engle Institute for the Visual Arts, Birmingham, AL. She is an Associate Professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, holds an MFA in Studio Arts from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and a BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY.


James Gordon Williams is a composer, pianist, improviser, and cultural theorist. He has worked with artists Crystal Z. Campbell, Cauleen Smith, Suné Woods, and poet and MacArthur Fellow Fred Moten. As pianist and improviser, he has performed with Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Anthony Davis, NEA Jazz Master Terri Lyne Carrington Miles Griffith, and Gregory Porter, MacArthur Fellow George E. Lewis, Mark Dresser, Greg Osby, and Charli Persips’ Supersound big band. He has performed in such storied venues as Birdland, Village Vanguard, and music festivals and conferences in Italy, Malta, France, Switzerland, Sweden, and several other countries. He has been commissioned by Syracuse Stage to write music for playwright Kyle Bass’s salt/city/blues. As a scholar, he writes on how African American composers and improvisers express political thought through creative practices that connect to contemporary U.S. social movements. He is the author of Crossing Bar Lines: The Politics and Practices of Black Musical Space (2021). Jonathan Leal has called Crossing Bar Lines “An elegant and theoretically rich book steeped in jazz performance praxis, contemporary musicological research, and Black feminist geography, Crossing Bar Lines highlights how Black lived experience, music-making, and politicized Black place-building have long been entwined in the broader U.S. cultural field . . . Williams’s book will undoubtedly serve as a rich guide for listeners, musicians, scholars, and critics seeking the space in which to live, to make, and to breathe.” Dr. Williams’s peer-reviewed articles have appeared in Ethnomusicology Review, Jazz & Culture, Jazz Research Journal, Journal of African American Studies, Liquid Blackness, and Music in American Life: An Encyclopedia of the Songs, Styles, Stars, and Stories That Shaped Our Culture. He is an Assistant Professor of Composition in African American/Global-African Traditions in the Department of Music at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is also affiliate faculty in the Department of History of Consciousness and Visualizing Abolition Studies program also at UC Santa Cruz. Prior to this position, he was a professor of music in the Department of African American Studies at Syracuse University. He holds a Ph.D. in music from the University of California, San Diego. He is a member of the Society of American Music and the American Musicological Society.


Wednesday, June 21, 2023
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm EDT


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