Angelic Troublemakers, Tactical Deviants

A Solo Exhibition by David Rios Ferreira 

Curated by Katherine Gressel

On View: May 16 – June 30, 2024

Open Hours: Friday-Sunday, 12 – 4 pm or by appointment.

Opening Reception: May 16, from 6 – 8 pm.

Artist: David Rios Ferreira 

Overview:

These new mixed media works evoke the revolutionary history of the Old Stone House and amplify the history of the LGBTQ+ community during a time of increased censorship.

The Old Stone House was a pivotal site in the 1776 Battle of Brooklyn during the American Revolutionary War. The exhibition draws inspiration from the War and figures like Baron von Steuben. Appointed by George Washington, Steuben was a crucial military strategist, significantly contributing to the training and discipline of the Continental Army. Historical evidence suggests Steuben identified as gay or queer by present-day standards, with some accounts indicating Washington’s awareness of Steuben’s identity.

Yet against this historical backdrop, present-day realities starkly contrast. Laws and policies,  driven by scapegoating and repression, increasingly restrict the rights of transgender individuals. Many schools aim to censor LGBTQ+ history and literature.  

Alluding to the importance of ongoing struggles for equality, Rios Ferreira focuses on figures like Steuben who were strategists, orchestrators and tacticians in their movements and crucial in acquiring freedom, property, and power within and for their communities. This also includes Bayard Rustin, a prominent openly gay civil rights activist and strategist, renowned for his critical role in organizing the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Rustin famously remarked, “We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers.” 

The work creates visual ties between past and present through the concept of “unportraits,”or artworks that depart from traditional portraiture by representing subjects in a non-literal or abstract manner.  They combine the drawn line from sources like historical etchings, political cartoons, children’s coloring books to reflect how we interpret and transform historical memory. The converging lines in these works give rise to new forms, serving as conduits for (re)imagined portrayals of these historical figures and their narratives. The wisp -like ethereal quality of the drawings seeks to highlight the duality of these individuals’ invisibility and how the reverberations of their past actions continue to impact us, traversing through time and space.

Artist Statement:

The Old Stone House was a pivotal site in the Battle of Brooklyn during the American Revolutionary War. My new exhibition draws inspiration from the War and figures like Baron von Steuben. Appointed by George Washington, Steuben was a crucial military strategist, significantly contributing to the training and discipline of the Continental Army. Historical evidence suggests Steuben identified as gay or queer by present-day standards, with some accounts indicating Washington’s awareness of Steuben’s identity.

Yet against this historical backdrop, present-day realities starkly contrast. Laws and policies increasingly restrict the rights of transgender individuals, alongside school policies aiming to censor history and literature. These actions, driven by scapegoating and repression, underline ongoing struggles for equality.

In my 2024 series of mixed media and painted drawings, I explore the concept of “unportraits” (artworks that depart from traditional portraiture by representing subjects in a non-literal or abstract manner) inspired by LGBTQ+ figures from history who were crucial in acquiring freedom, property, and power within and for their communities. One such figure is Bayard Rustin, a prominent openly gay civil rights activist and strategist, renowned for his critical role in organizing the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Rustin famously remarked, “We need, in every community, a group of angelic troublemakers.”  Through my artworks, I’m seeking to amplify the history of the LGBTQ+ community by focusing on figures, like Rustin and Steuben, who were strategists, orchestrators and tacticians in their movements.

In my practice I explore the past by combining the drawn line from sources like historical etchings, political cartoons and children’s coloring books to reflect how we interpret and transform historical memory. The converging lines in these works give rise to new forms, serving as conduits for (re)imagined portrayals of these historical figures and their narratives. The wisp -like ethereal quality of the drawings seeks to highlight the duality of these individuals’ invisibility and how the reverberations of past actions continue to impact us, traversing through time and space.

Artist Bio

David Rios Ferreira‘s abstract drawings, sculptures, and installations explore the past by combining historical etchings depicting colonial narratives and political cartoons illustrating American imperialism with children’s coloring books and pop culture. Ferreira deconstructs and reconstitutes these sources to create temporal beings and hybrid landscapes. These new bodies serve as conduits for imagined histories, reflecting how the body interprets and transforms historical memory.

Ferreira has exhibited in galleries and museums in the US and abroad. He’s had solo exhibitions at Wave Hill (Bronx, NY), Morgan Lehman Gallery (New York, NY), the Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (Brattleboro, VT), and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (Salt Lake City, UT). He has held residencies at the Lower East Side Printshop (New York, NY), Elizabeth Foundation for the Arts (New York, NY), and The Center for Book Arts (New York, NY). Ferreira has participated in professional development programs such as Emerge 11 at Aljira (Newark, NJ) and the Bronx Museum’s Artist in the Marketplace (AIM) program (Bronx, NY). He has won public art commissions with Meta Open Arts, Art at Amtrak, Percent for Art and MTA Art & Design. Awards include a New Jersey State Council on the Arts Fellowship, a National Association of Latino Arts & Culture Fund for the Arts grant, and he has been nominated for the United States Artists Award and the Joan Mitchell Fellowship. David Rios Ferreira received a B.F.A. from The Cooper Union and currently lives and works in Jersey City, NJ and New York.

About The Curator:

Katherine Gressel (she/her), contemporary curator, Old Stone House & Washington Park, earned her BA in art from Yale and MA in arts administration from Columbia. In addition to organizing over a dozen major exhibitions to date at OSH, Katherine has curated and produced artist projects for Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Smack Mellon, FIGMENT, No Longer Empty, St. Francis College, and Brooklyn Historical Society, and was the 2016 NARS Foundation emerging curator.  Katherine has written and presented on art and social impact for Americans for the Arts and Public Art Dialogue, among others. Katherine also served as Programs Manager at Smack Mellon Gallery from 2010-2014, and has worked and consulted for diverse nonprofits. Contact: katherinegressel@gmail.com; 917-684-2109 

This exhibition is made possible, in part, by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.