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THE WHOLE WORLD IS ROTTEN  /  February 10, 2005 – March 12, 2005  /

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Installation View, 2005

Free Radicals and the Gold Coast Slave Castles of Paa Joe
Jack Shainman Gallery is pleased to present the exhibition, The Whole World is Rotten: Free Radicals and the Gold Coast Slave Castles of Paa Joe, which includes works by Paa Joe, Radcliffe Bailey, John Bankston, Joseph Beuys, Margaret Bourke-White, Nick Cave, Coco Fusco, Ellen Gallagher, Leon Golub, Tony Gray, David Hammons, Barkley L. Hendricks, Lonnie Bradley Holley, Arthur Jafa, Kerry James Marshall, Chris McNair, Zwelethu Mthethwa, Paul Sequiera, Stephen Shames, Jeff Sonhouse, Carlos Vega, Roberto Visani, Andy Warhol, Carrie Mae Weems, and Lawrence Weiner.
Inspired by the culture of activism and the Black Power movement of the 1960s, The Whole World is Rotten: Free Radicals and the Gold Coast Slave Castles of Paa Joe presents historical documents and Black Panther memorabilia in dialogue with a diverse range of contemporary visual works. This creative exchange highlights the culture of the 1960s and the development, goals and achievements of the Black Power movement-the call for people to define themselves and the world on their own terms. It also makes visible the direct connections between and relevance of historical activism in today's social, political and economic climate as seen through the imagination of twenty-four contemporary artists working in painting, sculpture, photography, mixed media and video.
Paa Joe creates wooden coffins in his workshop located in the coastal town of Teshi, Ghana. The making of decorative fantasy coffins is a relatively new practice in Ghana that began in the 1950s and was popularized in the 1970s through the vision of coffin designer, Kane Kwei. Paa Joe, now the foremost maker of figural coffins, began his career as an apprentice in the workshop of Kane Kwei.
Ghanaian funerals are elaborate and expensive celebrations, often lasting several days. As part of the funeral ceremony, the coffin is carried through the town on the shoulders of relatives. The coffins normally function as a celebration of an individual's life, accomplishments and aspirations. Some examples include representations of fish, lions, chickens, boats, chili peppers, airplanes, and even a Mercedes Benz automobile.
For this exhibition, Paa Joe has created something wholly unique: Two coffin replicas of slave castles along the Ghanian coast. Neither occupational nor whimsical, these politically charged works represent the 15th century European trading posts were first used to export gold, ivory, pepper and hides. As the volume of the slave trade in West Africa grew from its inception around 1500 to its peak in the Eighteenth century, the trading posts were converted into slave castles to export humans as currency. Paa Joe's contemporary. Bold coffins are aesthetically powerful reminders of this historical period.
This dynamic exhibition, The Whole World is Rotten: Free Radicals and the Gold Coast Slave Castles of Paa Joe, which unties art, history, politics and popular culture opens on February 10th and is on view until March 12th, 2005.
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