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Toisha Tucker

2018-19 Alice C. Cole '42 Fellow: Toisha Tucker


Toisha Tucker is a New York-based conceptual interdisciplinary artist. Their work responds to contemporary events and often addresses issues of race, gender, identity, technology, human empathy, and activism. Many of Tucker's pieces are process-based, and some are long-term, ongoing efforts. Content and subject matter drive their choice of media, which often differ from project to project.

close up on glass doors, behind which are tightly squished a shredded American flag and shredded documents


Some of Us Were Brave

Jewett Art Gallery

Jan. 20 - March 6, 2020


four photos of city monuments on poles with pyramidal gray stands, and a plaque on the ground
unmonumental, economy paper on foamcore, gold leaf, U-channel metal posts, scaffolding supports, wooden bases, poem on bronze plaque, 2019
What can art do in a time of political, societal, and actual violence? In Toisha Tucker's practice, art and activism are two sides of the same coin. With an acute awareness of issues surrounding race, gender, economic disparities, and the institutionalization of prejudice and hatred in America today, Tucker's work speaks up and speaks out. Tucker makes use of a variety of media, including sculpture, installation, found objects, text, photography, collage, and printmaking to address subjects that they hold close to their heart. They pair materials densely packed with meaning with textual works that exist in the space between the didactic and the poetic. Citing both historical references and contemporary events, the artwork in this exhibition illuminates the traumas upon which America was built, and the ways those traumas continue to manifest to this day.
Tucker is the recipient of the 2018-19 Alice C. Cole '42 Fellowship, which provides funds to support one year of unimpeded time and space to experiment, develop a body of work, and focus on future artistic goals. Some of Us Were Brave features artwork created during Tucker's fellowship year. These pieces are exhibited alongside earlier works, many of which react directly to the events of the 2016 US presidential election.
two old fashioned punch clock machines on a pedestal; hands insert a punch card into the machine on the right
Reclaiming my time, reclaimed time clocks from the NYC Board of Elections, time cards, 2019
Referencing Rep. Maxine Waters' (D-CA) 2017 procedural motion, in the broader sense of reclaiming time-- past or present-- during which we or those in our diasporas have suffered from oppressions, traumas, etc, this piece invites viewers to reclaim their time, autonomy, and empowerment. The clock on the left is set to August 20, 1619, the arrival of the first slave ships in the US. The second clock is set to November 8, 2016, the date of the 2016 US election.
The Scarlet Letter, pieces of artist's soul sold to the Devil, Hobby Lobby home décor R purchased in Oklahoma, Make America Great Again, wooden craft box from Nebraska, 2016-ongoing
A process-based work rooted in crafting and emotional labor, this piece features MAGA hats disassembled and applied to the R to create a modern-day Scarlet Letter; a marker of shame instead displayed in the home with pride. 'R' is for Racist, Republican, Red State, Righteous, Regressive, Revisionist, Repulsive.
photo of two hands in a chapel surrounding a Michigan 'Water Wonderland' license plate mounted on the wall; below, a prayer bench stuffed with ephemera and a map on the floor with various containers of water, including sample jars
water wonderland, Flint tap water, Detroit tap water, Let Them Be Black print, corroded MI license plate, Flint Buick Motor Division Factory Complex blueprint planimetric, Marquis Waterford lead crystal bowl, vintage postcards, personal prayer bench sourced from MI with ephemera, thoughts and prayers, 2019
An altar reflecting on the Flint water crisis through the lens of environmental racism and racial capitalism.
white flag with line drawing of Supreme Court justices, some splattered with red paint; on a low pedestal below, photo of the US/Canada border crossing with USA overlaid in lights
I Dissent, white flag, archival ink, flagging tape, 2016-ongoing
the united states is backwards, backlit film poster, Christmas lights, 2017
The flag in I Dissent was initially created in January 2016 and is treated as a living document: upon death or resignation, the pictured Justices will be updated with their replacements. The makeup of the Supreme Court at the time of this exhibition was 5-4, Conservative (red) to Liberal (blue). It is a court that often, virulently, does not reflect even a modicum of concern for the life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness of women, people of color, economically disadvantaged peoples, and non-corporate entities.
The Christmas lights in the united states is backwards spell out U-S-A, highlighting a cultural normalization of Christianity in America that undermines a true separation of church and state, shining through an image of the United States border exit into Canada.


Madam President, lithograph, Ralph Lauren purple silk charmeuse, 2019
Collaboration with the artist Slinko.
Madam President addresses the media's (print, online, social) complicity in pushing narratives that favor sensationalism over fact, and their active avoidance of content addressing widespread support for the Democratic candidate, egregious voter suppression tactics, Russian involvement in our election, and the overtly sexist, xenophobic, White nationalist tilt of the GOP candidate. The purple silk lining the frame is made from the same material as the lapels and shirt Hillary Clinton wore to 'concede' the 2016 election.
a chest up mannequin with peach skin, breasts, and androgynous face, wearing a red MAGA hat and gold cross chain, on a high pedestal draped with white fabric
trigger warning, white mannequin bust, 24K gold cross, MAGA hat, three Lowe's paint buckets, white sheet, 2018
Exploring the distinction between White supremacy and White nationalism, this piece points to the intrinsic but often unacknowledged role of White women in each. The figure of the mannequin references both male and female imagery, confronting the viewer with the certainty that there are no White men without White women.
collage with text and numbers on left, repeated image of screaming boy in MAGA hat at right
not our mountaintop, Hillary's plan for America, wooden panel, mixed media, 2019
Hillary Clinton's Plan for America is overlaid with the winning tally of the popular vote from the 2016 election, juxtaposed with the image of a screaming boy at a GOP rally in 2016. The boy's image is doubled in reference to the Electoral College's doubled impact of votes from historically White states with smaller populations. The title references Dr. Martin Luther King's 1968 speech, "I've Been to the Mountaintop," and the boy emerges from a mountain range of Klan-like figures. America has always followed the great White-of-way, from Manifest Destiny to MAGA.
wood-framed birth certificate with the words 'OBAMA'S MOMMA WAS WHITE.' printed on top
one-drop rule (first black president), silkscreen of Obama's birth certificate as sourced from the White House presidential archive, printed on Docuguard Security Paper Advanced Medical Green, 2017
Growing up in America as a person of mixed race and being made to prove that they were a citizen with additional documentation that was at least 15 years old (when they were only 25) to acquire a passport, Tucker was fascinated both by the perception of Barack Obama as a Black President, and by the birther movement that arose during his tenure.
Obama was the first President who had to provide his birth certificate as proof of his status as a citizen; his father was African. American citizenship has consistently been location-based (if you're born here, you are a citizen) and maternity-based (if your mother is an American, you are an American). In fact, for a long time, as a way of allowing soldiers to deny any accountability for children 'fathered' abroad, an American father was not sufficient reason to extend American citizenship to a child. Obama was born in a U.S. state and his mother was a U.S. citizen.
The one-drop rule was a form of racial and social segregation popularized in the South in the early 20th century; tangentially it acted as a mode of subverting those persons of color who could pass as White. Barack Obama is a person of mied race, born of a White mother and Black father. Historically and contemporarily, race in America has not been allowed to exist as a duality-- we're forced to singularly define ourselves, generally choosing the race one would be presumed to be based on outward appearance.
a shallow wall cabinet with two glass doors resting on the floor, stuffed with a shredded American flag and shredded documents
History 101, 100 shredded US-centric documents, 1 coffin-length 49-star US flag manufactured in Puerto Rico and dismantled 7/4/19, reclaimed bulletin board from the NY Attorney General's office, 2019
The uppermost layer in this piece consists of the remains of a 49-star coffin-length US flag manufactured in Puerto Rico and dismantled on July 4th in Wisconsin. The middle layer contains papers covering the period from 1919-2019, ending with the NY Times dated 9/24/19 front page section, headlined by Nancy Pelosi announcing the formal impeachment of the 45th President of the United States. The bottom layer's papers cover the period of 1918-768 BCE. The included documents involve various promises of 'Western Democracy' and 'The American Dream'; in their shredded state, they indicate that those promises remain unfulfilled.
a very small black and white surveillance-style photo mounted on a white gallery wall
Birth of a Nation, 40 seconds, seven bullets fired by a police officer at point-blank range across Diamond Reynolds' body into the body of her partner Philando Castile, two hitting his heart, with her four-year-old daughter in the backseat, 10 minutes 29 seconds livefeed video of Reynolds in the car while Castile bleeds to the death, hands cuffed behind her back with her child in the backseat of a police car. Fuck. 2018
Dimensions to the scale of an ultrasound.
close up on gold-framed photo, post cards, and other ephemera stuffed into the top of a prayer bench   close up on sample container labeled 'FLINT TAP WATER/CONSUME AT OWN RISK'
gallery view showing various installations


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Toisha Tucker's website

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