Manny Prieres’ solo exhibition “Lock Them Out And Bar The Door. Lock Them Out Forevermore” at Spinello Projects is a library of reinvented banned and censored publications.
Miami-based artist Manny Prieres considers himself part artist, part anthropologist, part graphic designer and he combines those parts as he explores and translates literature that has been banned or censored to create dark reexaminations by adding additional layers of meaning to the already context heavy texts.
Freedom of speech and the power of words are two concepts explored in Prieres’ work. Each book and film he selects as subject for his work contains material that has been labeled propaganda, dangerous, offensive, extremist, blasphemous or obscene. Different cultures, societies and eras see and have seen varying degrees of censorship, and definitions of inappropriate material are subject to change. Government imposed bans tend to be linked to the respective political system and religious believes of the majority.
In the three bodies of work presented in the exhibit, Prieres addresses these issues in different ways. Four silkscreen prints show the entire textual content of four books, superimposed layer on top of consecutive layer. None of the text is readable and through the layering of the text the book essentially censors itself as the words are blocked out and all that is left are black blocks of ink hinting at the former content now obscured to the eye and mind.
The second set are ten tone-on-tone drawings of intertwining subversive statements or propaganda atop decorative floral graphics. The innocence and floral beauty stand in stark contrast to the words, such as “Work Sets You Free” and the show title “Lock Them Out And Bar The Door. Lock Them Out Forevermore.”
For said title Prieres chose the opening words of the 1968 re-release of “Haexan” (The Witches) by Danish Filmmaker Benjamin Christensen. Originally released in 1922 the silent horror film/ documentary depicts superstitions and mythologies surrounding mental illness, Satanism and the hysteria of the medieval witch hunts. The film, which portrays sacrilegious rituals, suggestive imagery and sexual gestures, was banned in the Unites States and heavily censored in other countries.
The main body of work in the exhibit consists of thirty graphite on gouache drawings of thirty book covers of banned or challenged publications, such as Vladimir Nabokov’s “Lolita,” George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” and Salman Rushdie’s “The Satanic Verses.”
Prieres explains, “The first one I did was ‘Howl’ by Allen Ginsberg. I was really interested in using the first edition graphic of the cover but instead of using the actual color I wanted to use only black. Different shades of black because black has a lot of connotations.” He adds “I wanted to make a series where I could have the Bible and the ‘Anarchist Cookbook’ and ‘The Communist Manifesto’ all in one on the same level and have that discussion. All these books have been censored for a reason. Some people might say for good reason but I don’t believe in censorship whatsoever . I don’t care what the message is. It will make things worse, I feel. Do I have any interest in reading ‘The Turner Diaries‘? Not at all. But I thought it is interesting that it has been banned.”
The artist recreates the covers of these books, using the graphics of the original version (besides for ‘The Communist Manifesto’ for which he chose the 1964 American edition). The covers show the original cover art, author name and book title and even though none of the books can be opened and read, the context of each publication tells more than just one story. Prieres creates a dialogue that goes beyond the text and beyond the words of the authors. His work questions censorship and gives power to the words via omission, letting the silenced words speak even louder.
“Lock Them Out And Bar The Door. Lock Them Out Forevermore” runs through November 3 at Spinello Projects, 2930 NW 7th Ave, Miami, FL 33127.