Open Structure

Ron Bechet, Jared Brown, Whit Forrester, Jennie C. Jones, Harold Mendez, Janelle Ayana Miller, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, and Derrick Woods-Morrow

Curated by Grace Deveney

School of Art Gallery November 3, 2022 to January 28, 2023

Reception: Thursday, November 3, 5:00-8:00 pm

“When breath becomes an object of attention, no longer unremarked on, no longer taken for granted, no longer an uninspected given, anxiety is also in the air.”

– Nathaniel Mackey

Open Structure explores the subtle rhythms and systems that structure life. The exhibition considers how sound, music, and touch can offer new perspectives on systems such as identity and the rules that govern our lives, and also provide space to pause, gather, and dream. Many of the artists in the exhibition look to histories of avant-garde and experimental Black music as part of their research, including musicians such as Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, and Gil Scott-Heron. Other artists approach the themes of the exhibition by drawing our attention to a range of structures, including breath.

This exhibition is informed by Nathaniel Mackey’s 2016 lecture “Breath and Precarity,” and his exploration of breath as a structuring element of avant-garde music and poetry in the 1950s and 1960s. Mackey, a poet, editor, and critic, suggests that this attention to breathing created an aesthetic attuned to the rhythms and nuances of the poet or musician’s breath, and can be understood as a symptom of political emergency. A new audio commission, made specifically for the exhibition, focuses on the importance of breath to Black experimental art, and ways of understanding structure in the present.

Open Structure developed during the recent and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a health crisis that made us acutely aware of the air around us and made urgent the need for new political structures. Though representations of the body are largely absent from the exhibition, many of the artists reference sensory experience through works that use ordinary materials and respond to the presence of the viewer. Others depict the natural world and reference life cycles that unfold at a scale different from our own.

In music composition, an open structure is a harmony composed of notes from a wide range, and in this context, the form suggests the peaks and valleys of experience. Overall, the artworks model ways of questioning current political and social structures and posit alternative ways of organizing and being together.

Open Structure is the first of three exhibitions presented as part of the School of Art Gallery’s Visiting Curator Program. Launched in Summer 2021, this initiative supports curatorial research, exhibitions, events, and publications by emerging and established guest curators alike.

The Visiting Curator Program is a catalyst for international-calibre exhibitions and aims to play a vital role in defining contemporary art and its attendant discourses in the Prairies. It gives students, faculty, and other community members meaningful opportunities to engage with curators charting bold new trajectories in their field. Through a significant mentorship component, it aims to foster strong new voices in this discipline.

We are pleased to welcome Grace Deveney, Lillian O’Brien Davis, and Shalaka Jadhav as the program’s inaugural visiting curators. This program is generously supported by Michael F.B. Nesbitt.

In Dialogue

otherwise, 2021, single channel video. Video still: courtesy of the artist

Kameelah Janan Rasheed: otherwise

Lobby Gallery

Animation and graphics consultation:
Mpho “Solid” Madi (Johannesburg, South Africa)

Film excerpts:
Dream Deferred featuring Fannie Lou Hamer (Harvey Richards, 1964)
Mississippi Goddam (Nina Simone, 1965)
Mississippi Goddam (Nina Simone, mid-1970s)
Winter in America (Gil Scott-Heron, 1975)
Clearing California Skies (California Air Resources Board, 1998)
Youth United for Community Action (YUCA) Rally (, 2007)
“California air quality: One-third of population deals with sub-standard air quality” (The Los Angeles Times, 2014)

Texts cited:
Sharpe, Christina. In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. United Kingdom: Duke University Press, 2016.
Crawley, Ashon T.. Blackpentecostal Breath: The Aesthetics of Possibility. United States: Fordham University Press, 2016.

Commissioned by the California Air Resources Board

Untitled (Cowboy) – good to me as I am to you, 2022, single channel video. Video stills: courtesy of the artist

Derrick Woods-Morrow: Untitled (Cowboy): good to me as I am to you

Collections Gallery

appropriated archival film
the feeling of lying on the ground staring up

Public Programming


Land-Based Circle: A conversation with land-based educators and artists

Wednesday, November 2, 7:00-9:00 pm, ARTlab 364

Join the School of Art Gallery for a conversation about land-based pedagogies and their relation to artistic practice. We are inviting land-based educators and artists to sit together to discuss their work, to share commonalities, and to build relationships.

In conjunction with Open Structure, we are inviting Louisiana-based artist, Ron Bechet, whose practice is aligned with this conversation. Bechet’s charcoal drawings depict tangled vines, branches, and roots, which he sees as metaphors for growth and stagnation. Bechet’s drawings are based on his memories of walks in places where Black people have shaped the land and history.


Grace Deveney, Ron Bechet, and Whit Forrester in Conversation

Thursday, November 3, 12:00-1:30 pm, ARTlab 364

Join Open Structure curator Grace Deveney and exhibiting artists Ron Bechet and Whit Forrester as they discuss their respective practices. This conversation will centralize and build on some of the themes of the exhibition, discussing the ways that formal and structural experimentation can create space to imagine new paradigms or ways of being.

Livestreamed on the University of Manitoba School of Art YouTube Channel. ASL interpretation and closed captioning available


Open Structure Exhibition Tour with Ron Bechet and Blair Fornwald

Friday, November 4, 12:00-1:00 pm, School of Art Gallery

Meet visiting artist Ron Bechet during this conversational lunchtime tour of Open Structure. Bechet will discuss his artistic research and processes in context, while School of Art Gallery Director/Curator will provide an overview of the exhibition.

Radio Show

Jared Brown and Janelle Ayana Miller on The MonkeySparrow

Tuesday, December 13, 10:30-11:00 pm,  CKUW 95.9 FM

Also available via

Open Structure exhibiting artists Jared Brown and Janelle Ayana Miller will be featured on The MonkeySparrow, a weekly radio show hosted by hannah_g on CKUW 95.9 fm. This experimental radio segment will highlight inspiring components of both Jared Brown and Janelle Ayana Miller’s collaborative processes. It will feature select audio from their installation, paired with anecdotal offerings by both artists.

Every Tuesday, The MonkeySparrow presents original stories based on this city and elsewhere, essays and letters that attempt to comprehend the insignificant and too large, and music from a juxtapostastic collection of the known, new, answered and fated.


Derrick Woods-Morrow: Pleasure Synthesis: Nomenclatures of Ecstasy

Thursday, January 12, 6:00-8:00 pm, Collections Gallery

Derrick Woods-Morrow’s performance, Pleasure Synthesis: Nomenclatures of Ecstasy invites audiences to consider a radically liberatory proposition: what does pleasure without labour look like? When was the last time you experienced this sensation? What did it feel like? A deeply intimate and moving exchange then takes place between objects in the space, a the audience, and the artist, centred on ideas of death, loss, love, sex, labour, and pleasure. Recounting his own sexual experiences, Woods-Morrow ruminates on both the potential for the body to give and receive love and pleasure, and on the shame, violence, and labour forced on Queer Black Folk(x). In both this performance and his sculpture, How do we memorialize an event that is still happening?, exhibited in Open Structure, Woods-Morrow uses worn mattresses as stand-ins for the body, requiems for dreams unfulfilled, quiet containers that carry our energy through some of the most intimate and transformative human acts: metaphorical resting places, the vessels that hold us when we are born, when we sleep, when we dream, when we have sex, as we sweat, and often, ultimately, when we die.

Artist Bios

Transformation, 2021, charcoal on paper. Photo: Eric Waters

Ron Bechet was born in New Orleans and lives in the Gentilly neighborhood. He holds a BA from the University of New Orleans and an MFA in Painting from Yale University School of Art. He is known for his large-scale works that draw on experiences and observations of the consequences of forces of nature and time on place and human experience. Using imagery drawn from nature and improvisational mark making grounded in African diasporic cultural practices and New Orleans African-American culture and ritual, Bechet makes work that expresses human contention, harmony, and the hope of reconciliation and spiritual transformation. Bechet has also worked on several community-based art projects. He is the Victor H. Labat Professor of Art at Xavier University of Louisiana where he has taught for over twenty years. Bechet is Chair of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Board of Directors and a member of the board of Trustees at the Ogden Museum of Art and Antenna Works.

Photo: courtesy of the artist

Jared Brown is an interdisciplinary artist born in Chicago. In past work, Jared broadcasted audio and text-based work through the radio (CENTRAL AIR RADIO, 88.5 FM), in live DJ sets, and on social media. They consider themselves a data thief, understanding this role from John Akomfrah’s description of the data thief as a figure that does not belong to the past or present. As a data thief, Jared Brown makes archeological digs for fragments of Black American subculture, history and technology. Jared repurposes these fragments in audio, text, and video to investigate the relationship between history and digital, immaterial space. Jared Brown holds a BFA in video from the Maryland Institute College of Art and moved back to Chicago in 2016 in order to make and share work that directly relates to their personal history.

The Electric Universe Theory, ongoing, gold leaf and electronics.
Photo: courtesy of the artist

Whit Forrester is based in San Francisco, CA. They have a BA in Environmental Studies from Oberlin College and an MFA in Photography from Columbia College. Exhibited widely, in both national and international contexts, and with a range of aesthetic interests that include: practices of accumulation, manifestations of power, diaspora, noetic science, new materialisms, discourses around the transcendent and the material relationship between self and world. These encounter fusion around ideas of regenerative relationships to both land and people, collective liberation, quantum feminisms, queer theory, spiritual and occult praxis and ontology and addressing historical trauma as spiritual practice.

Vertical Shift, Fractured Crescendo, 2019, acoustic panel, acrylic on canvas.
Photo: Evan Jenkins, courtesy of the artist and PATRON Chicago

Jennie C. Jones lives and works in Hudson, NY. She received an MFA from Rutgers University Mason Gross School of the Arts in 1996, and a BA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1991. She is a Bard College MFA faculty and a critic at Yale School of Art. She has presented solo exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Alexander Gray Associates, The Arts Club of Chicago, The Phillip Johnson Glass House, and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston. Jones’ work was presented in Prospect 5: Yesterday we said tomorrow (2021) in New Orleans and she has exhibited in numerous group exhibitions, including at The Museum of Modern Art, Baltimore Museum of Art, Smart Museum of Art, and DePaul Art Museum, among others. Her work is in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Studio Museum in Harlem, Walker Art Center, and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, among others. Jones is represented by PATRON Chicago.

At night we walk in circles, 2016, cotton, graphite, spray enamel, watercolor, toner, litho crayon on ball grained aluminum lithographic plate mounted on Dibond, 60” x 84”.
Installation view, 2017 Whitney Biennial. Photo: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Harold Mendez lives and works in Los Angeles, CA. He received an MFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2007, a BA from Columbia College Chicago in 2000, and attended the University of Science and Technology, School of Art and Design in Ghana, West Africa in 1999. He has exhibited widely across the United States, including at the 2017 Whitney Biennial, ICA Miami, MCA Chicago, DePaul Art Museum, ICA LA, Smart Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York, ICA Philadelphia, Studio Museum in Harlem, and MoMA PS:1, among many others. His work is included in the public collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Studio Museum Harlem, DePaul Art Museum, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Colección Diéresis, and the J.P. Morgan Chase Collection, among many others. Mendez is represented by PATRON Chicago.

Photo: courtesy of the artist

Janelle Ayana Miller is a grandchild of the Great Migration, a Midwesterner with Southern inflection. Her practice is rooted within familial and communal aesthetics, looking deeply into bridging self and time as an act of place-making while using modes of collage, found objects, film, food and photography.

ootherwise, 2021, single channel video. Video still: courtesy of the artist

A learner, Kameelah Janan Rasheed (she/they), grapples with the poetics-pleasures-politics of Black knowledge production, information technologies, [un]learning, and belief formation. They are a recipient of a 2022 Schering Stiftung Award for Artistic Research, a 2022 Creative Capital Award, and a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship in Fine Arts. Rasheed is the author of three artist’s books: An Alphabetical Accumulation of Approximate Observations (Endless Editions, 2019), No New Theories (Printed Matter, 2019), and the digital publication Scoring the Stacks (Brooklyn Public Library, 2021). Their writing has appeared in Triple Canopy, The New Inquiry, Shift Space, Active Cultures, and The Believer. They are an adjunct instructor at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, a Critic at Yale School of Art, Sculpture, and a Mentor-in-Residence with NEW Inc. Rasheed is represented by NOME Gallery in Berlin, Germany.

How do we memorialize an event that is still ongoing?, 2022, used mattresses, various natural stains, subwoofer, wake work. Photo: School of Art Gallery

Derrick Woods-Morrow centers process-oriented collaborative projects with Queer Black Fol(x) across a wide variety of media. His work has been presented across the United States including at the 2019 Whitney Biennial (in collaboration with Paul Mpagi Sepuya), The Contemporary Art Center (New Orleans) the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Smart Museum (Chicago) and internationally, in Sweden, the Netherlands, and Germany. Woods-Morrow is a member of the Chicago-based collective concerned Black imagemakers and serves on the Board of Directors of the Fire Island Artist Residency. He holds an MFA from the School of Art Institute of Chicago and completed a Post- Baccalaureate at the Massachusetts College of Art Design. He was a resident of the Skowhegan School of Painting in 2022, a 2021 Bemis Centre Artist-in-residence, a 2018 Chicago Artist Coalition Resident, and is Assistant Professor of Sculpture, Painting & Textiles at the Rhode Island School of Design where he holds a Schiller Family Assistant Professorship in Race and Design. Originally from Greensboro, NC, he splits his time between Chicago and Rhode Island.