RUN UPis the latest chapter in Ken Gonzales-Day's acclaimed Erased Lynchingseries, selections of which have been acquired by the Smithsonian Institution, the Norton Museum of Art and numerous private collections, and have also been exhibited internationally in museums and galleries in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, London, Paris, Vienna, Mexico City, and Bogota, among others.
The central work in the exhibition will be a new short film and still images of a reenactment inspired by a 1920 lynching of a Latino in California. Gonzales-Day created the film and related photographic series to bring greater visibility to the presence of Latinos in the history of lynching in the United States and to draw parallels between the past and the present. Unlike previous bodies of work in which Gonzales-Day used found or archival imagery, the restaging highlights not only the history of lynching nationwide but contemporary events like Ferguson.
The film and related photographs depict events surrounding the lynching of Charles Valento, also known as "Spanish Charley", who was one of three men (two white and one Latino) to be lynched in Santa Rosa, California, in 1920. The details surrounding the case were drawn from the Coroner's report and Gonzales-Day's own archival research that strongly suggests that police officers were present at the 1920 lynching - which the press mischaracterized as mob vigilantism.
The primary difference between this project and conventional narrative depictions of lynching and vigilantism previously found in films - ranging from Sergio Leone's Spaghetti Westerns to Steve McQueen's recent 12 Years a Slave - is that in RUN UPthe victim's body is not visible in the final moments of the scene. The absence of the lynching victim intentionally seeks to disrupt the normative power of racial victimization, raise awareness
about America's lynching victims (Asians, Latinos, African Americans, and Native Americans) and reflect on the broader question of capital punishment and police brutality currently taking place in this country.
Ken Gonzales-Day states:
"In making the film, I felt like the restaging of a 1920 lynching was relevant to our own times, not simply because the topic has never been the subject of a major (or minor) film, but because so many aspects of the Latino experience are not even recognized as part of the American experience."
Accompanying the film and images of the reenactment are stills shot in Los Angeles during the protest marches that took place in the days following the Grand Jury's decision in Ferguson, Missouri, not to indict Darren Wilson, the white police officer involved in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen, on August 9, 2014. (continued, over)
A third series of images document the destructive aftermath of the riots in locations throughout the city of Ferguson as well as images documenting memorials honoring Ezell Ford, a mentally ill young man killed by police in South Los Angeles two days after Michael Brown's death. (Less familiar is the death of Omar Abrego, a Mexican-American man who died in Los Angeles one week earlier on August 3rd, 2014, after being beaten by police - just four blocks from where Ford was shot and killed.)
In combining these seemingly distant events, the exhibition draws parallels between the history of lynching and police shootings today, at times blending the two events to create images that collapse history and provocatively speak to our own time.