Allison Janae Hamilton
Keep straight down this block,
Then turn right where you will find
A peach tree blooming.
I give permission
For this slow spring rain to soak
The violet beds.
— Richard Wright (1960)
On May 27, Allison Janae Hamilton will begin work on Wonder Room, a project that will transform Recess into a hybrid of a treehouse, resource lounge, imaginative think tank, and community environment. The installation—which will be activated by imagery from the natural world; plants, animal matter, and other organic artifacts; reading materials; and curated sounds—will offer opportunities for visitors to immerse themselves in a constructed, multi-faceted landscape and to explore the social implications of geographic space.
Wonder Room responds to the trope in the Western poetry canon of wonder or contemplation serving as a vehicle for personal or spiritual transformation within the natural landscape. However, drawing from the last four centuries of African-American nature poetry, the project circumvents the contemplative form attributed to the romantics and transcendentalists by instead using wonder as a means of thinking through the social and political concerns associated with landscape today—particularly those relating to environmental justice, displacement, and sustainability. Many of the sights, sounds, and imagery featured in the installation space come from Hamilton’s home regions within the rural American south. By infusing Recess’s Soho storefront with these materials, Wonder Room creates a deliberate play between the gallery’s urban surroundings and the project’s rural imagery. In this way, Wonder Room points to the impact that migration has on our relationships to landscape and the complexities of addressing rural space within an urban context.
Throughout the Session, the installation will act as the backdrop to a series of programs, including a film screening, song circle, book club discussion, and communal Sunday supper. Across these events, Wonder Room will accrue distinct resonances as it variously functions as the site of aesthetic experimentation, discursive exploration, and social exchanges.
November 11, 2023–January 25, 2024
Marcela Torres and Assembly
September 14–November 10, 2023
KING COBRA and Hue Hallums