MY COUNTRY TIS OF THY PEOPLE, YOU’RE DYING
Through May 26. Radiator Gallery, 10-61 Jackson Avenue, Queens; 347-677-3418, radiatorarts.com.
This show of work by Native American artists organized by Erin Joyce Projects at a collaborative art space in Long Island City, Queens, has been in the works for a couple of years but is only getting more timely. This exhibition includes provocative and handsome photography (by Tom Jones), sculpture (Cannupa Hanska Luger) and film (Steven J. Yazzie), as well as the Winter Count Collective’s memorable short protest video.
The standout is Nicholas Galanin’s take on the cult of white martyrdom that underlies and abets institutionalized American brutality. A suit of ceramic body armor at once threatening and fragile, the sculpture hangs on the wall in pieces, as if reconstructed empirically from a series of bruising discoveries. The suit’s design, by Mr. Galanin, is a cross between ordinary riot gear and the uniform of a “Star Wars” Stormtrooper — the ceramic is white with an oily, iridescent glaze, and a police baton hangs nearby. Its title, “God Complex,” is overkill, since hanging the outfit in cruciform makes the point more effectively. But the insight is right on: A grandiose sense of victimhood, inflamed by epic fantasies and impervious to rational disproof, is one of the best tools there is for victimizing others.