Orchestrated by Arte’s associate editor, John Jarasa, “Life Inside” chronicles the urban allure of the streets and the little known world of incarceration, showcasing the hidden and oftentimes unexpected beauty of what is collectively considered the harshest of environments. This is outsider art from people inside. In this issue, Life Inside invites us into a world where creativity and artistry offers relief to the disenfranchised.
Here weapons of survival are handcrafted from rudimentary objects, like toothbrushes and shaving razors. Kites are launched yet never soared in the open sky, but rather serve as aerial messengers between prison cells, the logistics of an illicit mail system. Pillowcases become canvases, and pens become paintbrushes. This exhibition demonstrates humans ultimately exercising their will to choose, to be free even while confined.
Photographs by Edgar Hoill became the first-time acrylic piece that was done by legendary OG Abel. The show featured a collection of artists both old and new. Adrian Nieto used a prison toilet and washbasin as foundation materials for his sculpture. Paired with the works from inside are photographs from Jarasa’s life outside. He too finds meaning in his environment, in the subtleties of a place frightening to some yet home to many.
This exhibition portrays the quiet beauty of a culture that is often misunderstood, shamed, and obscured by oppression. Jarasa’s compilation, like the poems of Baudelaire, shines light on a contemporary urban wasteland.
Even more important is that this is the first time that a major art gallery has backed a street-culture show, and it’s with due respect and sincerity that we thank Patrick and Soo Jin for extending their blessings on this show.