Stacked Dominos by artist Donald Sultan is a large-scale (96″ x 96″) painting (above), made of black tar and white latex paint, showing twenty-eight Dominoes scattered throughout, appearing as if in mid-shuffle.
The game of Dominoes has been played throughout the centuries in various parts of the world, and has become an important part of the tradition in immigrant communities here at home. The exhibit, Spots, Dots, Pips, Tiles: an Exhibition About Dominoes at the Hunter East Harlem Gallery, celebrates the game as it’s played throughout El Barrio. More than twenty participating artists have created visual compositions of the game, while exploring its cultural importance.
In creating their works, they have not lost sight of the fact that the game is primarily about the people at the table. The exhibit also includes a documentary section featuring over two dozen related photographs from around the World, with images by Magnum photographers Susan Meiselas and Patrick Zachmann, and by Puerto Rican artist Carlos Ortiz. Below are just a few of the thought-provoking installations we discovered while visiting the gallery, and viewing each artists’ personal creation on the cultural importance of this tradition, based on their own experience.
Dominus Dominant, a crucifix made out of dominoes by artist Papo Colo (above) is meant to explore the relationship between religion and the working class, by challenging notions of what truly dominates.
Dominodomino (above and below) is a collaborative work by Edra Soto and Dan Sullivan. This beautiful hand-crafted domino table and four stools was inspired by a story about Marcel Duchamp, in which he ended his art practice in the 1920s to play chess. The installation is an open invitation for visitors to sit and play the game.
Toward the back of the gallery is a photo documentary section with over two-dozen photographs sourced from The Library of Congress, Magnum photographers, and the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, adding the global range of Dominos to this exhibit. Four of the photos (above) include, from top left, Jerusalem-Domino Game 2012; Domino game in the old area of Muharraq at Bahrain, 2013; Playing dominoes or cards in front of drug store in center of town in Mississippi Delta, Mississippi, 1939; Las Domineras, El Barrio, NYC, June, 2010. There is even a photo of Hillary Clinton playing Dominoes on her recent visit to the Corsi Senior Center in East Harlem earlier this year.
In the piece entitled Eat Seeds ‘n All! (above), artist Betye Saar critiques African-American racial stereotypes, and how they have historically been represented in American popular culture.
In his floor sculpture above, entitled Juguetes, artist Kenny Rivero created a three-dimensional work comprised of mementos of gatherings on the floor in his studio, including that which came from Dominoes games, providing viewers with a peek into his normally private space.
Sarah Hotchkiss wall sculpture entitled Something for Nothing greets the viewer entering Hunter East Harlem Gallery
Domino Set (above) was created as part of a multiple by artist Lawrence Weiner. Here, Weiner has inscribed each Domino set with a word on one tile and its antonym on another. The artists’ inspiration stems from the wide range of immigrant communities in New York playing the game, each from their own cultural reference point, and how the social bonds of the game strengthen and bring societies closer together.
With a title taken from Charles Dickens’ novel, the mixed-media installation entitled Great Expectations (above) is a story unto itself. Here, the artist, Nari Ward, arranged a set of Dominoes as if in play, on top of a mirror, with a brown paper bag overlay. The brown bag to reference the brown paper bag test, a discriminatory practice used in the first half of the 20th century, and the mirror to reflect the viewers own skin shade.
The intricate miniature work (above) entitled The Domino Players “Jamaican Style” by artist Talwst was created with inspiration from the impressionist Paul Cezanne’s painting The Card Players, and the traditional games played in the immigrant community among groups of Jamaicans in Crown Heights.
Artist Radames “Uni” Figueroa created his piece entitled Street Studios based on the city streets where Domino games often take place. His installation was created from everyday materials like asphalt, beer caps, gum and spray paint. As a Puerto Rican born artist, he challenges all romantic clichés about the Caribbean as a place exclusively for leisure and pleasure, and focuses on the reality of the chaotic streets, where workers are free to express frustration and emotion.
Arden Sherman, Curator, Hunter East Harlem Gallery
Spots, Dots, Pips, Tiles: An Exhibition About Dominoes will be on view to February 11, 2017 at Hunter East Harlem Gallery located at 2180 Third Avenue at 119th Street. The exhibit, curated by Arden Sherman and Maria Elena Ortiz, will then travel to the Perez Art Museum Miami in the summer of 2017.
Next, take a walk around El Barrio. Visit a few local bakeries, an abandoned historic courthouse, or read about The History of NYC Streets: The Emergence of Lexington Avenue. Get in touch of the author at AFineLyne.