Edgar Arceneaux

Dec 01 2017 — Mar 25 2018
Dec 02 — Mar 25
Los Angeles–based artist and YBCA 100 honoree Edgar Arceneaux explores historical patterns around race and representation through drawings, installations, and theater.

At YBCA, the artist experiments with the exhibition as a format of presentation. Until, Until, Until… (2015–17) is a multi-media video installation as well as a live action play—written, staged, and directed by Arceneaux—that revisits a controversial performance by Ben Vereen at Ronald Reagan’s inauguration. Complementing this work, Library of Black Lies (2016) is a large-scale sculpture and labyrinth containing a collection of crystallized books—from dictionaries, to encyclopedias, to novels—presenting variants on African American history.

Until, Until, Until… will be performed live in the gallery space on February 22–24, 2018.

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From the Curator

Edgar Arceneaux is a Los Angeles–based artist whose drawings, sculptures, and films interrogate how we construct history and memory in a racially divided country. At YBCA, the artist presents two large-scale projects. The inhabitable sculpture Library of Black Lies (2016) is a labyrinth populated by dozens of books, their texts obscured by sugar crystals. Mirrors within the structure convey a sense of the infinite, reflecting and refracting both viewers and the books’ abstracted contents. Pushing against the usual conception of a library as a place of knowledge containing an endless number of histories, Arceneaux points to the fragility of knowledge, particularly in our era of post-truth.

The artist’s challenge to what passes as news continues with Until, Until, Until . . . (2015–17), a multimedia video installation and live-action play that he wrote, staged, and directed. It revisits artist Ben Vereen’s infamous performance at Ronald Reagan’s 1981 presidential inauguration ceremony, which was televised on ABC. In what was intended as a pointed social satire, Vereen performed the famous show tune “Waiting for Robert E. Lee” in blackface during the first act, then sang the mournful song “Nobody” while removing the blackface during the second. The omission of the second, emancipatory act from national television resulted in the ruin of his reputation, particularly within the black community. Until, Until, Until . . . reconstructs both acts, recovering the social critique Vereen meant to express.

These works by Arceneaux intentionally cast doubt on our ability to trust the historical record, especially when it comes to black history. The artist employs strategies such as layering, reflection, accretion, and occlusion in the face of the complex and the misconstrued, inviting us to unpack strata of time and space in alternative ways.

— Lucía Sanromán, Director of Visual Arts and Dorothy Davila, Associate Director of Visual Arts

Artist Bio
Edgar Arceneaux

Edgar Arceneaux (b. 1972, Los Angeles) is an artist working in the media of drawing, sculpture, and performance, whose works often explore connections between historical events and present-day truths. He played a seminal role in the creation of the Watts House Project, a redevelopment initiative to remodel a series of houses around the Watts Towers, serving as director from 1999 to 2012. His work has been featured at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Performa 15, New York; and the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts, among other venues. Arceneaux lives and works in Pasadena, California.


Yerba Buena Center for the Arts is grateful to the City of San Francisco for its ongoing support.

YBCA Programs are made possible in part by: The James Irvine Foundation.

Additional Funding for YBCA Programs: National Endowment for the Arts, Abundance Foundation, Grosvenor, and Members of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

YBCA Exhibitions are made possible in part by: The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Panta Rhea Foundation, American Council of Learned Societies Public Fellows Program, and Meridee Moore and Kevin King.

Edgar Arceneaux is supported, in part, by Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects.

Edgar Arceneaux, Until, Until, Until…, 2015. A Performa Commission for Performa 15.

Lead Image: Edgar Arceneaux, Until, Until, Until…, 2016. Courtesy the artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. Photographs by Robert Wedemeyer.