Open Structure

Harold Mendez, At night we walk in circles, 2016, cotton, graphite, spray enamel, watercolor, toner, litho crayon on ball grained aluminum lithographic plate mounted on Dibond, 60” x 84”. Installation view, 2017 Whitney Biennial. Photo: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

Open Structure

Ron Bechet, Jared Brown, Whit Forrester, Jennie C. Jones, Harold Mendez, Janelle Ayana Miller, and Derrick Woods-Morrow
Curated by Grace Deveney, Visiting Curator

November 3, 2022, to January 28, 2023
Reception: Thursday, November 3, 5:00-8:00 pm
School of Art Gallery, University of Manitoba
Main Gallery and Collections Gallery

“When breath becomes an object of attention, no longer unremarked on, no longer taken for granted, no longer an uninspected given, anxiety is also in the air.”
— Nathaniel Mackey

Open Structure explores the subtle rhythms and systems that structure life. The exhibition considers how sound, music, and touch can offer new perspectives on systems such as identity and the rules that govern our lives, and also provide space to pause, gather, and dream. Many of the artists in the exhibition look to histories of avant-garde and experimental Black music as part of their research, including musicians such as Cecil Taylor, Ornette Coleman, and Gil Scott-Heron. Other artists approach the themes of the exhibition by drawing our attention to a range of structures, including breath.

This exhibition is informed by Nathaniel Mackey’s 2016 lecture “Breath and Precarity,” and his exploration of breath as a structuring element of avant-garde music and poetry in the 1950s and 1960s. Mackey, a poet, editor, and critic, suggests that this attention to breathing created an aesthetic attuned to the rhythms and nuances of the poet or musician’s breath, and can be understood as a symptom of political emergency. A new audio commission, made specifically for the exhibition, focuses on the importance of breath to Black experimental art, and ways of understanding structure in the present.

Open Structure developed during the recent and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, a health crisis that made us acutely aware of the air around us and made urgent the need for new political structures. Though representations of the body are largely absent from the exhibition, many of the artists reference sensory experience through works that use ordinary materials and respond to the presence of the viewer. Others depict the natural world and reference life cycles that unfold at a scale different from our own.

In music composition, an open structure is a harmony composed of notes from a wide range, and in this context, the form suggests the peaks and valleys of experience. Overall, the artworks model ways of questioning current political and social structures and posit alternative ways of organizing and being together.

Open Structure is the first of three exhibitions presented as part of the School of Art Gallery’s Visiting Curator Program. Launched in Summer 2021, this initiative supports curatorial research, exhibitions, events, and publications by emerging and established guest curators alike.

The Visiting Curator Program is a catalyst for international-calibre exhibitions and aims to play a vital role in defining contemporary art and its attendant discourses in the Prairies. It gives students, faculty, and other community members meaningful opportunities to engage with curators charting bold new trajectories in their field. Through a significant mentorship component, it aims to foster strong new voices in this discipline.

We are pleased to welcome Grace Deveney, Lillian O’Brien Davis, and Shalaka Jadhav as the program’s inaugural visiting curators. This program is generously supported by Michael F.B. Nesbitt.

Adjunct programming:

Grace Deveney, Ron Bechet, and Whit Forrester in Conversation
Thursday, November 3, 12:00-1:30 pm
ARTlab 364, School of Art, University of Manitoba.
Also live streaming on the UM School of Art Gallery YouTube Channel

Open Structure Curatorial Tour with Ron Bechet
Friday, November 4, 12:00-1:00 pm
School of Art Gallery, University of Manitoba

Jared Brown and Janelle Ayana Miller on The MonkeySparrow
Tuesday, December 13, 10:30-11:00 pm
On CKUW 95.9fm. Also available via

Derrick Woods-Morrow: Pleasure Synthesis: Nomenclatures of Ecstasy
Thursday, January 12, 6:00-8:00 pm
Collections Gallery, School of Art Gallery, University of Manitoba

For further details, please visit or

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School of Art Gallery
255 ARTlab
180 Dafoe Road
Winnipeg, MB, R3T2N2

The School of Art Gallery, located in Winnipeg, Manitoba, is generously supported by the University of Manitoba, the School of Art, and the Government of Canada, and by faculty, staff, donors, and volunteers. It sits on Treaty 1 territory, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation.

Open Structure is presented as part of the School of Art Gallery’s Visiting Curator Program, generously supported by Michael F.B. Nesbitt. Special thanks to Mother Earth Recycling for their assistance with the presentation of Open Structure.

Gallery Hours:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday: 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
Thursday: 8:30 am to 8:00 pm
Saturday: 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
Closed statutory holidays and between December 24 and January 3.

Free Parking after 4:30 pm

Visitor Protocols:
In accordance with University of Manitoba COVID-19 protocols, visitors must wear a 3-ply or similar mask in all indoor spaces.

Media Contact:
Cailyn Harrison, Communications Coordinator