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basic necessities

September 7 – October 6, 2018, 3:30pm - 7:00pm, LES Gallery

Opening reception: September 8th 7pm-10pm with live music by Tiger Mountain

Speaking engagement with the artists: September 21st 8pm and September 22nd 11am

The Clemente presents basic necessities, an audio/visual exhibition by Michelle Repiso. basic necessities documents three individuals and the mechanisms they employ to sustain their humanity while incarcerated. This exhibition demonstrates man’s need for communication and connection within our environment no matter how harsh. Mass incarceration is increasingly recognized as one of the most detrimental social issues facing the United States today and this installation focuses on art, creativity and imagination in an unlikely place.

Repiso’s work documents the highly personal objects Shane Ennover crafted out of household materials that people ordinarily use and discard. Toilet paper was a material Shane could transform into a rose and send as a memento to keep his relationship thriving while he was away. Mini bars of soap became sculptures that were given to family members as gifts during visitation. Juan Howard used pen and paper to write stories, poetry, draw and create music so that he could have genuine and authentic communication with others while he was incarcerated. Coss Marte maintained his strength by reading the Bible, motivating others with fitness training and making prison burritos as a way to bond with those around him. All three men served time for the crimes they committed and sought communication and normality to help better themselves.

This exhibition does not trivialize or lessen their crimes, but instead, it focuses on the ways that one copes with the situation they are given and finds beauty in the mundane and with unlikely materials. Current American policy continues to isolate and separate incarcerated individuals. When resources for rehabilitation aren’t available to them the chance of recidivism is high. Repiso has witnessed this first hand throughout her time working with youthful offenders at Rikers Island. If structure or stimulation isn’t available then there isn’t a will to grow, change and succeed.

Every piece that is photographed derives from an object that was created while incarcerated. All three men are trying to right their wrongs despite the stigma they carry from being formerly incarcerated. Each of them made more of the situation they were in and can now be recognized as a vehicle for change. Repiso addresses the importance of understanding the person, not just seeing the environment that he or she was a part of.