On view Oct. 28–Dec. 1, the exhibition showcases 13 artists working with the Brooklyn art and community space's program for court-involved youth who use photography, video, printmaking and mixed media to confront issues of identity, liberty and community

Still image from Shaun Leonardo's video "Memory/Cycle"
Shaun Leonardo's video, 'Memory/Cycle (The other side of that window...),' is part of an exhibition at the Gallatin Galleries. (Photo courtesy of the artist and Recess)

I Tried to Save Myself: Work from Representatives of Recess Assembly will be on view Oct. 28–Dec. 1 at New York University’s Gallatin Galleries, 1 Washington Pl. at the corner of Broadway in Manhattan. The exhibition is a collaboration with Recess Assembly, the Brooklyn center’s education program that serves as an alternative to incarceration, and it features work that creates a space of hope and shared humanity even as it exposes the deep impact of carceral trauma. 

The exhibition includes photography, video, collage and an ongoing musical workshop from Recess Assembly fellows and educators Amir Akram, Nate Bernard, Kristina Bivona, Brandon Edwards, Camilo Godoy, Zaire Irick, Saint James, KT Kennedy, Kirsten Leach, Shaun Leonardo, Glenn Quentin, Darrell Santana and Jay Ventura.

“Recess's work is a remarkably effective model for challenging the carceral state's way of processing people. It offers a path away from incarceration and toward creative expression, careers and ways of working through personal trauma that is manifest in the work in this show,” said Keith Miller, the exhibition curator and a professor at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. “This kind of real world application of abolitionist thinking and the potential of art as a catalyst for change and liberation is exactly how I hope the gallery can function with all our shows.”   

Among the works included in the exhibition are Bivona’s hand-crafted sculptural books exploring sex work, memory, stigma, sexual ambiguity and sadomasochism. Akram’s musical space offers a place for improvisation and play. Santana’s photography examines the  meaning of community and Ventura’s portraits, with their silks and jewels, invites viewers to think about what exists beyond their edges. Leonardo’s video, Memory/Cycle (The other side of that window…) is the result of workshops with those connected to the prison system, including police officers, legal advocates and formerly incarcerated individuals.

Three workshops will be held during the run of the exhibition that are built on a model created by Recess Assembly youth fellows Akram, Santana, Geremia Romain and Latham Butler, under the mentorship of Leonardo, the program’s co-director. Piloted at the Gallatin Galleries in 2021, the workshops are a series of visualization and embodiment exercises around issues of policing. They will be in The Jerry H. Labowitz Theatre for the Performing Arts, 1 Washington Pl.

“Storytelling,” Nov. 1,  2:00–4:30 p.m., uses a game of cause and effect to explore the historical growth of the New York City Police Department. 

“Performance,” Nov. 9, 6:00–8:30 p.m., invites participants to create gestures associated with police activity as a way to identify alternative solutions to safety. 

“Visual Art,” Nov. 30, 6:00–8:30 p.m., teaches de-escalation techniques and a practice of listening for conflict resolution.

A reception for the artists is set for Nov. 1 from 5:00–7:00 p.m. The Gallatin Galleries are open Monday through Friday from 10:00–6:00 p.m. and Saturday 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. Members of the NYU community are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and receive a COVID-19 booster shot (if eligible for the booster based on CDC criteria); NYU community members must be able to show the NYU Violet Go Access Pass to enter the building. All visitors aged one and older must provide proof of being fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 with an FDA-authorized or WHO-listed vaccine and a government-issued ID to be admitted. Vaccination documentation must be in English and include name, date of birth, date of doses, and the vaccine manufacturer for each dose.


About The Gallatin Galleries:

The Gallatin Galleries, part of New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, showcases innovative and immersive work that blends multiple forms of artistic practice with themes that encompass economic, racial, and social justice. Founded in 2008 and curated by Keith Miller, the Galleries are home to complex and compelling displays that integrate video, photography, sound, painting and sculpture, illuminating the work of both up-and-coming and established artists while reflecting the interdisciplinary academic mission of the Gallatin School.


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