The Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College is excited to announce the newest iteration of artist Kameelah Janan Rasheed’s site-specific project, Worshipping at the Altar of Certainty: 1985. For this exhibition, which runs from August 24 to December 18, 2022, Rasheed returns to Pomona College, her alma mater, to create an installation specific to the college that challenges the traditional centered approach to knowledge.
“Rasheed’s exhibition is both a homecoming and a revelation,” said Rebecca McGrew, senior curator at the Benton. “A graduate of Pomona College, Rasheed brings an insider’s eye to how educational institutions shape and promote a certain concept of knowledge. Through her sharp and creative use of a wide range of materials and alternative ideas about knowing and learning, she offers us tantalizing possibilities for reimagining the educational enterprise.”
Rasheed is a learner who engages with a range of processes, materials, and forums that include sprawling Xerox-based installations, large-scale diagrammatic prints, public art, publications, video, and practices based on chance. Through her various methods and media, she explores the poetics, politics, and pleasures of the unfinished and the uncertain.
Rasheed first presented Worshipping at the Altar of Certainty at Williams College in 2021. There, in the temple-like rotunda that was the college’s first library, Rasheed installed large- scale prints, poems, and texts as well as a free-standing sculpture. Responding to the history of the site and in conversation with the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges—who once imagined a library that holds all possible books and all possible knowledge—Rasheed questioned the ideals of comprehensiveness and familiarity that often typifies both academic and religious institutions. Through this questioning, Rasheed engages with the work of scholars Ashon Crawley and Saidiya Hartman, who, with their respective concepts of “undoneness” and “waywardness,” propose to unseat familiar ways of thinking and knowing.
Rasheed brings this approach to Pomona College, from which she graduated in 2006 as a public policy major. The installation at the Benton will include a new video work, Keeping Count, and wall drawings set in the academic context and history of Pomona. Rasheed creates constellations of fragmented texts, framed prints, and a video work, prompting visitors to wander throughout the space and find meaning via a path of their choosing.
Snippets of text and graphic motifs disrupt linear meaning but invite unexpected connections and resonances. A reflective surface below Keeping Count animates the space, further layering and refracting facets of the exhibition. Rasheed proposes the college experience as an interdisciplinary site where connecting siloed structures of learning, seeing, and knowing can become a lifelong and continuous practice.
As a learner and educator herself, Rasheed will be engaging directly with her audience as a way to activate the installation. She and the curators will lead a mini-course titled “Lifecycles,” offering four drop-in classes from October 21-24 for the public and students. Courses will include making lumen prints at Pomona College’s Farm, learning algorithmic writing at the Hive, and artist- and curator-led office hours.
On December 8, Rasheed will lead an online discussion about her new publication and the role errors and iterations play in a book’s lifecycles, titled Algoritmic Book Composition (ABC).
About the Exhibition
The exhibition is curated by Mallory Cohen, Nidhi Gandhi, Elyse Mack, and Sinclair Spratley. The exhibition is organized at the Benton by Rebecca McGrew, senior curator, and Nicolas Orozco-Valdivia, curatorial assistant, with Sam Yin Ying Chan ’22 and Madeleine Mount-Cors ’23.
This exhibition is supported by the Eva Cole and Clyde Matson Memorial Fund and the Art Acquisitions and Programs Fund.
About the Artist
Kameelah Janan Rasheed lives and works in Brooklyn, New York. Born in East Palo Alto, California, Rasheed received an MA in Secondary Social Studies Education from Stanford University (2008) and a BA in Public Policy from Pomona College (2006). She was also an Amy Biehl US Fulbright Scholar in South Africa at the University of the Witwatersrand (2006– 07). Rasheed’s work has been exhibited nationally at the Bronx Museum of the Arts; Brooklyn Historical Society (now Center for Brooklyn History); Brooklyn Museum; Brooklyn Public Library; Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia; MASS MoCA; New Museum; Portland Institute for Contemporary Art; Queens Museum; Jack Shainman Gallery; and The Studio Museum in Harlem, among other institutions. Her work has been exhibited internationally at Bétonsalon—Centre d’art et de recherche in Paris; Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver; Kunsthalle Wien; Artspace Peterborough; 2017 Venice Biennial; and National Gallery of Zimbabwe, among others.