Tavares Strachan: In broad daylight
Permanent installation on building façade
The Baltimore Museum of Art
Tavares Strachan (Bahamian, b. 1979) creates art that reveals the unseen cultural histories, narratives, and systems that invisibly affect people’s daily lives. His diverse, conceptual projects build shared understanding and connection within communities by making visible the economic and political forces that have come to define local experience. Location is important to Strachan’s work; in understanding and calling to question a place’s past and its social context, he helps individuals consider their own roles as local and global citizens.
Strachan’s monumental neon sculpture In broad daylight was commissioned for The Baltimore Museum of Art’s grand façade. The work casts the Museum’s neoclassical entrance, designed by John Russell Pope and at one time referred to as “Baltimore’s porch,” with an orange glow during the day and night. In its flowing cursive script, the phrase can be understood in many ways: as a question, an exclamation, an affirmation, or a provocation. The artist plays with the complexity of simple language and the capacity for people to extract a multitude of meanings from the same statement. In 2014, Strachan created a similar large-scale neon sculpture, You belong here, exhibited on the side of a barge that navigated the Mississippi River adjacent to New Orleans. Paralleling In broad daylight, the interpretations of You belong here are varied and ambiguous. The statement could be understood as a declaration of inclusion or exclusion, as a question of how individuals relate to their environment, or as a point for historical discussion. Situated in New Orleans, the neon work resonated with histories of race in the South; the city’s past and present cultural makeup; and the displacement of 400,000
people in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Strachan has spoken about You belong here as a form of therapy: in critically recognizing the trauma signaled by the social and geographic contexts of the phrase, viewers of the piece can collectively attempt to create a present that improves upon the past.
A web search of the phrase “in broad daylight” with specific relation to Baltimore yields a staggering number of headlines for news articles about violent acts in the city—violence committed in the light of day by citizens and authorities alike. In broad daylight speaks widely to the networks of power that drive violence, particularly violence towards black men, both on a local and national scale. In the spirit of transparency that runs through Strachan’s practice, In broad daylight describes those things that are usually concealed; the same conditions and actions that are shocking and inescapable when brought to light. This sculpture and the dialogues it generates begin the work of confronting the structural problems that trigger and perpetuate injustices in Baltimore and beyond.