Abigail DeVille is known for her dense, formless installations that involve deep engagement with the history of violence against marginalized people and places. For Lift Every Voice and Sing (amerikanskie gorki) (2017), DeVille created a hybrid structure inspired by the history of the United States whose form is based on sources as diverse as the Great Seal of the United States; the Underground Railroad; artist Jacob Lawrence’s 1941 “Migration Series,” sixty small paintings with texts that address the Great Migration of Black Americans to urban centers during the twentieth century; the Russian ice slide; and Augusta Savage’s destroyed sculpture Lift Every Voice and Sing from the 1939 New York World’s Fair.
The work’s central form is a diamond star, a half-pyramid that alludes to the Egyptian Eye of Providence used on the US dollar as a symbol of esoteric power. The diamond star, also a symbol of safety that was used in the Underground Railroad, describes in DeVille’s work perilous migrations that are witness to the systemic and structural racism of their times. Covered in stacks of oars, the structure’s surface invokes harrowing images—both historic and terrifyingly recent— of migration to the United States. The topic of immigration is ubiquitous today, but DeVille’s work seeks to bring specific attention to the adjacent neighborhood of Little Haiti and the some sixty thousand asylum seekers who relocated to Miami following the 2010 earthquake and are now living under a tenuous temporary protection status.
DeVille (b. 1981, New York) has exhibited work at the Contemporary, Baltimore (2016); Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2014, 2013); the Venice Biennale (2013); the New Museum Triennial, New York (2012); and El Museo del Barrio, New York (2011), among many others.