Sherrill Roland: The Odds: The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA), Potter Gallery, Winston-Salem, NC
The Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) is proud to present The Odds, an exhibition of new sculptures, videography, and design by interdisciplinary artist Sherrill Roland. On view March 10 through June 5 in SECCA's Potter Gallery, the exhibition interrogates the concepts of justice, innocence, and chance, drawing upon the artist's experiences enduring ten months of wrongful incarceration before his exoneration.
An opening reception with the artist will be held Thursday, March 10 from 6–8pm. The reception is free and open to the public, with a suggested $10 donation. Sherrill Roland: The Odds is presented with support from Blanco Tackabery Law and Vivid Metal Prints.
Sherrill Roland's interdisciplinary practice examines innocence, identity, and community, reimagining those concepts in the context of the American criminal justice system. For more than three years, Roland's right to self-determination was lost to a wrongful incarceration. After spending ten months in prison for a crime he was later exonerated for, he returned to his artistic practice, which he now uses as a vehicle for self-reflection and as an outlet for emotional release. Converting the haunting nuances of his experiences into drawings, sculptures, multimedia objects, performances, and participatory activities, Roland shares his story and creates space for others to do the same, illuminating the invisible costs, damages, and burdens of incarceration.
In 2015, at least 173 individuals were exonerated and released from imprisonment after being wrongfully incarcerated. In 2021, Wake Forest University's School of Law students, part of the Society for Criminal Justice Reform and the Art Law Society, conducted research that unearthed court documents and media coverage for 92 of these individuals, resulting in over 4,500 pages of documents. The artist has used these documents to create sculptures for the exhibition at SECCA.
"It says a lot about our society that Sherrill Roland's exploration of innocence, justice, and chance is both timely and somehow timeless," said Wendy Earle, Curator of Contemporary Art at SECCA. "Every year, the criminal justice system exonerates hundreds of wrongfully imprisoned people, yet we can be sure that thousands more remain incarcerated for want of resources, access, and luck. Roland's exhibition brings together sculpture, video, and illustrated data to expose and critique the byzantine processes and capriciousness of the criminal justice system."
An additional component of Sherrill Roland: The Odds is the exploration of chance and lottery through graphic design elements. The chances of winning the Powerball jackpot are 1 in 292.2 million (or .00000034%), while the number of innocent people wrongfully convicted of a crime is somewhere between 1% and 5% of the total current prison population. These statistics have been turned into lottery posters created by graphic designer Brandon Coley as a part of SECCA's exhibition.
A large part of Roland's art practice has been The Jumpsuit Project, an ongoing performance art piece. The criminal justice system in the US is intentionally fragmented and often invisible to those who do not have a direct connection with it. In The Jumpsuit Project, Sherrill Roland wears the iconic orange prison jumpsuit and engages people in conversation, disrupting spaces in the art world, higher education, and other places where issues around criminal justice are normally absent. As a socially-engaged performance, the work aims to build a new narrative around criminal justice, working toward lasting national policy changes by disrupting local incarceration systems. Sherrill Roland: The Oddswill feature a video of this performance.
Taken as a whole, Sherrill Roland: The Odds asks uncomfortable yet necessary questions about the role of chance and bias in our lives and communities, and the systems that govern them