born 1981, New York City
lives in The Bronx, NY
The Dream Keeper is inspired by the titular book of poetry for young people written in 1932 by Langston Hughes, who resided in Cleveland’s Fairfax neighborhood as a high school student. Guided by the question, “Who are the dream keepers in Cleveland?” Abigail DeVille weaves the hopes and dreams of the young poet into the historical and cultural narratives of under-recognized populations long past. During a series of visits to the city, DeVille conducted extensive research into the material and cultural histories of the region. Her findings include images of Indigenous artifacts, photos of African Americans who contributed to life in Cleveland before the Great Migration, and maps of the city’s development. The unearthed memories and stories affiliated with her research are presented in the installation’s walls and recesses, which are fashioned after the salt mines found deep below Lake Erie. Salt, a preservative agent, has helped keep history intact. Repurposed architectural materials found in Cleveland scrap houses are carefully placed throughout. DeVille has also invited artist, activist, and Cleveland native Gwen Garth to present her own work in the space.
The exhibition at The Sculpture Center is paired with an installation at Quincy Garden in Cleveland’s Fairfax neighborhood. The site is a mere three blocks from the house where Langston Hughes spent his developmental years. The garden is also adjacent to the country’s first interracial theater, Karamu House, where Hughes was an active participant and which is also a FRONT 2022 venue. The outdoor installation consists of thirteen pre dominantly figurative sculptures made from reclaimed domestic objects. Many sculptures bear faces cast from members of the Fairfax community, who, through their lived experiences, collectively contribute to a hopeful future. The sculptures are placed in the formation of the phoenix constellation, which appears in the southern hemisphere. The mythical phoenix rises from its ashes to be born anew. But, just like dreams, the phoenix never dies.
Abigail DeVille, Dream Variations, 2022, Commissioned by FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, with support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Joanne Cohen and Morris Wheeler, Fleischner Family Charitable Foundation, and Arts Midwest and in partnership with The Sculpture Center, Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation, and Karamu House