Kahlil Robert Irving
Assembling images and materials drawn from diverse sources and histories, Kahlil Robert Irving works with sculpture, textile, and digital media to reflect upon his own biography and the socio-political context of Black life in the Midwest. For this new commission, Irving asks viewers to reconsider their daily engagement with social media, civic community life, and the urban landscape. The installation's title recalls TLC's 1995 Grammy-nominated hit "Waterfalls" and the song's narrative, which describes the desires and struggles of an inner-city black family. Irving contrasts the aspirational tropes of aiming high or shooting for the “clear blue and unconditioned skies” as TLC’s lyrics state, with the realities of urban life for global majority populations by articulating the street as an emancipatory space. Visual slippages between the cosmos and asphalt, and pooled water’s capacity to reflect the clouds with the atmosphere, suggest a reversal: should we be aiming for the street instead of the sky? Positioned in conversation with Zaha Hadid’s “Urban Carpet”-an architectural intervention wherein the sidewalk enters the CAC lobby and continues to form its northern wall—Irving’s installation offers a powerful meditation on Blackness and the urban street as a site of becoming and resistance.
Amara Antilla, Senior Curator at the Contemporary Arts Center