By: Annette Isham Social Studies: A Fellow to Fellow Review of Jerry Truong

In Social Studies, Jerry Truong exhibits works that explore the dichotomy of elementary school politics. Two old-school projectors shine brightly across the entrance of the gallery.  Large black chalkboards line the walls and are filled with phrases such as “I will encourage critical thinking awareness empathy” and “discursive”.  These sayings are tediously written in white chalk over and over again.  One can’t help but think of Bart Simpson and his never-ending detention with Ms Krabappel.  As you head towards the middle of the gallery, 16 child size chairs confront you.  They are strategically arranged in four rows that are split in half and lined up for battle opposite one another. They are placed on a hardwood parquet floor, the back rows standing tall while the front lay face down, defeated.  The last piece in the show is another projector that shines on a small winding architectural sculpture.  The structure and its looming shadow look like a mix between a dunce cap and Tatlin’s unfinished tower.

 

The show recognizes the affable objectives in the education system but divulges distrust in and failure of the system itself.  The chalkboard phrase, “I will encourage critical thinking awareness empathy,” is something that is advertised in the education system; however, Truong’s depiction of the phrase expresses it as a regurgitated notion to the point of meaninglessness.  Truong alludes to punishment again in the dunce cap installation, communicating it as a source of contention in educative success.  Chairs are lined up against one another, presenting a theme of competition among young pupils and not necessarily striving for “awareness” or “empathy”.  This show asks viewers to contemplate elementary school and the education system as a whole.  He challenges his audience to observe the separation of scholastic ideals and reality—a reality in which punishment and assimilation are king.