written by Eddie Arroyo

Jacqui Komschlies wrote an article in Christianity Today about the Harry Potter book series deeming it satanic comparing it to “rat poison mixed with orange soda”. Years ago, I recalled they were a number of Evangelical Christian groups which found the story morally reprehensible. So much so that the Onion had a satire stating that Potter was leading children to Satanism. It was amusing as most social episodes are in our history. And so it went, until I walked through the Manny Prieres opening exhibition entitled LOCK THEM OUT AND BAR THE DOOR. LOCK THEM OUT FOREVERMORE at Spinello Projects. The first pieces to greet me were two black tone-on-tone drawings made identical in scale to books. These books faced each other. On one wall there sat a cover rendering of the first book, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and on the other was a drawing of the bible. Immediately, my amusement returned as these two iconic imageries were presented at diametric odds visually and conceptually, and what a treat it was.

The exhibitions title comes out of a quote from the Swedish/Danish silent horror film Häxan or Witchcraft Through The Ages. A story based on Malleus Maleficarum, a 15th-century German guide for inquisitors and this is Prieres tone, to study and question these ideas. It’s difficult to describe the joy, to see so many great books which had been censored in the past at one point or another. All these wonderful tales and their controversies from George Orwell’s Animal Farm where “four legs good two legs bad” to Karl Mark’s Communist Manifesto “all working men of countries unite.”

It reminded me of the power an idea carries. All of the pieces are to book scale and the black and white palate adds to the light and dark, right and wrong, good and evil gravity of the show.

Visions of professor Humbert’s bitter sweet obsession with the twelve year old Dolories Haze when I walked past the Vladimir Nabokov’s Lotita. Nabokov’s sophisticated prose style which allowed for an empathetic eye through Humbert’s sincerity and melancholy – disturbing in its ability to connect. After all, I would venture to say we had all experienced love. Yet, context is what makes this tale relevant. The show concludes with large silkscreen prints of text which had been redacted. The scale adds to the conceptual framework of the exhibition.

Prieres did accomplished what was intended which is to contemplate the irony of these old ideas and perhaps… to question new ideas.