Ruby City, a contemporary art center in San Antonio, Texas, presents True North, a three-screen installation by Isaac Julien. The work is based on the journey of Matthew Henson (1866–1955), the African-American explorer who was widely believed to be the first person to reach the geographic North Pole 113 years ago this month. Julien’s immersive three-screen projection True North (2004) depicts a lone, fur-clad figure crossing a snowy white landscape. In so doing, Julien reinserts Henson’s significant contributions which were largely overlooked into the historical record.
True North is one of three works in Julien’s series, Expeditions, which explores globalization and the resultant circulation of people. Another work from the series, Western Union: Small Boats (2007), is on view through April 24, 2022, and was among the inaugural works installed at Ruby City when it opened in 2019. Ruby City and the Linda Pace Foundation hold more than 50 works by Julien, one of the most represented artists in the collection.
Known for his poetic, meditative multi-screen film installations and photographs, Julien often uses landscape to present counter histories. His work is known for its non-narrative style that examines black and queer identities, diaspora, migration and underlying effects of capitalist economic systems. In True North, the vast, icy landscapes and the struggling, meandering figure contrast typical heroic tellings of exploration and discovery.
The exhibition will be on view May 5 through July 24, 2022, and again September 8, 2022, through January 2023. The installation will be closed July 25 – September 7 during reinstallation of Ruby City’s permanent collection galleries.