In April 1951, Jack Kerouac sat at a typewriter and, fueled by speed, coffee, and pea soup, wrote most of what would become the definitive novel of the Beat Generation: On the Road. An autobiographical chronicle of Kerouac’s travels in stolen cars, eighteen-wheelers, and whatever else he could hitchhike his way into, the novel has stood as an artifact of postwar pioneering and abundance, as well as individual soul-searching. Today you’d be hard-pressed to find someone capable of zigzagging across the country on odd jobs and the luck that comes with being a white man. So it’s all the more interesting that curator Larry Ossei-Mensah is using Kerouac’s novel as a springboard for his latest show, opening Wednesday, October 16, at Oolite Arts.
“I’m careful to say that it’s a jumping-off point because I don’t want to get tripped up in critiquing his writing,” Ossei-Mensah clarifies. “But if you’ve read On the Road or any of his other work, you kind of get a sense of his approach and what he’s thinking about… There’s a rhythm and pace that, I think, makes the writing really interesting. I just definitely noticed a void, and I was like, OK, how can I think about this through my practice? How can I bring that rhythm and pace to an exhibition format?… Do I see myself in this, or does it generate more questions, more dialogue?”