New York Inmates and the Ladd Brothers Want You to Think About Prison
New York–based artists and brothers Steven and William Ladd have been creating together for 20 years, using their complementary skills to make intricate handcrafted works, often involving baubles and beads, books, drawings, and tightly coiled strips of upcycled fabric that hark back to their respective creative paths. Steven was fascinated by sewing as a kid, later engaging in costume design, performance, design, and art as a college student, while William took to beading as a teen, and traveled the world as a fashion model in his youth. Together, their collaborative works take on myriad forms, including stackable fabric boxes filled with fantastical miniature environments and immersive installations that recall well-stocked storage containers from a craft store.
For their latest installation, “The Other Side,” on view through Oct. 17 at the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill neighborhood, the Ladds have welcomed a cast of many more collaborators into their usual tête-à-tête approach. For the better part of the past decade, the brothers have been collaborating with inmates from the New York City Department of Correction to create paintings, drawings, and sculptural wall hangings, as well as a series of large-scale installation spaces that depict the architectural trappings of a prison: a cell, a metal detector, and a surveillance booth. Offering visceral and emotional depth to a population of society so often silenced and anonymized behind closed doors, the show is a moving visual testimony that gives voice to those inside the criminal justice system—and provides an opportunity to inspire action and compassion from onlookers.