For her fourth solo exhibition at ZieherSmith, Rachel Owens will incorporate a dialogical theater project to her more traditional sculptural practices, both of which manifest her longtime interest in issues of social and political subjugation.

The centerpiece of the physical exhibition is Stage, a sculpture representing a skyscraper section, ambiguously either partially demolished or not yet complete. Stretching from floor to ceiling, the piece becomes a part of the gallery's infrastructure. In addition, it will serve as stage and set for politically charged performances acted out by New York City artists and local Chelsea residents, giving the installation further power as metaphor for the breakdown of hierarchies and, more locally, referencing the recent proliferation of monolithic high-income condos bordering the neighborhood.

The main performance on Wednesday evening, September 22nd at 7:30 pm, will be the result of a collaboration with artist and activist Candice Sering and a series of theater workshop intensives, co-facilitated by Owens and Sering and based on techniques from Theater of the Oppressed. 12-15 participants invited from the diverse neighborhood of Chelsea will act out individual stories pertaining to what it means to be a member of the community, and in particular, explore both personal and systemic forms of oppression. The audience of this “Forum Theater” will attempt to provide alternate resolutions to the short non-cathartic plays. Another edition of Theater of the Oppressed will first be performed by the Red Hook Theater Project, September 15th at 7:30 pm.

Other sculptural elements of the exhibition echo these themes of destruction and renewal, oppression and release. Framing the entrance to the main gallery, Topiary features two massive pyramids of glowing shards of broken glass, materials salvaged from local restaurant detritus and transformed into archetypal symbol. Thrown, a set of gold-leafed bleachers, decentralizes the hierarchy of the classic, elevated throne and provides multiple resting spots for visitors, as well as audience seating for performances. Other works are anthropomorphized assemblages, with materials including drift wood, saw horses, top hats, and outsized men's shoes, often with a gold leafed or scorched surface that alludes to the all too frequent codependency between wealth and destruction or even violence.

Owens has created site specific, monumental sculptural work for exhibitions including the recent NineteenEightyFour at the Austrian Cultural Forum, New York and Socrates Sculpture Park. She will complete her next major installation, Inveterate Composition, across from the United Nationas at Dag Hammarskjöld Park in 2011. She has also been included in group shows at galleries including On Stellar Rays, Armand Bartos, and Lehmann Maupin in New York, among others internationally. Her performance collaborator Sering has studied with Julian Boal, son of Theater of the Oppressed founder Augusto Boal, at the Theater of the Oppressed Laboratory at the Brecht Forum, and with Falconworks Artists Group in Brooklyn.