Down the River: Muhammad Ali Threw His Olympic Gold Medal into the Ohio flows from the upper to lower galleries using the staircase to represent the path of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. Imagery illustrates abuse of this waterway—environmentally through toxic dumping and historically as a vehicle for human trafficking. Down the River geographically connects the senseless deaths of young black men with the United States’ former slave trade, examining the political and social divisions that have been created by the waterway’s physical divide.
Down the River: Muhammad Ali Threw His Olympic Gold Medal into the Ohio is comprised of: 33 panels of The Navigator map of 1818 from Ohio to New Orleans—digitally revised (most are 24 x 36 inches each), 39 portraits, 79 birds, polished river rock, painted wall mural, 2 audio recordings of Muhammad Ali (00:02:36 loop), glass cling, text (quote) from Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
Down the River was originally commissioned for Too Shallow for Diving: the weight of water, a group exhibition at the Alice F. and Harris K. Weston Art Gallery. Too Shallow for Diving brought the age-old conflict between man and nature to contemporary art through the examination of our relationship with water. Through a mix of politics, humor, environmental discourse, and poetry, the artists focused our attention on the weight water bears not only on our everyday concerns, but to the future of our planet. The Ohio River Basin played a lead role in the exhibition, connecting to waterways both north and as far south as the Gulf of Mexico.