Objects are often inculcated with memories and tradition. Family heirlooms, borrowed and never returned items, and gifted possessions are imbued with thoughts, smells, and spirits of people otherwise forgotten or not thought about. However, family heirlooms are disappearing, items have become disposable in effort to cut cost. The lifespan of our possessions usually does not exceed our own lifetime. So what is left? What do we pass down? Where do the memories we do have, go? How different are memories in the absence of physical agents to provoke them? Or what have become our heirlooms today? Are our heirlooms different? Do we consider a pen or nightgown an heirloom rather than a family chest?
In the dark…around the back….down the driveway…in the basement…people gather in a circle amidst a bass that thumps…Hard. I was redirected where to park by some silhouetted breathers, but assured the trek in the rain was “well worth it”. So I reverse, with a chide promising repercussions for anything less, my teasing slightly irritating “my date”, but exciting my nerves. I return dank with rain, but as I step across threshold of Wonderroot, I became saturated with pure emotion. At the nucleus of the orbit was Acosta, governing through the operation of documentation, along with a MC of the mcs, facilitating the ebb and flow.
Soul Food Cypher was created as a platform for lyrical expression and creativity. Acosta, a self-proclaimed, “disciple of the culture” savored the moments of unfiltered, metered, lyrical spontaneity, but was dissatisfied with its lack of organization and regularity. A regular scheduled program was born that would not only support these happenings with a time and space, but also work against negative conceptions of hip hop, as well as, challenge and develop artistry and skill.
With the serotonin circulating through my veins, good vibes, and smiling faces all around I couldn’t help to wonder where the cypher’s daggers were hiding. The ones that cut through to your soul all the way to your week-old Jordans. The ones that have made boys men through volatile haikus, limericks and non-sequiters swiftly perforating the shield of bravado and attacking one’s skill and dexterity of vocabulary. Does it exist here? Is there a limit to the free part of their freestyles? “There is freedom of speech but there’s a big emphasis on respect and not offending anyone. And if something isn’t pg-13 or cleaner then it won’t be showcased thru videos or anything. That can lead to MCs feeling muzzled slightly…”, a source tells me.
Though there is an understanding that limits the linguistic blade, it’s not totally outlawed…..though certainly not supported and promoted. At any cost, SFC offers the opportunity to use your first inalienable right to address moments in your life, experiences, frustrations and celebrations.
Sadly, on this occasion we memorialized a soul gone home. I learned of SHY, whose use of word manipulation fascinated all who had a chance to witness it. Rest in Power SHY.
Miami Art Basel Art Fair is a stage for galleries to showcase and market their artists and areas of art specialization in effort to sell works. Though many do not attend the art fair at the convention center in interest of the many other activities (including the popular street art festivities in Wynwood), the opportunity to access and engage with prominent works and artists, under one roof, is extraordinary. I took this opportunity to curate an exhibition using the most interesting works I found at the convention center. This exhibition explores ideas of convergence, commerce, idealism, cultural exchange and influence. I juxtapose works from disparate communities that continue to the conversation on entitlement and the gaze, “who is worthy and of what?”
Kehinde Wiley “The Gypsy Fortune Teller” references French François Boucher’s The Collation. This study in nuances of urban Black male culture in the tradition of Medieval European
tapestry challenges the experience and perspective of the observer. Rescued from the Cloisters of the hood, at first glance, the scene seems to simply be an urban contemporary translation of Italian frivolity and pastime, however when one begins to read the units of social engagement (drinking, exchange, adornment) in juxtaposition to the cast and their posture, the work reveals other revelations. All the characters depicted are male, while in the original Boucher two of the figures are women. Both women’s femininity are reinforced by the roles they play and the accessories they adorn (being served, parasol). If we then read Wiley’s two figures in lieu of Boucher’s females we see an agitation of masculinity or negotiation of yang. “Male with parasol” and “reclining male being served” represent new/real archetypes in dimensions of Black male culture. “The undercover brother”, bisexual male, “homothug” formerly invisible in mainstream culture (including homophobic hip hop) has been rendered visible and pronounced in a way that maintains its’ clandestine nature. The profusion of Black urban masculinity (i.e. fitted ribbed tank tops or “wifebeaters”; baggy and sagging jeans; Timberland boots or “Tims”; conspicuous chain and medallion) further suggests the performance of an “other” or queer culture.
Glenn Ligon’s Untitled (I am an Invisible Man) gives voice to those men seen in Wiley’s work. We see how one present and alive, like Black letters against white walls, is easily lost in the narratives of many. These words become in-discernable inflections completely abandoning any attempt to declare its presence. The censoring white lines take over reminiscent in the correspondence of political prisoners anticipating a return to invisibility. But just as one suspects all is lost, blackness is restored even if only for its essence, we know its there to be decoded, rehabilitated, and revealed. The proclamation of one’s spirit or essence is
Nick Cave’s opulent soundsuit adorned with buttons, beads and sequins also treats and interrogates the spirit of the invisible. The being that inhabits this guise disappears and fully engages with the spiritual world. As in the masquerade tradition of Burkina Faso, these performers depart from our earthly preoccupations with beauty and finesse and allow themselves to be possessed. Locating these diasporal workings in a EuroAmerican context creates a conflict in the understanding of home and place.
Wangechi Mutu’s etchings The Original Nine Daughters and Carrie Mae Weems’Not Manet’s Typeprints are other opportunities to further observe society’s cultivation of morality and beauty in the narrow historically oppressed tradition of The West.
Mutu’s grotesque and unnerving images investigate the tropes readily used to deconstruct and violently project ideals with ill regard to their wanton behavior. The produce of media-assault on the body of the female is depicted as meatily, as it is, delivered by the custodians of social, economic, and psychiatric health, and devoured by the unsuspecting. Weems’ examines her cultural invisibility through the eyes of others, made possible by mirroring herself, scrutinizing the models by which her beauty has been a spectacle. As the masses sit and feast on these media images that desecrate them from the inside, more defected babies nourished by the waste of the intellectually and culturally privileged are produced and led astray into abysmal territory.
Shepard Fairey’s “Obey” campaign draws attention to and warns the public against the dangers of these things that Mutu examines. With “Big Brother” Andre The Giant as the spokesperson, his highly conspicuous, public service announcements speak to the collective consciousness of the public. His radical means of seizing public spaces in the spirit of graffiti social defiance, challenges capitalism’s authority to control the visual experience of the public. His most recent works in the style of 20th century Soviet Union agitprop makes commentary on the state of our political and social economy and its relationship to Communist Bolshevik Russia of yesteryear. Ideas of transportation, currency and exchange are also explored through the collection and illustration of tickets and documents. The entrancing images order you to “stay alert” and be aware of propaganda with loads of hypnotizing iconography (women, sedation, fecundity, arrows, rays, stars, numerical characters, circles). This intersection of capitalistic power and influence and proletariat culture is emblematic of themes of convergence and culture.
Kehoi Nawa interrogates our visual culture by magnifying the means by which we see the world and subjugating the subject of our experience. The internet, imagery, and iconography create the
platform for his investigation on perception and reality. These works are attempts to reconcile the discrepancy between pixel-based images and cell-based things in our hypertechnological internet-based society. He foregrounds the imperceptible mechanisms at work, performing organic and natural behaviors to reveal the illusory, false, phantasmagoric elements of the propaganda we experience and desire as reality and truth.
This online exhibition was inspired by Miami Art Basel 2013 and made possible by the exhibiting galleries: Jack Shainman Gallery (New York); Pace Prints (New York); SCAI The Bathhouse (Tokyo); Landau Fine Art (New York); Luhring Augustine (New York); Hammer Galleries (New York).
Below are a few additional works that might be featured in “Where Worlds Collide”
“Nemo’s” tags can be seen everywhere. It’s hard to believe that he doesn’t leave his mark where ever he stands. From street signs, to 2-inch squares, no place is too small or big for him to make his presence known.
“Emo”, makes you wonder “how?” The heights he reaches are insurmountable and always unequivocally identifiable. His handstyle is consistent and intriguing. While he is a dedicated piecer, his feet is firmly grounded in the bombers’ world.
CENTThe classic style of “Cent” makes you remember why you fell in love in the first place. All graff writers can appreciate the clean and sentimental aspects of this workmanship.
“Mas” color combinations are palatable like sweet and sour gummies, gobstoppers, or something out of Willy Wonka’s Factory. They are meant to be visually-tasted when seen, allowing us fellatio-like access to Graff.
“Lost” denounces social constructs any and everywhere they exists. His ode to “GetLOSTAlot” is an anthem of the streets and returns the keys of the city to the have-nots.
KOMAR “KOMAR” calligraphic characters seem to grow out of the surface like mold in a forest. Its fecund nature seems to be captured right at the moment before it covers the surface of its choosing.
SKIE “SKIE” always delivers a show and stops a gaze. His letters are active, have personality and seem to dance, fight, play, and gestate on a wall.
DISTORT“Distort” tells stories of creation and discovery. His impressionistic and gothic allegory of homosapien life with Da Vinci near-touches and Picasso’s Mademoiselles extends time in a mural. Using collage as a means of illustrating his sketches and etching inside of paint cans this mastermind appropriates classical tools in a urban setting. The canon-cultivated writer raises the ladder without changing the scene. Genius!
Look for these Artists all around the world because there’s no telling where they have been or where they will pop up.
Human markings extend back to the caves of uncivilization and the pyramids of Kemet, but in the early 1970s, they were baptized in the streets of the ghetto and became known as graffiti. Its evolution as an art form developed alongside b-boying, mc-ing, and dj-ing, creating the 4 elements of Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop emerged as a reaction to civil and social injustice, or reactionary art. The graffiti element originated as part of the visual dissent against accepted norms or an act of freedom. However, these markings, scrawlings, and writings, in attempt to gain fame or notoriety on the physical infrastructure of society, are outlawed and punishable by prison.
Freedom, negotiated by a capitalist society that rewards elitism of few; conformity by most, and simulacrum of the whole, is what all are running towards, but in different directions. But, what happens when these acts of resistance (or freedom), saturate a market or are accepted or patronized by those same interests it intends to offend? Is it still graffiti or is it….art and is that okay? To some, the boundaries of art remain in the walls of the gallery, while for others that is where it ends. Miami Art Basel is where these two worlds collide.
The bomber’s spirit is ominous, incorrigible, and intrepid. Though it requires the least amount of technical skill, it is the backbone of graffiti culture. The adrenaline junkie seeks windows of opportunity to conquer a space with the stroke of a pen, ever so closely to civil invigilators, inherently endangering their freedom. This proclamation of ownership or defiance, not only challenges the constitution of that space, but also reorders the hierarchy of power. I believe the passive, but violent taking of the space strengthens the core and heartbeat of its constituents, both the radicals and the conservatives.
While the bomber’s moniker is quickly scrawled in a single-colored paint, the piecer’s sobriquet is carefully and thoughtfully designed with an assortment of colors or range of tonalities. However, what might take the piecer 10 hours to produce can saturate the area of a small city for the bomber.
Is either more effective if the object is to gain notoriety? Though the standards for judging each category might differ tremendously, the hyper-visibility and litany of work of a dedicated bomber might be equivalent to the technical prowess of highly dexterous writer.
Despite this theory, the upper echelons of graff consider the bomber to be expendable, lacking creativity and ambition. “The bomber should aspire to develop their handstyle and creativity”, insists seasoned vets. Abstracted letters, animated characters, photorealistic figures from life, social and political statements are all accepted areas to configure and reconfigure on walls, but what about different mediums, like wheat paste, or using projections?These works produce consternation amongst spraycan purists as they encounter the unconventional means where it has long been considered their unrightful domain. With the gradual sophistication of spraycan art (attaining permission from owners of walls; sponsorship; and gallery representation) these street artists are now placed in new positions of negotiation. The transformation of and inclusion to the art theoretical landscape shifts the policing to the unlikely characters. When wrong becomes right who are the deviants and who are the police?
Union High School’s, Pamela, is showing in her parent’s bagel bakery on Route 22. These colorful abstractions were created in art classes taken in her school and in a program outside of school . The parental support was heartfelt, seeing how they turned their bagel shop into an art gallery. As I inquired more about Pamela’s work her mother ushered her over to the wall of art to take pictures and continue the interview. Here are a few pictures of the beauty I was able to capture. Please check out Pamela’s show at Skolniks Bagel Bakery 2698 U.S. 22, Union, NJ 07083 (908) 687-5919
This small and simple white cube gallery situated in the middle of a street named after a radical could be a metaphor the representation of urban art in fine art galleries. House of Art’s owner and collector, Richard Beaver, presents works that engage with the urban context, Blackness, and the underrepresented artistic narratives. These works inspire dialogue about the role and valuation of subculture in high art, the intersection of the urban community and art orthodoxy and discourse, and art institutions and their role in the sociocultural infrastructure of a community.
Beaver’s current exhibition, “The Games We Played” is a nostalgic look at youth and urban culture from an adult artistic perspective. From Street games to board games we re-discover games that were most prominent in the communities of artists that re-envision their youth. This exhibition of games is a meditation on the games we still play as adults. Art being the first one of them
Guy Stanley Philoche’s enlarged Monopoly pieces invites discussion about the role of board games in Black households of yesteryear. Monopoly was a cultural staple in many Black homes across America prior to the internet and electronic gaming era. In this game, critical thinking, negotiation, and financial management skills are used to attain land and property, however, in the greater Black community, it seems that these principles apply more precisely to the acquisition of material wealth, such as, luxury brands and personal.
Jamel Shabazz’s iconic photographs and Leroy Campbell’s elongated figures recall the vibrations and Character of the streets of Brooklyn. Depictions of sidewalk chalk and fire hydrant games evoke the sounds of laughter and “HYDRANT’S ON” trumpeting down the block. These works conjure the glittering aspects of a time past, when games temporarily removed you from a reality where racial tension where high, poverty was normal, and crack was sweeping the streets. “The Games We Played” maybe suggests the things we did to distract us from what was really going on. Perhaps reflecting on these games consciously will rupture the imaginary causing one to think about what we refused to see or look at in those times. Or ways in which we still do that today.
This exhibition will close with a reception on January 11, 2014, 6pm-9pm.
Frank Morrison’s new collection, Live. Love. Jazz. will show at House of Art part of a 3-day Holiday Exhibition December 13-15. Check the Website for more details.
House of Art Gallery/408 Marcus Garvey Blvd/Brooklyn, New York 11216/Phone 347.663.8195/HOAGallery.com
October 19th opened the newly renovated galleries at The Atlanta Contemporary Art Center. The post-modern shifting of space with barely noticeable inclining walls lead you from one room the the next with a fluidity that seems most organic. The two solo shows representing the re-birth of this space memorialized life and commemorated energy in various ways. Fallen Fruit, a duo from California, made a big splash in the SouthEast by deeply engaging with the community and historical artifacts. Their presentation of stacked portraits, against a vibrant and colorful wall of fecundity, reminded me of my undergraduate visit to The Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania. The juxtaposition of Courbet’s pearly romanticism, Gauguin’s romantic primitives, and Picasso’s cubist romantics invited the viewer to observe the direction of influence between such artists, as well as, fresh themes unseen before. Steven L. Anderson’s installation provided a visual relief and recovery from the overwhelming visual experience next door. This light, airy, peaceful space welcomes calm and ushers spiritual presence. The Mandalas or spirals on the wall act as points of energy all pointing towards the center, where the human spirit dwells during this experience.
STEVEN L. ANDERSON I ENERGY STRATEGIES
Circles, the continuum of life, energy spheres, mandalas, in the round, fill this space along with a burst of pentagrams. Steven L. Anderson’s work on shifting and renegotiating energy provides an opportunity to break with society, social pressures and the normal and immerse yourself in the sublime. This installation encourages floor-sits and audience participation, though the work is not engaged until the audience is present.
Circles of cushion surround the mandala in the center of the room, beckoning you to shed the weight of the world by collapsing and directing energy towards the center. The circular mantras behind you provide a force field of energy, reinforcing the energy enclosed inside your bodily form and supporting the release of what you resolved to let go. A strong sense of sanctity surrounds the center, defining a space for the holy, venerated, sacrosanct or facilitator of energy (or workshop). The center guides, interprets, directs and absorbs energy to heal the spirits that have joined the atmospheric seance. Reminiscent of Sun Ra’s echoed Enlightenment lyrics “Hereby, my invitation, I do invite you, be of my space world.”
These MANTRA-alas were created as part of the artist’s personal efforts to bring about change in his life or in the greater community. Words chanting rhythmically by the haste or fatigue of the artist’s hand make declarations unto the world reordering spiritually-motivated priorities. This contiguous wordplay can be traced back to ancient and modern religions and traditions (think: Buddhist Monks, Buddhist, Angela Basset playing Tina Turner in “Whats Love Got to Do With It”, or the legion of gangsta or trap music, “Versace, Versace, Versace” reinforcing superficial ideas amongst youth culture today). Though these reinforcements play a significant role in how one interprets their experiences and/or sees reality, they still rely heavily on one’s consciousness and willingness to accept the declarations as truth.
The circle is also re-inscribed by a virtual quad of visual recording devices. These instruments, which appear to be of practical use in the show, recording the activity inside the gallery, show something different than what appears before the lens, or does it? Scenes of nature, a spinning feminine figure, microscopic views of flora and fauna are perceived as recording the phenomenon occurring only feet away. One might argue that these devices are on their “playback” function, but who is to argue the manifestation of the essence of the activity possibly being captured? (Think: Stephanie Dowda’s cameras). Recording devices capture atmospheric activity, but the experience of this activity is subjective and dependent on the intention. Stephanie Dowda’s cameras also have a way of recording the sublime in ways that are not easily accessible by the human eye, but understood in terms of the abstract or ephemeral moments.
Behind the far wall, sequestered off to the side, out of view is a little hidden gem, The Grow Room. This lush space, occupied by green-green ferns, offers the guest a place to relax and re-juvenate, away from the world outside. The elevated oxygen, painted gradations of light, shag rug, and comfy pillows temporarily remove you from the chaos, or energy-intense manipulation just beyond the wall and/or the walls of The Contemporary. This place is open to the public whenever there is a need for relief.
This exhibition exposes the importance of being aware of your energy, the spaces you inhabit, the energy you surround yourself with and the positive and negative aspects of it. We can improve our experience by simply manipulation: energetically, psychically, or spiritually. Without this space to counter the chaos in our lives we cannot expect to live healthy and happy lives. Where is your space located?
There is a ton of programming associated with Steven L. Anderson Energy Strategies exhibition, from afternoon yoga sessions, to panel discussions, to weed walks around the area, please visit ACAC’s website: http://www.thecontemporary.org/exhibitions/steven-l-anderson-energy-strategies/ or the artist’s website: Stevenlanderson.com. The Contemporary is located at 535 Means Street NW Atlanta, GA 30318. The galleries are open Tuesday-Saturday 11am-5pm, Thursday until 8pm. The exhibition continues through December 14, 2013.