“ Black abstraction riffs like jazz, implodes and reassembles itself from the myriad influences that found its emergence. Black abstraction is rooted in a meta-consciousness, an ode to Black survival and innovation that troubles suffocating, monolithic representations of Black identity. Black abstraction is a direct response to America’s refusal to recognize the integrity and significance of non-white-cis-male perspectives, and it finds freedom through an unrestricted use of media, an unrestrained exploration of process, and a precise articulation of form. Black abstraction is a liberatory breath, a shift beyond figuration into new conceptual possibilities.
In the Black Dada Manifesto, Adam Pendleton alluded to the history of conceptual art as “an intimately constructed narrative deserving of an aggressive deconstructive interpretation.” Adrian Piper has likened the freedom of abstraction to flight: “It is freedom from the immediate spatiotemporal constraints of the moment; freedom to plan the future, recall the past, comprehend the present from a reflective perspective that incorporates all three.” CONTINUE READING
“You are an archive. Your cellular memory and the genetic structures that determined the color of your eyes are archives too, lasting proof about your ancestry. We don’t consider our bodies, memories, homes, or personal keepsakes to be archives. Many of us have learned to only associate archives with privileged institutions, exclusive spaces used to monumentalize antiquities of colonial conquest—the exotic remnants of decontextualized cultures. If you believe that archives are only designed to house vestiges of exceptionalism—narratives you must borrow, or obscure creations you can only view at secure locations, you could easily dismiss your own history. Inspired by a conversation about family history in Baltimore and an ongoing research effort by his sister Victoria Kennedy, multidisciplinary artist Derrick Adams began mining old photo albums to examine the relevance of personal archives.
“I thought about how I could capture my family beyond the snapshots in the photo album,” says Adams, “how can I bring them to a place of historical relevance that relates to me but also to the language of painting… the concept and the language of portraiture.” CONTINUE READING
“When writer and director Terrance Smalls of local production company 89 Crowns first conceived Lost Kings, a new web series set in Baltimore City, he imagined it as social thriller. (Think Get Out and other films with narratives that explore real-world horrors.)
Baltimore’s history of police corruption and recent misconduct investigations by the Department of Justice and Attorney General could be the subject of many cinematic narratives, and Lost Kings offers its own perspective about how these issues plague the city.
"Corruption and violence were things I already recognized as happening in Baltimore," says Smalls, who was inspired by stories from friends and city residents about the troubling tactics and problematic interactions they encountered with the city’s Dirt Bike Violators Task Force—an armed unit that polices local dirt bike riders.
The heroin of Lost Kings is a rider named Max, played by local dirt bike legend Lakeyria "Wheelie Queen" Doughty. After the murder of her brother Donte (William "A.J." James, another well-known dirt biker), Max goes on a rampage to avenge her brother’s death, with those responsible also connected to drug trafficking and the police department.” CONTINUE READING
“From the mid-16th century through the late 18th century, the transatlantic slave trade transported millions of enslaved African people across the Atlantic Ocean to be sold for labor at ports across Latin America, North America, and the West Indies. Despite being uprooted from their native lands and dispersed across thousands of miles, cultural traditions were retained and passed down intergenerationally into modern day.
The Mare Projects art collective aims to explore that history and the dissemination of black art, culture, and community around the world through a new, nomadic residency program for emerging artists from Baltimore and beyond.
“I wanted to create a dialogue,” says curator Tiffany Auttrianna Ward, who conceived the project with scholars Nohora Arrieta Fernández and Tatiane Schilaro Santa Rosa. “Anti-blackness is internalized in the ways that we speak about the cities that we are from, especially if they are known for being black. A residency is a beautiful way to get people to learn about our differences and our [shared] experiences.” CONTINUE READING
“Though a trained choreographer and artist, Sharayna Christmas first describes herself as an “activist and a nurturer” who feels compelled to continue a longstanding tradition of nurturing activism here in Baltimore. The exhibitions and initiatives that she collaboratively curates through Muse 360 Arts at the Eubie Blake National Cultural Center are done with the intention of fusing art and experiential learning environments to uplift and inspire the city’s underserved communities.
In her latest exhibit, inspired by the activism of her own mother, the womanist movement, and the mentorship of elders, Christmas continues the work of highlighting the lives and legacies of black women, teaming with Kibibi Ajanku, curator-in-residence at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Museum, to launch We Choose, now on view in the museum’s Bearman Gallery in Fells Point through September 27.
“A lot of the artists that I work with have never been in an exhibition,” says Christmas. “I understand that I was once given an opportunity [and] I try to offer that same kind of support with my programming and the exhibitions that I curate.” CONTINUE READING THE REVIEW
Inspired by pre-Abrahamic religious traditions from Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean, local multidisciplinary artist Oletha DeVane repurposes found objects to construct monumental spiritual sites. Her new exhibit Traces of Spirit, currently on view in the Spring House at the Baltimore Museum of Art, includes old and newer sculptural assemblages that have been reworked to establish an immersive spirit house—which is loosely inspired by Thai constructions believed to contain the spirits of protective entities.
DeVane’s spirit house serves as a homage to anticolonial liberation efforts, Juneetenth, the legacy of her father, and humanity's tireless existentialism.
"In terms of looking at religion itself, it's about how we as human beings are on this incredible search," DeVane said during a recent studio visit. "It doesn’t mean that any one practice is wrong, it just means that we are all, as a world community, on different paths of searching for that ultimate spiritual essence." CONTINUE READING
“Pennsylvania Avenue, better known as The Avenue to many Baltimoreans, has an illustrious history. Decades before the downtown and the Inner Harbor became nationally recognized tourist destinations, this diagonal stretch of city block fostered both thriving local businesses and nationally renowned arts and entertainment venues. Jazz legends like Billie Holiday and Duke Ellington performed at The Royal Theatre, Bamboo Lounge, Club Casino, and Club Tijuana. Meanwhile, Union Baptist and Bethel AME, African American churches built here in the 18th century, stood as critical community gathering spaces for political and spiritual counsel.
Today, few of these sites have been designated for historic preservation, and most of the institutions have been demolished. But in an effort to preserve what remains of The Avenue, and to revitalize the region at large, local community leaders have teamed up to found the Pennsylvania Avenue Black Arts and Entertainment District Coalition—which includes organizations such as Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, the Arch Social Club, the Arch Social Community Network, Upton Planning Committee, Druid Heights Community Development Corporation, University of Baltimore Community Development Fellows Program, and more.” CONTINUE READING
“For decades, Ernest Shaw’s large-scale murals and mixed media portraits have been integral landmarks in Baltimore City. In 2017, Shaw was awarded the Ruby’s Artist Grant for Visual Art. The artist used those earnings to curate a series of community dialogs that interrogated stereotypes and presumptions about black masculinity.
Those conversations informed two large bodies of work: a series of mixed media works on canvas of historic African American cultural and political figures, and a collection of graphite works on paper that feature portraits of women who have experienced abuse or sexual violence. Selections from both of those series will be on view in the exhibition TESTIFY! A Life’s Time of Emerging Blackness, which debuts July 11 and runs at the Motor House gallery in Station North through September.
Inspired by Carvaggio’s use of light and shadow, as well as Dunbar and DuBois’ theories about the duality of black identity, Shaw immortalizes prominent thought leaders, creatives, and historic figures. Among them are James Baldwin, Nina Simone, Wole Soyinka, Thelonius Monk, George Stinney Jr., and Okwui Enwezor—along with others whose work and walk have indelibly transformed the world.” CONTINUE READING
“David Driskell’s art practice cannot be defined by a singular style or art movement. Informed by myriad methodologies, his art demonstrates vibrant and expressive explorations in color, material, and form that elevate static scenes into distinct narratives about our tumultuous, magical, and mundane world. The work tends to be more conceptual than figurative, and when figures emerge, they are rendered as murky silhouettes, flat outlines, or faint geometric apparitions reminiscent of African masks.
Resonance: Paintings, 1965–2002, currently exhibited at the DC Moore Gallery in Chelsea, presents a selection of David Driskell’s works that were informed rather than restrained by the events that shaped a turbulent and reformative era: the assassination of major political leaders, the end of the Vietnam War, the evolution of a wounded but perseverant Civil Rights Movement, the liberation of African nations from colonial rule, and the beginning of American wars in the Middle East that persist into the contemporary moment.” CONTINUE READING
“Hair Love, a new children’s book from filmmaker and former Baltimore Raven, Matthew Cherry and acclaimed illustrator Vashti Harrison, is a love poem to black girls and the fathers who help them stay fly.
The story follows Zuri, an imaginative toddler as she prepares for a very special day. Since every special day deserves a special look, Zuri asks her father to help her style her hair. After several endearing failed attempts, her father successfully creates a look Zuri can be proud of, a funky puff bun mohawk. “Daddy combed, parted, oiled, and twisted. He nailed it!” Zuri cheers in a sparkly pink superhero cape in celebration of her new look.
Inspired by a series of viral videos that featured black fathers styling their daughters’ hair, Cherry wanted to create a story that would present a positive narrative about black beauty standards and black fathers.
“Anytime you can, especially with young girls, show them that no matter what you or your hair look like, you are beautiful in your own way,” says Cherry. “Anytime you can normalize us in a way that [isn’t] looked at through a stereotypical lens, [or] you can show that black men are fathers, brothers, and we are friends—it all helps.” “ CONTINUE READING
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