“We’re trying to be emanations of the culture. To me, that’s the most radical formation, to be an emanation of the culture. – Arthur Jafa
When was the last time you had a conversation with G/D? As Told to G/D Thyself, a lush short film by a new cinematic vanguard, The Ummah Chroma—Bradford Young, Jenn Nkiru, Terence Nance, Mark Thomas, and Kamasi Washington—imagines encounters with G/D as nonlinear dreamscapes.
In one scene, children hang from the hips of an interstellar mothership. In another, an aged man prays, “Dear Lord, oh Lord, show them the way.” The viewer is asked to submit to a logic of symbols and the collapse of space and time. G/D is a cerebral and salient presence. G/D is an animated universe. G/D is a prodigy practicing the saxophone. G/D is a master teacher encouraging intonation. G/D is a hypnotic head nod in a school-room cypher. G/D is the vitriol of antagonized pitbulls and faceless men. In those moments we are asked to consider divinity through a Black aesthetic, and G/D as an amalgamation of various collective experiences.” CONTINUE READING
“Beauty goes beyond gender. S/he Handsome, a new collection of pastel and acrylic figurative portraits by S. Rasheem continues a series of womanist works that decolonize standards of beauty. Each portrait realizes black masculine-of-center women in affirming ways. The term “masculine of center” was originally coined by social activist and entrepreneur B. Cole to encapsulate the intersectional facets and broad spectrum of lesbian/queer/womyn whose gender identities are more closely aligned with masculinity.” CONTINUE READING
“American African American, the latest selling exhibition from Phillips New York auction house presents an extensive collection of over 60 postwar and contemporary works from well-known and emerging African American artists. Phillips Senior Advisor, Director Emeritus of the Brooklyn Museum, and curator Arnold Lehman believes now is the perfect time to bring more attention to African American artists. “There has been a great history of African American art, certainly starting post World War II” Lehman noted during a brief phone interview. “It’s great momentum in 2018, but it started 70 years ago in 1950, and it’s been working steadily towards this moment… We could have gone back even further.”
“Sistrunk-A-Fair, a new week-long festival in the Sistrunk community of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, endeavors to make local Black creative histories more visible. Sponsored in partnership with cultural initiatives Art n Soul, C.R.E.A.T.E., Fort Lauderdale Art & Design Week (FTLADW) and The Art Fort Lauderdale Art Fair, Sistrunk-A-Fair will feature visual arts, performances, and historical archives about unsung visionaries from Fort Lauderdale, Pompano, Dania, Pearl City, and Hallandale. “We need something transformative, community-driven, and creative,” co-producer Emmanuel George shared. “This event feels special because it’s something that is more than just art, it’s to create a dialog through art.”
“Think about the main characters of films you recently viewed. How many of them were black women? How many had black female actresses as lead protagonists? How many were directed by black women? One or two may come to mind. Try to name 10. Are you having difficulty?
In response to the blatant inequity black women creatives face, filmmaker and writer Nia Hampton founded The Black Femme Supremacy Film Festival. The festival aims to promote dynamic cinematic efforts from Black female/femme identified filmmakers as well as “shake up the notoriously elitist culture of film festivals.”
“I found a need to have a ready tool to report unsafe building structures to the city. There was a lack of community developed solutions to remediate blight that wouldn’t result in significant displacement of communities. Community development in Baltimore and many other old industrial cities—Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis—results in total gentrification of neighborhoods, which is traumatic.
A lot has to do with communities having access to data about blight to create solutions that will be most impactful, sustainable, and least damaging to the people. It isn’t just that the buildings look bad; it makes you sick, exposes you to crime, raises rent. If you think of it as it just looks bad, you can’t think of the root cause of the issues. - Nneka N’Namdi
“t’s a way to allow the process to be shown just so it can have a dialogue with what it is to be human, continuing to be vulnerable, being okay with the process, and figuring out a way to allow the undertone to function. To pay homage from where you come from and how you’ve allowed those things to mold and shape you into the being that you are. It’s bigger than just showing it, there is a function, a reason for how it operates within each piece. It’s not necessary for every painting, but when it necessary I know when to incorporate it.” - Jerrell Gibbs
“Martin’s unorthodox approach to portraiture and distinctive aesthetic cleverly juxtapose myriad printmaking techniques with drawing, painting, sewing, and her own symbolic flourishes to create fantastical, spiritually intoned black figures. Martin uses grand embellishments, dense layering of geometric patterns from relief or callograph prints, decorative papers, and hand-stitching to realize intimate scenes of black women’s encounters with ethereal realms.
The worlds Martin illustrates are startlingly beautiful, meditative, and reveal the artist’s ever-expanding mastery of the mediums she engages. We recently talked to the artist about her latest work, spirituality, and the impact of the collection on the canon of portraiture.” CONTINUE READING
“A placard hangs in the foyer of the historic Arch Social Club that reads: “We are strong, moral men who believe in service to our community, preservation of our culture, friendship, and brotherly love.” Founded in 1905 by African-American professionals Raymond Coates, Samuel Barney, and Jeremiah S. Hill, the club is one of the oldest b men’s social clubs in the U.S., and one of the few remaining black-owned organizations to have operated while Pennsylvania Avenue was still nationally recognized as a hub for arts, culture, and entrepreneurship.
The club—which continues to serve as a cornerstone of culture, civics, and commerce for African-American communities in Baltimore City—recently won a $118,000 financial award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to restore parts of the building back to its original grandeur.” CONTINUE READING
“Mak invokes a hallucinogenic aesthetic that remixes familiar iconography associated with American and Chinese nationhood— sports cars, flags, stealth fighters, space shuttles, weed paraphernalia, among other imagery, unpack his concerns about the irreverence of nationalism, capitalism, and patriarchy. The artist created “hierospliffics,” a stoner riff on the Ancient Egyptian writing system to deconstruct academic socio-political discourse into easily recognizable, but densely weighted symbols that confuse and disrupt their intended use as propaganda.” CONTINUE READING
“Africa Umoja—The Spirit of Togetherness is a beautiful musical about the history of South Africa told through the musical traditions that have shaped the country. “Umoja,” a Swahili word for unity, is a fitting title for a vibrant and culturally expressive theatrical work.
“Before Maya Arulpragasam became the genre-bending rapper M.I.A., she dreamed of being a documentary filmmaker and hoped to chronicle narratives she rarely saw, like those of her family, Tamil people, and other marginalized communities.
Now, viewers can get a glimpse of that world with new documentary Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.by director Stephen Loveridge, which premieres at the Parkway Theatre on Friday, October 19. The film offers new insights about the life, trials, and activism of an artist whose sound ruled the early 2000s.” CONTINUE READING
Posted October 17, 2018 on Baltimore Magazine
“This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass, a pioneer whose tireless efforts to abolish American chattel slavery and demand equal voting rights for women and black men laid the foundation for longstanding legislative reforms. Douglass, a renowned orator, abolitionist and author was born a slave in Talbot County Maryland in 1818. Though the exact date of his birth remains unknown, Douglass adopted February 14 as his birthday.
On Thursday, October 18, the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Museum will celebrate the opening of Frederick Douglass Bicentennial, an intimate art exhibition that honors his life and legacy. Curated by Kibibi Ajanku, the exhibition features a broad selection of imaginative portraits rendered by accomplished illustrator Ed Towles.” CONTINUE READING
Originally published on October 4, 2018 in Baltimore Magazine
“The Afro Punk Ballet, an Afro-futurist opera written by composer Scott Patterson and Eric T. Styles and choreographer Preston Andrew Patterson, imagines a post-apocalyptic future where the lush blue green of our world is scorched dusty red by the heat of two suns. “There used to be a river here” General Levi (played by Jarrod Lee) bellows with lament over the devastation wreaked by his greatest invention, the creation of a second sun. His miraculous discovery threatens to destroy all life in the galaxy. What compels a man to generate a second sun? His daughters Corfazsia (Jocelyn Hunt) and Jakub (Alicia Wiliams) are charged to answer that question. We, the audience, watch to see if the world will collapse before they can.” CONTINUE READING
Originally Published on October 2, 2018 in Baltimore Magazine
“The Sara Spencer Washington Story, a short documentary from Baltimore-raised, New York-based filmmaker Royston Scott, is one of nearly 100 films from 16 countries screening this week at the Fifth Annual Baltimore International Black Film Festival. Scott offers a compelling glimpse into the vast accomplishments of his grandmother, Sara Spencer Washington, one of the first African-American millionaires.
In 1920, Sara Spencer Washington, notably recognized as “The Madame,” founded Apex News and Hair Company, a black-owned-and-operated beauty brand empire. Apex capitalized on the absurdity of American segregation by targeting consumers white beauty brands refused to acknowledge. Apex advertisements centered around black aesthetics and showcased the style and humanity of African-American culture.” CONTINUE READING
Originally Published September 5, 2018 in BmoreArt.com
“Helina Metaferia lies on her back in the middle of the floor of the National Gallery of Art. Robert Motherwell’s monumental abstraction “Reconciliation Elegy” (1978) hangs ominously above her. Many patrons, most older white couples, quickly pass by. Others sit or stand at a distance to watch for signs of life. Few stay long enough to ensure that she is, in fact, alive and well. In the rare moments when Metaferia does move, the shifts are deliberate; she turns heavily from a position on her back to her stomach, then resumes her paralysis on the museum floor.
How ironic I thought, to be a black mass on the floor of a largely white institution–the proverbial fly on the wall, where the mass is reduced to a speck no one deems worthy enough to consider. In Metaferia’s latest solo exhibition, Refiguring the Canon at Hamiltonian Gallery in Washington, D.C., documentation from this performance, “The Mother,” and others accompany elaborate collage installations that incorporate imagery and text from contemporary Western artworks, art archives, and classical antiquities.” CONTINUE READING
Originally published August 2, 2018 in Sugarcane Magazine
“The artist, a consummate innovator, investigates the ways simple forms can embody and illicit and empathetic response from viewers. Coates considers his creations to be “social abstractions”, deeply personal works that are informed by the artists lived experiences, memories or familial encounters, but comment on broader political or cultural issues.” CONTINUE READING
Originally published July 26, 2018 in Bmoreart.com
“The contemporary art world is experiencing a renaissance in Black portraiture. A new generation of master realist painters like Kehinde Wiley, T. Eliott Mansa, Jas Knight and Ronald Jackson build upon a foundation laid by earlier figurative artists like Charles White, Augusta Savage, John Biggers, and Elizabeth Catlett. Their figurations not only visualized black identities with agency and humanity, but exuberantly revised histories of portraiture that uniformly presented non-white representations as submissive props. In those historical portraits, Black subjects were often painted in acts of service and relegated to the background of elaborate renderings of white nobility. Jackson’s portraits counter these histories by rendering Black subjects in imaginative and layered narratives that he calls “collage portraits” or oil paintings that incorporate stylistic approaches of collage.
Profiles of Color III: Fabric, Face, & Form, Ronald Jackson’s latest collection currently exhibited at Galerie Myrtis, references Arkansas rural culture and violent racist history, the fantastical elements of Magical Realism and the emotional and psychological tropes of Romanticism to offer a stunning appraisal of Black aesthetics. Floral and geometric prints and vibrant fabrics are harmoniously incorporated in large expressive oil paintings.
Masked and fashion forward subjects confront your gaze, peer into the heart of the matter with unabashed directness, as if they were proclaiming, “You will see me and know that I am beautiful, powerful, and worthy of representation.” The collection is breathtaking, incredibly inspiring, and exquisitely executed.
Ronald and I conducted a FaceTime interview to discuss his process, the characters he depicts, and the importance of Black figuration.” CONTINUE READING
Originally published June 11, 2018 in Bmoreart.com
“Throughout his career, Jack Whitten was a consummate innovator who explored and refined new techniques to visualize what he called “symbolic abstractions.” Rather than subscribe to traditional narrative painting formulas, or the idea that a painting must illustrate a particular idea, Whitten focused on the materiality of the paint and the process of making the artwork to construct meaning. Using a unique style of cutting small acrylic fragments from larger acrylic slabs into “tesserae” or tiles, Whitten created dense abstractions that function like mosaics and expand the contextualization of Black portraiture beyond representational figuration. Although he graduated from Cooper Union in 1964 and taught painting there from 1974-95, he did not gain significant fame until near the end of his life. Whitten recently passed away, at the age of 78 in January 2018.
Whitten’s contributions broaden the purpose and modalities of Abstract Expressionism, a field most notably recognized for its white male icons like Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock. He and other classical Black abstractionists like Howardena Pindell, Ed Love, AfriCobra, Norman Lewis, Sam Gilliam, Mildred Thompson, and Alma Thomas queried the intersections of abstraction and Black identity. Despite the prolific accomplishments of those artists, very few of them are still alive to reap the benefits of the art world’s new-found appreciation for Black abstraction. Contemporary abstract artists like Julie Mehretu, Adam Pendleton, and Mark Bradford stand on the foundation laid by their contributions.” CONTINUE READING
Originally published May 31, 2018 in Bmoreart.com
“God specting womens to lay down and gurd up. Womens have to take boots on ‘deir chest and dress shoes, sneakers and cleats too. Women like carpet—all kinds of shoes gotta walk on womens.” – from Bootprints
Latonia Valencia’s dramatic play, Bootprints, is an unsettling but familiar narrative about death, family secrets, and the revelations of those who survive. Bootprints unpacks Black memory and the frustrations of younger generations who grapple with the histories, traditions, and secrets they have inherited. The perpetuity of Black mourning, Black grandmothers, labor, lace and wide-brimmed hats. Silk and sore backs from working as housemaids, Gmama’s hands, Sunday mornings, all these memories come into focus when Gmama dies. Her granddaughter Myeshia is left mourning her loss and remembering the impact of her grandmother on her life.
The play opens on Myeshia in conversation with her alternate personality Gingel as they determine what outfit to bury Gmama in. Gmama had a vast collection of colorful suits and each marked a significant event in the women’s lives; miscarriages, molestation, wealth, abandonment, love, failed marriages, poverty. As Myeshia/Gingel and Gmama’s apparition sort through the suits, they share their memories aloud as epic choreopoems. Like Ntzoke Shange’s timeless homage, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, Bootprints uses color, fashion and domestic interiors as cues for the emotional and psychological states of its protagonists. The play honors and humanizes narratives about southern Black women. CONTINUE READING
Originally published on May 4, 2018 in Bmoreart.com
“Waller Gallery, a new Black-owned art space in Charles Village offers refreshing programming and curation that showcases local and international contemporary artworks. The galleries premiere exhibition, Drapetomania, presents photographs and film by Baltimore-based artist Nia Hampton.
“Art communities often ignore indigenous people, brown people,” Joy Davis, founder and curator notes,“But there are pockets of “blackness” everywhere. That’s why Nia’s show is important. It’s about starting conversations with people.” Continue Reading
Originally Published in BmoreArt on April 6, 2018
"Skeleton bones rape and drag a woman along the fragile glass back of another woman whose body elongates into a pistol. Ornately beaded bullets bare the initials of Black men who have been murdered by police. Ghostly lithograph images of children smile as they dangle upside down, muscles and bones exposed to the gaze of onlookers. The urgency relayed in Joyce J. Scott’s sprawling collection of works is palpable in Still Happening in 2018, a solo exhibit at Goya Contemporary.
The work of MacArthur Genius Joyce J. Scott, whose 40+ year career has engaged benign crafting traditions to bring attention to the persistence of brutality against women, children, and men of color, is distinctly disturbing, offering stark depictions of violence which are haunting yet somehow beautiful." CONTINUE READING
Originally published in Sugarcane Magazine on March 9, 2018.
"In the afterlives of partus sequitur ventrem what does, what can, mothering mean for Black women, for Black people? What kind of mother/ing is it if one must always be prepared with knowledge of the possibility of the violence and quotidian death of one's child? Is it mothering if one knows that one's – child might be killed at any time in the hold, in the wake by the state no matter who wields the gun? Christina Sharpe – In the Wake: On Blackness and Being
Sites of mourning are marked by familiar objects; deflated balloons and toys strapped to light posts. Flowers and liquor bottles. Candles and candy. These indicators dot city landscapes and remind the community that a tragedy has occurred; life has been lost. Countless misfortunes are remembered with similar memorials, and much more go unsung. It is easy to overlook the memorials that proliferate the city.
What does it mean to grow accustomed to trauma? In In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, theorist Christina Sharpe describes the perpetuity of traumas African American communities experience with nautical and colonial terminology– the wake, the ship, and the hold. The conditions Sharpe articulates reveal devastating implications. Each new iteration of violence against Black bodies builds on preceding violence that ultimately trigger and reaggravate trauma on a cellular, physical and psychological level. Discoveries about the residual impact and long-term effects of racist violence on the body and psyche of African Americans are emerging. Still, I cannot help but wonder if Black identities are doomed to endure a perpetual state of mourning.
T. Elliott Mansa's latest work, a series of untitled assemblages, is informed by the perpetuity and materialization of mourning. Previous works engaged figurative portraiture to explore familial and socioeconomic themes that incorporated Yoruba West African cosmologies and folklore. Mansa has exhibited at Prizm Art Fair, Art Africa Miami Art Fair, the David Castillo Gallery, and the African-American Museum of the Arts in Deland, Florida, among others. I visited Mansa's studio in Tribeca, NY to build with him about the new collection and his transition from 2D portraiture into 3D assemblage." CONTINUE READING
Originally published in Sugarcane Magazine on February 22, 2018.
"Giving Up the Ghost: Artifacts/A Study of Power and Solidarity Against White Violence in Modernity, a new group exhibition curated by Niama Safia Sandy at Rush Arts Philadelphia, offers broad critiques and diverse perspectives about the function of power and violence. Works by artists Lavett Ballard, Tasha Dougé, Sara Jimenez, Asif Mian, Tajh Rust, Rocío Olivares, and Lionel Frazier White engage the subtle and explicit ways that white violence and power have been weaponized historically and remain inextricably tethered to capitalism." CONTINUE READING
Originally Published in the CUE Arts Exhibition Catalog for Peter Williams: With So Little To Be Sure Of
"Huge amounts of medical and scientific scholarship have been devoted to the question (assuming it is a question) of what kind of species Black people are and what characteristics they possess.”
- Toni Morrison “The Origin of Others”
Painter and mixed media artist, Peter Williams unpacks troubling histories of white supremacy and systemic oppression to create revelatory collective narratives about the persistence of violence against Black bodies. The devastating trend of unwarranted killings of Black boys and men at the hands of police officers, most of whom escaped federal conviction, catalyzed a departure from Williams’s lighter, more spiritual and reverent figurative abstract-portraiture towards more traumatic motifs. His latest body of work, With So Little To Be Sure Of, interrogates the systems and industries that perpetuate and uphold operational practices, legislation, and ideologies that normalize the dehumanization, subjugation, disenfranchisement and belittlement of African Americans. In With So Little To Be Sure Of, Williams’s focus on Black identity centers on the most devastating and distressing depictions of subjugation: naked, pants around ankles, cannibalized, bullet-riddled, beaten, choked, molested, brutalized, castrated, lynched, decapitated. At the core of the work, beyond the artist’s cathartic and obsessive need to reinterpret such vicious violations, is a call to action, a call to bear witness and awaken from what he believes is “an overwhelming cultural apathy.”" CONTINUE READING
Originally published in Bmoreart on January 15, 2018.
"Viewing Magnetic Fields at the NMWA by Mildred Thompson feels like freedom. Bright streaks of red and blue orbit an unknown source, fracture into dashes, and dot a beaming yellow universe. The movement of the lines is both erratic and orchestrated, broad strokes that shift and resound like musical compositions, like the frenetic combustion and reformation from which galaxies are born, the booming screech and coo of ‘Trane’s horn, Alice’s transcendent harp solos, or FlyLo’s auric soundscapes.
Standing before Alma Woodsey Thomas’ Orion, 1973 made me feel like an astronomer surveying an undiscovered star system. Thomas employs a technique she developed called “Alma Stripes” to flood a large canvas with thousands of red strokes. By leaving a small space between each stroke, Thomas creates a hypnotic pattern that recalls West African textiles or astral landscapes." CONTINUE READING
Originally published in BmoreArt on December 13, 2017
"Valerie Maynard is one of the most significant contemporary artists of our times, a legend who has always walked among legends. Many of her predecessors, like Charles White or Elizabeth Catlett, and her contemporaries, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and Amiri Baraka among others, who have contributed to the canon of Black creative genius, have become gods for my generation, sanctuaries whose sacred books and visualizations I return to again and again for affirmation and critical discourse.
Long before the BLM movement affirmed the acute necessity for America and the world to acknowledge that black life matters, Valerie Maynard’s extensive catalog of sculptures, woodcuts and lithograph prints documented the humanity of African American experiences in Harlem New York, and Baltimore Maryland." CONTINUE READING
Originally published in DIRTDMV.com on December 11, 2017
"Heroes, on view at Kravets|Wehby Gallery in West Chelsea New York, features an intimate and inspiring posthumous exhibition of welded chrome and steel sculptures from former Washington, DC based artist, Ed Love. The eight-works displayed, all produced in the 1970s, reflect a period of extreme productivity for Love. In 1976 the artist exhibited a solo show of his sculptures at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and served as a faculty member at Howard University from 1969 to 1987. Studying and teaching at “The Mecca,” facilitated opportunities for him to be mentored and work alongside many other prolific, world renowned artist-scholars; Elizabeth Catlett, Alma Thomas James D. Herring, Valerie Maynard, James A. Porter, Lou Donaldson, Sam Gilliam, David C. Driskell, Lou Stovall, and Sylvia Snowden, among others. The works created by Love and his peers left an indelible mark, a defining proclamation that not only made black aesthetics more visible, but also widened opportunities for contemporary art institutions to consider the relevance of radical, affirming and challenging representations of the black experience. Without the contributions of those artists, and many others unnamed, who each expanded the visualization, inclusion, and canonization of black aesthetics, there would be no Kehinde Wiley, Amy Sherald, Ebony G. Patterson, Derrick Adams. No Sheldon Scott, Wangechi Mutu, Nate Lewis, Tsedaye Makonnen, or Adrienne Gaither. The struggles of earlier generations against the omission of black creatives from art markets is integral to the dynamic representations of contemporary art makers we see globally exhibited and celebrated today." CONTINUE READING
Originally published November 27, 2017 in Sugarcane Magazine
"Like the lotus, a flower that thrives in unfathomable environments, seventy-three artists offer critical and whimsical explorations on present and historic instances of resilience and imagined futures for communities in the American South, Global South and beyond. The fourth iteration of its triennial art review, Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp, is situated in fifteen venues off the coast of the Mississippi and a host of satellite locations at smaller galleries around the city. As the title suggests, Prospect riffs on mythologies associated with the city, and considers water as an environmental element and a signifier for reflection, transit, and transformation. Water and associated themes like Maafa, globalization, colonization, and climate change also recur as major points of inquiry." CONTINUE READING
Originally Published November 16, 2017 in Bmoreart.com
" Wh every brave #METOO declaration, every future reduced to a tally of Baltimore’s rising death toll, every lie told in defense of white supremacy, I am reminded how fragile freedom has always been for so many. We, the ones who are sexualized, silenced and shamed, surveilled and arrested, murdered and brutalized, humiliated, appropriated and blacklisted walk with the weight and residue of institutionalized inequity, patriarchy, racism, classism, and incomprehensible ignorance.
In the face of an overwhelming persistence of local, national, and international disparities, corruptions and assaults on basic civil liberties, it is telling and timely that Dr. H Corona and Dr. A. Pinkston chose freedom as an explorative prompt for participants in LabBodies‘ annual Performance Art Review at SpaceCamp this month, where a collection of immersive installations and live performances have transformed the gallery into a site for critical discourse on freedom. Freedom Free-Done examines all of this and more, but also offers reflective affirmations visualizing freedom’s potential, and how collective and individual imaginings about freedom can dismantle the decrepit and exclusive systems that threaten to destroy the world." CONTINUE READING