“ 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
“There are not enough representations of women just as we are,” said mixed-media artist LaToya Hobbs as we stood in front of her piece “To Stand a Little Taller,” a beautiful oil, acrylic, and collage work exhibited at The Gallery at Baltimore City Hall. I stared up at the portrait of a curly haired woman who smiled back at me with soft eyes. An adinkrahene, a circular Ghanaian adinkra symbol representing greatness and leadership, is replicated in a dense pattern across the canvas and overlays the woman’s black and red dress and the white backdrop behind her. As I looked up at the woman, I thought about how rare it is to see triumphant reflections of Black motherhood.
In her latest exhibition, Salt of the Earth, Hobbs depicts “modern matriarchs,” a series of figurative relief carvings, oil paintings, and lustrous aluminum plates that feature Black mothers in striking and edifying portraits.” CONTINUE READING
“Contemporary artist and supermodel, Corey Wash, creates minimalist sketches that center the mundane dramas of indistinct characters as apocalyptic and cynical scenes; witty and humorous accounts about the obliviousness of our post- internet world. Every doodle draws from the artist’s personal accounts as a bicoastal transplant in Los Angeles and New York, as well her experiences growing up in Baltimore. All of the scenarios Wash portrays offer broad considerations about the dysfunction of contemporary communication.
The earnest portrayals of unapologetic vulgarity; swears, curses, and generally impolite interactions that recur in Wash’s mixed media works, stand as disillusioned proofs that the technological advancements of the 21st century have stunted rather than evolved interpersonal communications. Isn’t it ironic that in the age of globalized interconnectivity and gluttonous data accessibility that most of our communications occur in siloed echo chambers, nihilistic and isolationist social media platforms, where desperately derelict conversations resound? The collective disassociation of our contemporary moment is the framework from which Wash approaches the complexity and nuance of interpersonal relationships.
Wash’s ruminations about the liminal spaces between social autonomy and interdependence are not heady, rather, most frames feel more like comic strips than sociopolitical commentaries. Each canvas stands as a window that peers into a scene that compounds and deconstructs the virtual hyper- sentience of our daily communications. Decontextualized conversations from Willoughby and friends, a recurring cast of non-gendered and racially ambiguous characters, occur within flat neon landscapes. The characters are engaged with monotonous daily activities which they often respond to with curt, nonlinear reactions that mirror the rampant scrolling and cursory commentary of social media discourse. The universality and simplicity of their character designs allows Willoughby and friends to serve as avatars for us all.” CONTINUE READING
“This season marks the 14th year of operation for the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture. During its brief tenure, the museum has been marred with rumors of financial turmoil and organizational chaos that has overshadowed its accomplishments.
“This museum occupies prime real estate in the city and the state,” notes Jackie Copeland, who took up the role of executive director at the start of the year, “It is not just about the Reginald F. Lewis museum, it’s also about many other African-American cultural institutions who are not getting the support that they need to be sustainable. Whether that support comes from the state, city, African-American or majority communities, how you put that puzzle together will make a museum sustainable.”
Copeland, an accomplished art historian who brings more than 30 years of experience working in arts institutions to her new position, remains optimistic about her abilities to transform negative perceptions and reignite community engagement.” CONTINUE READING
Abdu sits down with artist-archivist Angela N. Carroll navigating in the art world as a black body and making space for black art in museums.
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“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