Tag Archives: atlanta

Postcolonial Thoughts: Romare Bearden & Kitsch

by Christopher Hutchinson

Romare Bearden is considered one of the most important American artists of the 20th century. He depicted aspects of black culture in a Cubist style….Born in North Carolina, he landed in New York City and studied with George Grosz. His early paintings were realistic with religous themes. Later, his works depict aspects of family culture in a semiabstract collage and Cubist style. He was also a songwriter and designed sets for the Alvin Ailey Company. http://www.biography.com/people/romare-bearden-40540#synopsis

 

Collage

col·lage noun 1. a piece of art made by sticking various different materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric onto a backing. https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/

Romare Bearden has left a significant mark on the African American art community many years after he has gone. He is the most prolific semi-abstract collage artist to be recognized in the realm of art. His influence cannot be easily dismissed. This article will attempt to do just that.

Being the most prolific semi-abstract artist means absolutely nothing in the pursuit of art. Anyone can manufacture a ton of crap, but production is not the sum of what makes a great artist. If production alone were the criteria to be successful many artists would have met and exceed Bearden’s position in the “Black canon.” This article questions his status as the major influencer he is to the African American art community.

There is an argument that Bearden is in many ways the first abstract art introduced to the African American art community. That is simply not the case. Harlem Renaissance artists like Aaron Douglas’ s cubism preceded Bearden by decades and is certainly more an artist. The collage practice period is a gross attempt at creativity. To cut and paste imagery is an ugly mode of praxis.

Any artist who likes the foundation of the arts (drawing, painting, and 3-D works) could never appreciate such a practice void of artistry. Collage as a medium is an offense to these foundations. If this is an artist’s entry point these artists eventually will need to return to those foundations. Bearden’s accomplishment is the fact that he produced this collage farce for his entire career repeatedly with little to no change. The fact that he could dredge through this monotonous cutting and gluing speaks to a kind of attrition that has not to do with art, rather a kind of masochism.

 

Kitsch

Kitsch noun 1. art, objects, or design considered to be in poor taste because of excessive garishness or sentimentality, but sometimes appreciated in an ironic or knowing way: “the lava lamp is an example of sixties kitsch” adjective 1. considered to be in poor taste but appreciated in an ironic or knowing way: “the front room is stuffed with kitsch knickknacks, little glass and gilt ornaments”https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/

Kitsch is a more appropriate discussion for Bearden’s prolific production. Knickknacks of African American culture scrapbooked on a large rectangle for consumption. The Harlem renaissance was not Kitsch. They were interested in realism. They used analytic and synthetic cubism to access an abstract realism. Those artists used their art to literally build a vernacular of tangible African American history not to be scrapbooked, rather a present lived moment. Bearden’s work subverts and erases the very foundation the Harlem renaissance built and reduced it to a postcard.

 

Bearden is used as a model for many artists to aspire to, and many artists succumb to his success as the rubric of their own practice. Many “Black galleries” are saturated with this dated knickknack art that only succeeds as a poor copy of an original consumable. These artists that choose to pick up the mantle of Bearden waste their lives never developing work for themselves. Why do “Black galleries” and collectors support this obvious cliché as the pinnacle of African American contribution? Especially when Bearden himself credits European study as his major source of influence, not the “Black canon.”

 

Collections
By Maynard Eaton

Jerry Thomas Jr. and Alan Avery may have engineered Atlanta’s single most significant black art exhibition ever this past weekend. Their unprecedented collaboration produced an historic cultural event for dozens of the city’s Who’s Who art aristocrats to admire and purchase rare original works by Romare Bearden, America’s preeminent African American artist.

The Lamp, by Romare Bearden

The Lamp, by Romare Bearden

“We are the first two art dealers – regardless of color – that have collaborated,” says Alan Avery, owner of the Alan Avery Art Company in Buckhead. “It doesn’t happen in Atlanta. But, I think it is even more significant that we are from different races and that we come from different backgrounds, but that we are collaborating for the strength of Atlanta, the Atlanta art scene and the Atlanta collector base.”

“Bearden is one of the all-time great artists,” adds Jerry Thomas, the owner and highly regarded impresario of Jerry Thomas Arts. “He would not only enjoy the prices that his works are bringing but also the mixed audience of both blacks and whites. I think that would have been very important to him. What makes it ever more significant is the collaboration between me and Alan Avery. Hopefully this will not only be the beginning of such collaborations, but will set a new mold for the country in terms of blacks and whites working together to produce more shows.”

Bearden’s work now commands a hefty price tag, with the pieces on display at Alan Avery’s gallery ranging from $40,000 to $400,000. It was an uptown show for an upscale cross-section of Atlanta’s elite, and the metro area’s sophisticated art connoisseurs. They didn’t blink at the prices. Six of Bearden’s prize pieces were sold the first day, and the exhibition continues through January. http://saportareport.com/romare-bearden-exhibition-the-tipping-point-of-atlantas-black-arts-renaissance/

From a financial standpoint $400,000 is a great investment, but at what cost. To train the next generation to replicate this means of production is appalling. An artist in 2017 doing a copy of Bearden, believing it to be a true representation of the African American community is beyond delusional yet many Black artists are doing just that. The stagnation located in the African American art community can be placed squarely at the feet of these collectors and galleries that praise the romanticized kitsch element present in all of Bearden’s production. There are many artists within the “Black canon” which would be more suitable as an entry point for African American artists.

 

Christopher Hutchinson 2Christopher Hutchinson is an accomplished Jamaican conceptual artist, professor and contributor to the art community as a writer, critic and founder of the nonprofit Smoke School of Art. He is a Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and has been featured as a lecturer including prestigious engagements at University of Alabama and the Auburn Avenue Research Library. For two decades, Chris has been a practicing artist. His works have been exhibited in internationally recognized institutions including City College New York (CUNY) and featured at the world’s leading international galleries such as Art Basel Miami. He has always had an innate passion for creating spaces where Africans and people of African descent contribute to an inclusive contemporary dialogue—ever evolving, not reflexive but pioneering. This requires challenging the rubric of the canon of art history, a systemic space of exclusion for the Other: women and non-Whites, and where necessary he rewrites it. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama.

 

 

Reiterating the Erotic

by Carla Aaron-Lopez

carla_aaron_lopez_LR_thegreatprotector

the great protector

 

Carla Aaron-Lopez writes regularly for Creative Thresholds about the experience of being an emerging artist. Her previous posts are: “Notes from kingCARLA,” “Notes from kingCARLA 2,” “Notes from kingCARLA 3,” and “That Moment When Artists Snap.” “Reiterating the Erotic” is a lecture she gave recently in Atlanta, GA for a Feminist Symposium called “A Bad Question: An Exhibition and Forum on Race + Feminism.”

 

The devil came wearing white today. And for the next few minutes, I want you to explore what you really think it means to be a feminist. I don’t burn bras. Men are not my enemy. I don’t have Sex and the City moments with my homegirls and I definitely don’t give a fuck about Susan B. Anthony and the suffragette movement. That’s somebody else’s history.

I am the villain who came to make you reconsider sexuality and sensuality using feminism and post-structuralism as my foundation.

Years ago, I wasn’t very moved by those I met that called themselves feminists. Either they were too contradictory, too hypocritical or too radical for my preferences.

Therefore, let me begin this conversation with the year 2012, when it fully clicked that I was going to be a mother to a son. When that realization finally hit home, I knew that everything I had been told, taught and programmed to believe was a beautiful yet hideously disgusting lie.

I truly believe that we live so far removed from truth that I began seeking a new story to tell, a new lie to believe. After my search, I was left with nothing fulfilling and I went into a sort of psychological hiding.

Hiding my thoughts, my fears, hiding who I really wanted to be.

I wanted to walk away from everyone and everything. I began wishing that stereotypes weren’t real because I was planning my great escape from this perceived reality. It was time for me to find a new hero. One that I could relate to in my dark, twisted and morbid little universe. But even that request didn’t hit on what I truly needed.

Ever since I was a little girl, the story of the damsel in distress has been shared again and again. The princess was always so sweet, so soft and so vulnerable that she constantly needed to be saved by a young prince. Growing up black, I also got sold that I needed Jesus to save me from myself and from the sins of the world. Yet another white man who needed to come save my ass.

As I became a young adult, magazines, music and movies told me that I needed to be saved still but in different and daunting ways. If I wear these clothes, he will be attracted to me. If I were this make-up, I will be cute for spring and winter. If I’m like this or that in bed, then I will drive him crazy.

To be honest, I’m still wading through the mess of my life but I’m here now. And to be even more honest, the power of motherhood and exploring the erotic has changed how I see and interact with everything around me. Our collective journey begins with that statement.

I began looking at myself differently from that point. I realized that nothing I learned was going to help the new journey that was unfolding before me. There was no man or woman who would be able to help me in the way that I needed. I could follow a classic framework knowing that I would be more broken on the inside than ever before. Some women aren’t meant to settle down but instead are meant to pierce the taut fabrics that make up your individual perception.

You will not find me in a church. You will not find me in a book club. You will not even find me at a Beyonce concert.

When the feeling came, that moment of clarity, I was standing in my room. The beginnings of my downfall from reality started right there.
And it was glorious.

It wasn’t late into the night but it was winter and it was definitely dark outside. I like the dark. I found myself in my favorite place at that moment. Sinking deep into my thoughts which is similar to navigating through a large warmed vat of thick, luscious, viscous Vaseline. It’s just as comforting as sunny Southern skies with lingering humidity in the air.

I knew this feeling very well and I automatically felt what it wanted to do with me. It started deep down low and seductively moved its way up to my brain sparking a quiet chaos throughout the rest of my body.

The feeling began to inform what I should do next with my life. At that moment, I could either be self-destructive, self-pleasuring or take that energy by its curly rolls and push it into another direction.

One text conversation with a friend later in the night brought back me to the mind of Audre Lorde and introduced me to her views on eroticism.  My friend sent me audio of Lorde sharing her essay, “The Power of the Erotic” (a recording can be found at the end of the essay). I pressed play but I wasn’t listening. Her voice was mesmerizing because I had never heard a woman speak with such confidence and comfort. I wanted to be like that. I wanted to inhabit that energy and share it with the people.

I needed to find the thing itself and print it out. The next day, I found her essay because I needed to hold her words and take them in while draped in silence. I needed to touch the papers and strike it with my pen jotting notes all over its margins. I needed a moment with those words and hear them with my inner voice for it to become one with my personal dialogue.

My reason for being so obsessive is because I needed for someone to put into words what I had been feeling naturally and solidify my reasons for working with such hypersexualized imagery. She flipped over and turned out everything that I knew about erotic and I, in turn, reconsidered how I defined the term. The exact same thing that I do with my personal work whether visual or written.

I enjoy looking at classic power structures and dismantling them in a way that I think is an improvement. I choose erotic imagery only because of the amount of negativity that surrounds being a sexual woman.

What if I flipped the perception and turned the eroticization of women into gods and titans? Who would they be to you then? Would they become something else? Would they influence a docile woman to become more than what she is? I don’t know but we’ll see as time passes us all.

I’ve learned that the erotic is a feminine energy and any person can come into the folds of that energy if they are seeking to re-establish his/her individual identity. For many years, I’ve gone on rants and lamented in many essays about the hypersexualization of women of color. Black and Latino women are often seen as aggressive enforcers of sexuality while white and Asian women are docile and submissive. Altogether, people will take advantage of a woman’s appearance, love and experiences. What I’ve learned is that if you just ask a woman what she likes, she might tell you. However, I’ve also learned that many of these same women don’t even know what to do with their sexuality because they are scared of it.

I don’t know why but I think I know a point of relativity. Most women refuse to examine the power within themselves because society says a woman should do and be whatever has been previously established of them from a patriarchal perspective.

For a long time that scared me to the point that I didn’t want to be anything like any woman and I refused to be seen as feminine. I preferred to be dressed in masculine energy and keep rappers as my alter ego to protect myself from critical world views on femininity. If you wanted a woman, don’t come to me because you were going to get a nigga in a dress. This is destructive thinking as a result of a sensitive soul reacting to mainstream images around me.

Ads tell me that I need to use certain products or else I will not be beautiful. I have never really been comfortable with agreeing to such a notion. They also tell me that I need to buy certain products or else my vagina will not be clean and it will smell. That’s scientifically dumb as fuck.

If advertisements aren’t telling me what I should do as a woman, then there’s entertainment showing me how I should act as a woman.

According to what we currently watch in movies, television and the internet, I should be a whore whose feelings are always abused because I’ve opened my legs to the wrong man throughout my adult life.

I should be taken advantage of due to the incredibly high amount of moving images that contain rape scenes and its various circumstances.

Or I should live my life docile and continue to wait for my fictitious white or light skinned knight in a well tailored suit because I am a good girl.

Fuck being a good girl. I don’t care about that anymore unless you want to re-enact a role play scene with me because you love me.

When women are denied the unlimited power and pleasure of being a woman, we create severe deficiencies within our quality of living and when she begins to accept denying herself as a result of our classic gender structures, she becomes the bitter bitch.

We all die a little bit when that bitch comes around.

Life without embracing the erotic is a life that is unfulfilled and obligatory, kind of like the bitter woman. To embrace the erotic is to examine a very wide spectrum of feelings emotionally, mentally and physically. We don’t even know all the words that we could use to describe these experiences.

From sharing joy with a loved one in complete silence to how we interact with the world around us. Have you revisited walking barefoot on wet grass after a fresh rainfall? Have you ever taken a deep breath of crisp air on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall? Closed your mouth and stared into the eyes of your lover? If not, I suggest that you do.

Free your mind and your ass will follow. Famous words by some very famous non-binary black people.

We need not confuse erotic any longer with female hypersexuality but give in to ourselves in order to enrich our human experience as a whole. I am a mother and there’s a woman halfway across the world whose language I cannot speak who is a mother, too. We can share in the joys of that experience. We can definitely laugh at its frustrations.

Embracing the erotic can bring life to our senses if we understand it as an extension feminine energy. It isn’t a sexual energy but a chaotic one that deserves our attention. From being constantly surrounded by sexual imagery, we confuse what that feeling is deep within us. Confusion leads to erratic thinking, poor decision-making and psychotic actions all blamed on the power of erotic.

If someone chooses to break the structure of what they have been taught as normal for their entire lives for the sake of their sanity and happiness then that is a person choosing power over oppression.

Politically speaking, right now, we, as global citizens, are in a stage of redefining and restructuring how we see and approach gender identity. Those lines have always been bent and crossed for a long time with no one voice as representation until now. Questions are being asked from all corners in regards to what defines male, female, man and woman. Of course, there is opposition and hatred to individuals that are creating new social binaries to define their sense of belonging.

It seems silly for me to live my life just for marriage and a man. Is that all my life amounts to because I am a woman? Shall I be in constant competition with another woman over the affection and attention of a man? Or shall I become the bitter woman spewing nonsense about being independent and not having a need for any man? NO. I just want to live my life. My life is not controlled by or in need of saving by any man (or woman).

I’m human and dysfunctional because everyday my heart and brain go through mini battles in the same manner that belief and reason do. All of those points lead to roads of abuse whether the abuse comes from the self or another person. There is no logic to that. There is no defending, upholding or supporting that. And because of that, I support embracing the power of erotic. I want it to drip from my skin, make a woman question her attraction to me and a man feel like I’m something to be cherished. All because I just want to be comfortable in the skin that I’m in and shine as brightly as I can until Death come to give me the sweetest, deadliest kiss I’ll ever encounter.

I find that exploring your own eroticism will lead to the identity and belonging we constantly search for as humans. To be erotic doesn’t mean that we do as want whenever we want. It also doesn’t give anyone the right to become sexually aggressive as a response to growing up in a Puritan patriarchal western society.

Being erotic is as simple as touching the skin you were born in and not having harsh criticism of its imperfections. Just touch it. Being erotic is finding joy and pleasure in things that make you peaceful mentally. And last, being erotic is taking the chaotic energy you were born with and manipulating it in order to enrich your above ground human experience.

Reading Audre Lorde’s essay has helped turn something that I thought was completely abstract into something that is concrete and tangible. She has given me a new life, new direction in defining how I can begin to comprehend my time on Earth because being erotic is in everything that I do.

From the air I inhale to the words that come out of my mouth.
From how I embrace my hair to how I enjoy a hot cup of coffee.

How I see my life’s work.
How I embrace my child.

I am no longer afraid to simply embrace my femininity. I think it looks great on me.

Any questions? Didn’t think so.

 

 

carla aaron-lopez 4Artist: Carla Aaron-Lopez

Instagram: @iamkingcarla

Twitter: @teachkingcarla

Re-mixed media: Davenport makes a splash in the South

by Jon Davenport

Miss Golightly II 60x48

Miss Golightly II 60×48

Rocket II 48x48

Rocket II 48×48

Southern-Fried-24x24

Southern-Fried-24×24

North-Carolina-Royalty-24x36

North-Carolina-Royalty-24×36

Orange-Soda-48x48

Orange-Soda-48×48

 

Jon DavenportArtist: Jon Davenport

From biology student to owning and running a creative agency in London to a career as a fine artist, life has taken Jon Davenport on a rewarding and unconventional journey. Despite his scientific beginnings, he’s always had a strong artistic streak weaving its way through his different career paths.

Growing up in Ipswich, UK, Jon was always an avid drawer, and could often be found with a pencil and paper in hand. With the arrival of his first computer, he embraced the new frontier of digital art, and had work published in one of those early computer magazines. The stage was set!

His creative urges took a backseat to getting a biology degree at Brunel University in London. It was afterwards, in his first job working at Archant newspaper group in Ipswich, that he quickly progressed from plate maker to becoming an integral member of the art studio. It was during this time that he taught himself photoshop, desktop publishing and graphic & web design.

After a few years he setup a design agency, and eventually went full time and moved to London. This proved to be a successful move, working for a number of clients such as Nike and Virgin, and gaining praise from the likes of Richard Branson and Tony Blair.

It wasn’t until Jon moved to the USA to marry his wife, Atlanta artist Christy Kinard, that he began indulging his pure creative urges, with her constant encouragement. Thanks to all the previous twists and turns, as well as embracing a new found love for photography and the paintbrush, it was only then that he could truly begin to create artworks that he was proud of.

Website:  http://jondavenportart.com

Precautionary Measures

by Meredith Blankinship

Meredith Blankinship Giving Daddy a Hand

Spokane & Friends

From the exercise bike on the 2nd story
of the glass-walled gym I watch the action
at the Kum & Go across the street
I read nutritional information for
a Burger King fish fillet I chew
mindfully in the turnpike truck stop
just outside of Pittsburgh

Slomming the page with bursts
of terror, epileptic Xmas tree
gums my sleep. Don’t worry baby
visiting Spokane tonight
just saving for necessity

This is me before and after 10 cups
hung alone in the swing of middle
ground squinting into the sun. My limits
worse over time. Secrete and slip and when
I breathe in it is kerosene. After
I clawed my skin off they said
keep digging until you hit bone
Now I piss away the light

A woman is like two miniature collies
out for a walk, an inoffensive place where
anyone may lay down. Maybe some of us
don’t have to do horrible things
in order to be better people but I did
and that’s the best I’ve got

Grim Girls

Begin with the scribbled-out
Begin with a fever
Somebody’s dad touching you behind
the concession stand
and you

Say bad of ghosts
that don’t know your names
Walking down to the river, at the river
you never want to go back
Tie a shoelace
a bit of calico a plastic bag
to a branch close to the water
to trail the surface of the water

And then you go back
but this time pearl-handled funnel
above is ready
to clip what’s happening to you
The impulse hammering

where grim girls hold
their severed tongues
Magpies pick politely
at traffic’s orange, they know
the difference between
each kind of apologia

You proceed down the hole too small
for your cabbage-leafed hands
Your weeping pink eyes
sopping disease, inclination
to disintegrate into the floor, pool
you’ve ground yourself into

Tell the truth
Barricade the door
No face beyond the hair threshed
No room now for niceties:
nightgown, doily, bloodied linen
In a voice that laughs
at everything you
get more under-
belly than you’d think

 

Dawn at the First Disruption of Base Camp

The cat’s mournful yawp
at my hush-the-brain
at my restless liver
the hole in the ocean you find
when you break the knife
from handle, become once-human,
half-cocked

when the leaves fall off
the trees
and onto snowy ground
you see the branches filled
with crows

the monster’s legs
tattooed astride her pubis
then life got boring
the ice repose
of a vine-covered day

the timbre of a way
to remember
that each picture is another
thing I’ll never see

like what’s swimming
in the lake
in the abandoned mall
in Bangkok

 

DeadDead

because the dead
corrupt the living
answer without names
each sun

unbearable vertiginous neck
tendons clamping into
finely scraped hollows

tooth sharps, lick clean
the stethoscope that is
hungry, as all creeping
things hunger and grin

with or without naming names
the dead contaminate
your face miming
in the voice of your loved
ones from very far away

who may speak to the dead?
whose living days
reek with interference
calling back what belongs in
cedars in the bulge
of blackberry root
palpate what is left behind
for containment
the blue tarp flapping
in the yard

you say you
do not know me but I
am here for good

 

Precautionary Measures

Morning grins in the face
of the drunk dude who tries to break
the shatterproof glass of the front
door with his sternum. We are
what’s on the internet on repeat
when spellcheck is off. Let the engine
accept its ramifications. Let light
decide to do its thing or not.
This new kind of house has pleasant
stink only slightly putrid so look
close for secret spores.
Hello July, today I will listen
to all ten common sounds that cause
deafness on repeat and I will fucking
love it. What are you going to
do, July? I love you, skinning paper
with a bookmark, lines
thinning out into the distance,
into time we haven’t ruined yet.

 

Photo by Lisa Wells

Photo by Lisa Wells

Meredith Blankinship is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her poems have appeared in or are forthcoming from H_NGM_N, SKYDEER HELPKING, Imperial Matters, Heavy Feather Review, Similar:Peaks::, GlitterMob, Sink Review, and Finery,among others. She is a recent transplant to Atlanta, GA.

Postcolonial Thoughts: Lyle Ashton Harris Lecture at the HIGH: Indecisive moments

by Christopher Hutchinson

For more than two decades Lyle Ashton Harris has cultivated a diverse artistic practice ranging from photographic media, collage, installation and performance. His work explores intersections between the personal and the political, examining the impact of ethnicity, gender and desire on the contemporary social and cultural dynamic. Known for his self-portraits and use of pop culture icons (such as Billie Holiday and Michael Jackson), Harris teases the viewers’ perceptions and expectations, resignifying cultural cursors and recalibrating the familiar with the extraordinary. His work has been exhibited internationally, including at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the 52nd Venice Biennale. His work has been acquired by major international museums, most recently by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His commissioned work has been featured in a wide range of publications, including The New York Times Magazine and the New Yorker. In 2014 Harris joined the board of trustees at the American Academy in Rome and was named the 10th recipient of the David C. Driskell Prize by the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Born in New York City, Harris spent his formative years in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania. He received his Bachelor of Arts with Honors from Wesleyan University in 1988 and a Masters in Fine Arts from the California Institute of the Arts in 1990. He currently lives and works in New York City and is an Associate Professor at New York University. http://www.lyleashtonharris.com/about/

Lyle Ashton Harris is considered to be a pioneer in Postcolonial art, in which his collaboration with Renee Cox has a very important dialogue about blackness with the residue of Colonialism.  One of the goals of Postcolonialism is to be aware of the far reaching effects of Colonialism and then ultimately to rewrite that history.  To this end Lyle Ashton Harris has an important place in the legacy of art history.  It was with this knowledge and hope that attendance to the HIGH museum lecture in Atlanta on January 15, 2015 became mandatory.

For the exhibition Mirage: Enigmas of Race, Difference and Desire (1995), Lyle Ashton Harris in collaboration with Renee Valerie Cox created the photograph, “Venus Hottentot 2000.” In this futuristic reinterpretation of the Hottentot Venus, Renee Valerie Cox directly inserts her own body into the historical matrix of Western representations that configured black female sexuality. In the photograph Cox’s body is transformed, recalling the Hottentot Venus, with the addition of protruding metallic breasts and an accompanying metal butt extension. The white strings that delicately hold these metallic body parts in place with bow, seem to emphasize the artists’ complex and ambivalent relationships to representations of black female sexuality. Cox wears the metallic appendages like a costume or disguise, but her own nude body is simultaneously revealed to the viewer. She stands in profile emphasizing her bodily dimensions, hands akimbo, and stares directly at the viewer.“Hottentot 2000″ is one photograph in a series by Harris called The Good Life, 1994. https://scholarblogs.emory.edu/postcolonialstudies/2014/06/21/postcolonial-performance-and-installation-art/

Harris then proceeded to deliver one of the most disappointing and disturbing lectures, a litany of name-dropping and external references to other famous artists and philosophers that was far from Postcolonial thoughts except for the engagement of the “Other”–the “Other” is not the only point of Postcolonialism.  He bounced from topic to topic in flurry of art speak that was intended to connect conflicting concepts that did not really apply to his own praxis.  Harris discussed his overall career as a photographer moving through collage, portraiture, and performance art.  The audience suffered through an amateurish performance about Michael Jackson and the homeless that was poorly executed.  The lecture ended with a slideshow of all his notable acquaintances over an amped up Grace Jones track with his voice competing with it.  After suffering though, it became clear the one consistent in Harris’ methodology is appropriation of established Western thought.  Postcolonialism is not interested in appropriating the West. Appropriating the West can only result in the promotion of the residual effects of colonialism, not ending them.

What exactly is special to Harris’ art practice to be so well received?

Lyle Ashton Harris plays Michael Jackson in Performing MJ. (Photo by Ray Llanos) - See more at: http://www.artsatl.com/2014/02/news-lyle-ashton-harris-wins-high-museums-10th-annual-david-c-driskell-prize/#sthash.JP8Q7vBm.dpuf

Lyle Ashton Harris plays Michael Jackson in Performing MJ. (Photo by Ray Llanos) – See more at: http://www.artsatl.com/2014/02/news-lyle-ashton-harris-wins-high-museums-10th-annual-david-c-driskell-prize/#sthash.JP8Q7vBm.dpuf

Rephotographed Collages

Prince began appropriating photographs in 1975. His image, Untitled (Cowboy), a “rephotograph” of a photograph taken originally by Sam Abell and appropriated from a cigarette advertisement, was the first “rephotograph” to raise more than $1 million at auction when it was sold at Christie’sNew York in 2005. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Prince

Harris’s collages aren’t technically collages at all; a rebus picture puzzle would be more accurate. These “collages” don’t overlap, are relatively the same-sized images, with almost the exact same space around each image. All point to a lack of mastery of medium/process. It is a visual dumbing down of two-dimensional space while referencing Picasso and Duchamp. So what if the images were rephotographed. How does that knowledge add to the importance of the concept? During the lecture Harris went into great detail when it came to the medium and rambled when it came to the work, overcompensating with name-dropping and large scale. The lecture had all the earmarks of the student who has not taken the time to write out his artist statement.

Harris discussed his collage Blow Up IV and how the main image relates to Manet’s Olympia and how the drips in the middle are semen. Once again an external reference used to lend importance to a sloppily executed artwork.

Untitled (Mobile #4), 2005  for The New York Times Magazine, 1 Jan. 2006 http://www.lyleashtonharris.com/selected-commissions/

Untitled (Mobile #4), 2005
for The New York Times Magazine, 1 Jan. 2006
http://www.lyleashtonharris.com/selected-commissions/

Harris described this NY Times commission on which he was charged to go to Africa and document Africans with some form of technology to which the above image and others were taken. This is no different than Manet’s Olympia with the spectacle of Blackness. Something that was intended to prove Africans modernity actually promotes Otherness.

The Decisive Moment

Henri Cartier-Bresson is considered to be the father of modern photojournalism. His style of “street photography,” using small format cameras, still influences modern photojournalists to this day.

In the documentary above, Henri Cartier-Bresson describes the elusive decisive moment, which cannot be staged or faked.  Once it’s happened, that’s it.  Bresson allows for this moment to occur while paying attention to composition.  His composition affirms the narrative of the decisive moment.  Lyle Ashton Harris relies only upon shock and icon to force the viewer into a narrative that he has constructed. It’s a burden that shock and icon cannot satisfy.

 

Christopher HutchinsonChristopher Hutchinson is an accomplished Jamaican conceptual artist, professor and contributor to the art community as a writer, critic and founder of the nonprofit Smoke School of Art. He is a Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and has been featured as a lecturer including prestigious engagements at University of Alabama and the Auburn Avenue Research Library. For two decades, Chris has been a practicing artist. His works have been exhibited in internationally recognized institutions including City College New York (CUNY) and featured at the world’s leading international galleries such as Art Basel Miami. He has always had an innate passion for creating spaces where Africans and people of African descent contribute to an inclusive contemporary dialogue—ever evolving, not reflexive but pioneering. This requires challenging the rubric of the canon of art history, a systemic space of exclusion for the Other: women and non-Whites, and where necessary he rewrites it. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama.

 

Notes from kingCARLA 2

By Carla Aaron-Lopez

kingCARLA  writes about the experience of being an emerging artist. Her first post was Notes from kingCARLA.

carla aaron-lopez 1

Ever heard the saying: You get a lot of NO’s before you get to YES?

I hate it. Drives me insane. Especially when I get turned down for exhibitions when I know my shit is tight. But alas, life moves on… because it has to. Doesn’t it?

Recently, I introduced myself to Charlotte, NC to a small crowd of people that I knew and people that I didn’t know. I’m quite into creating my version of Southern culture therefore I served everyone cherry moonshine. By the end of the night, people were happily drunk and into the works that I put on the wall. Now that that night is over, I find myself back in the mundane motions of an everyday routine. And today in email form about a juried exhibition in DC, I received my last no. Like, seriously folks, the shit is really beginning to piss me off so bad that I don’t know what my next move is but when I get there I’ll let you know what I did.

carla aaron-lopez 2As an emerging artist that is trying to take my professional life seriously, I’m working through these issues all artists have. Some of us will be able to get over them. Sadly, most do not. If I continue to have a temper tantrum or fall into depression every time I get a no then I’m not really living my artist life to the fullest. Therefore, when things like this show up… I review my resume.

Why?

Because I can remind myself of all the work I’ve put in over the past 10 years as an artist and to see where I would like to be for the next 10 years. Life steadily evolves without our permission. If I spend all my time concentrating on the bad/negative/upsetting parts I will miss my opportunity to shine. And that moment is coming up soon in the form of a panel discussion at Georgia State University on blackness as aesthetics. Bruh. I know that shit so well for the weird negros, white folks and people of color in America. I’ve chosen that event at this moment to be that professional artist I see myself as when no one is around. That campy motherfucker with a Southern twang dropping sweetly ignorant yet highly intelligent verbals from her mouth. A modern day Zora Neale Hurston.

My fantasies. They’re huge. Tengo grandes cojones… metaphorically speaking.

Back to the resume review.

In order to play the character I’ve created, I need to review what I’ve done and what it means to me. I think that from there I’ll be able to have a stronger basis for my aspirations as an artist and begin boiling down who my audience is. And I know my audience is small. I believe them to be a perverse group of humans that are rather bored with mediocrity and normalcy of American culture. They hate what’s perfect and enjoy the seedy underbelly of popular culture. It’s dangerous grounds to lurk in those spaces but to an outcast (or marginalized person) it is home and peaceful. For years, I’ve created works that attract this group of people. That is, within reason because the rabbit hole of human oddities runs very deep and very scary. I’m fascinated by the relationship of what’s considered normal in societies and what’s marginalized in terms of the human experience.

carla aaron-lopezMaybe that’s why I get so many no’s. I’m black woman but don’t really care to produce works again and again on the gaze/masculinity of white and black men. I’d rather empower a bitch and keep it moving but don’t call me a fucking feminist. And because I’m black, I’m bored with the constantly reproduced slave narratives. The content needs to be really fucking fascinating or else I forget about it. I know my history very well therefore I seek to produce works that challenge the new contemporary ways in which racial/sexual contracts are upheld in American culture. Now, that shit can go somewhere over hill and into outer space. Maybe I need to be a male artist.

Maybe then I’ll get noticed.

Nope. Fuck that.

I know my day will come when I stop getting Wangechi Mutu references. Until then, fuck these no’s. I’ve got more exhibitions to apply to, a new body of work to establish, a panel discussion to prepare for and a baby boy to raise in America.

I ain’t got the time to be in my feelings over a damn no.

And neither should you.

Peace,
kingCARLA

kingCARLA with friend Solomon at "Who is King Carla?"

kingCARLA with friend Solomon at “Who is King Carla?”

 

Artist: Carla Aaron-Lopez 

woke up with my horns on. fell in love with a cadillac. born/raised in charlotte, nc. baptized in the dirty south also known as atlanta.

@iamkingcarla
whoiskingcarla.com

 

Notes from kingCARLA

by Carla Aaron-Lopez

They call this the beginning of a career. Even though my resume is already a mile long, I believe it to be the start of getting to that “emerging artist” label. Somewhere in grad school, I attended a lecture from an artist who asked my class what we were going to do once we graduate. We all agreed that he was crazy and answered that we were going to get jobs and go to work. At the time, it seemed like it made sense and that’s what some of us went off to do. We graduated, got jobs and became professors at respective universities.

However, for some of us, those cards didn’t stack that way. In my case, I was an adjunct at a historically black university for three years until I was cut. I still don’t know why. My unemployment says I was cut because of low enrollment and since then I haven’t been able to pick up another job. I had no choice but to do what I had been trained to do which is be an artist and when I look at the art world in motion I see less of me and more of those that taught me.

Lots of old white men and women. Ain’t nothing wrong with that but it forces me to wonder if I should do this at all. My ego is too big to let appearances cause me to quit. Therefore, I can’t help but to ask and investigate what it takes to be an artist of color in the 21st century. It’s 2014 and I find I still have to play cute little games to get accepted into this centuries old world. I come from a different place. I call it the dirty South, others just call it Atlanta. I’m not much into creating works that examine the place of black women in America or the African diaspora. I’m also not interested in making works that dog the sh*t out of men. I prefer making works that reflect my Southern background just like the ignorant rap music I love listening to while I create works. If you want a postcolonial discussion from me, I’ll direct you to my homie, Christopher Hutchinson, because he has the words you can’t run from.

In the meantime, this post is being created to help you (and me) explore what it takes to be an artist. And here’s the first step. Explore your influences. It doesn’t have to solely be artists. It can be writers, thinkers, dancers and/or rappers. As much as I love rappers is as much as I love Jean Baudrillard and Michel Foucault. It could even be television characters like the great Doctor Who. Examine why you are drawn to these influences. Is it the confidence you’re attracted to? Is it theories that you’ve read and you want to create something that reflects what you’ve learned? Is it history of a person, place or thing? I don’t know. It’s your world coming to life as an artist. We all have a world we live in that separates us from the next person. I believe that’s how we all keep our sanity. Don’t believe me? Check my next paragraph.

When I graduated with a MFA in photography in 2009, I ended up with a crappy job at TSS Photography transferring children in sports photos to products like keychains, dog tags and mugs to name a few. I hated it. I also didn’t have a camera and I was driving myself crazy. One day, I came across Romare Bearden again and remembered how my favorite black artists could only work using few materials because they had regular crappy jobs and families to feed. I looked around my apartment and saw that I had scissors, glue and plenty of collected magazines. If I couldn’t shoot the photograph then I figured I could make a new image using ones I found in magazines. It was at that moment I realized that I was more than the photographer that some cute little sheet of paper declared. I realized that I needed to investigate image making. In 2011, I started a new body of work that has taken me in a direction that I never anticipated. I dropped a baby from the womb in 2012 which led me to think about the nature of creation. OF COURSE, I knew NOTHING of what it meant to be pregnant. Let alone a mother of color in a world that believes itself to be post-racial. No. I began to think about what images and influences I will be bringing around my son based upon the things I had grown to like. None of them were very pretty, soft or becoming of a woman. They were quite hypersexualized, crude and rude. Just how I like my life.

That woman you see in strip clubs laughing with the dancers? Yeah. That’s me. I love being your family’s worst nightmare walking through your house for dinner. A dirty intellectual. The work I created ended up being bodies that were imbued with power because they appear to be powerless. What happens when you flip a world upside down and inside out?

You get the beginnings of an emerging artist. Take a look and tell me what you think. If the work makes you feel uncomfortable then my job as an artist is complete because those are the images I have to deal with on a daily basis.

– Carla Aaron-Lopez
@iamkingcarla
whoiskingcarla.com

original mother, 2011

original mother, 2011

biggie alone, 2011

biggie alone, 2011

black girl jesus, 2012

black girl jesus, 2012

queen vanessa, 2011

queen vanessa, 2011

duality, 2011

duality, 2011

garvey fart, 2012

garvey fart, 2012

zombie shaman, 2012

zombie shaman, 2012

Pay attention (and then do something)

by Rebekah Goode-Peoples

It started off serious, this year. Long, late night drives listening to the modern spirituals of Phosphorescent and Nick Cave and writing in a pool blue basement room to Daughter. Last winter wasn’t particularly cold, and nothing particularly harrowing happened to me that season. Nevertheless, I hardcore wallowed. Stayed inside.

It didn’t help that I was finishing the last few songs of Oryx and Crake’s next full-length album, a concept narrative exploring commitment, from brief moments of comfort and security to long, bottom-of-the-well places. The chokehold of bondage. It wasn’t an easy story to tell. And I dreamt of summer.

Maybe I wasn’t the only one–seems like many folks in my circle had a tough year.

Things have been hard, right? Syria, Sandy Hook, the government shutdown, whatever other horrors make you shy away from the news stations’  Twitter feeds and turn to pop culture demerol.

So maybe you push play on Icona Pop’s “I Love It.” All flashing lights, so swirling that you can’t focus on anything for more than a fraction of a second. The neon, the thumping glitter distracts us from disaster, both our own and the world’s. Makes it unreal.

Rebekah's post-gif HDF8MUV

See, we’ve been hurt, and hurt again. We know everyone’s tragedy all of the time. So we run. Matthew Houck of Phosphorescent sings in my favorite song of the year, “Song for Zula, “I will not open myself up this way again…And I am racing out on the desert plains all night.” It’s a love story, sure, but it’s also our story. Of being too tender, too raw to handle it all.

rebekah twitter

Sometimes you need to take a break, but you have to be careful.

Stuff happens under the surface for all of us–that we try not to notice as thumbs slide away on Candy Crush or scroll through tumblrs of gif after gif of adorable dogs and sloths–that we don’t discuss, or even notice, because we’re so tied to our black screen holes.

We forget to look around, know each other. To feel things. We just follow the formula.

But we don’t have to.

We can pay attention. We can dance it off. We can be who we want to be.

This is the only life we get–yell loud and make earthquakes.

NFL Fans In Seattle And Kansas City Battle Over Who’s Louder– NPR Morning Edition, December 18, 2013:

—————————————————————————————————————————

PLAYLIST:  Five fingers of one hand (Spotify)

Albums:

Daughter “If You Leave

Phosphorescent “Muchacho”

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds “Push the Sky Away”

CHVRCHES “The Bones of What You Believe”

Lorde “Pure Heroine”

rebekah goode-peoples profile picRebekah Goode-Peoples is a teacher and writer who lives in Atlanta, GA. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram at @goodepeoples and her band, Oryx and Crake, at @oryxncrake

Evidence that Ke$ha Is a Key Factor in America’s Growth Economy

by Bruce Covey

photo by Lee Ann Roripaugh

photo by Lee Ann Roripaugh

She has a dollar sign in her name, instead of an “S.”

Since Animal came out in 2009, unemployment has decreased and Wall Street stock prices have risen. No, really.

The day after I joined twitter in January, Ke$ha tweeted, “omg I’m cooking a carrot omg omg omg.” She’s talking about carats of gold, right?

In 2007, a music producer and a libertarian economist teamed up to write a rap song that talked about the economic theories of John Maynard Keynes and Friedrich von Hayek. When Ke$ha saw the video, she said, “It’s like legit. It’s really good rapping.”

She says, “Glitter fixes everything. At the end of my shows, why don’t I put on a backpack that’s like a handheld cannon and blast glitter at people?”

Mick Jagger attended the London School of Economics in the early 60s. Ke$ha refers to Jagger in her 2009 song Tik Tok.

Late last year Ke$ha asked her fans to send her their teeth. She says, “I got, like, over 1,000 human teeth. I made them into a bra top and a headdress and earrings and necklaces. I’ve worn it out!!!!”



Bruce Covey‘s sixth book of poems, Change Machine, will be published by Noemi in 2014. He lives in Atlanta, GA, where he edits Coconut magazine and Coconut Books and curates the What’s New in Poetry reading series.

Postcolonial Thoughts: Critique of Michael David’s “The One-Eyed Turtle and the Floating Sandalwood Log”

by Christopher Hutchinson

Michael David is widely regarded as the one of the top encaustic artists of the 21st century. He has built his career on abstraction and an intuitive need to explore the continuity of wax as a medium, which has presently developed into dense and lush pictorial landscapes. His work is included in the permanent public collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Guggenheim Museum in New York,and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, as well as in many prominent private collections.

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/11/prweb11310604.htm



On November 7th 2013 Bill Lowe gallery in Atlanta exhibited “America’s Most Acclaimed Encaustic Painter, Michael David.” I was initially impressed with the scale, technique, and medium of this exhibition.  It seemed that all David’s accolades were well-deserved, but upon further investigation there are obvious questions to the validity to these claims.

Encaustic

Michael David’s encaustic paintings are certainly the best without question in comparison to what usually passes as the encaustic craft.  David is a master of the encaustic, but Postmodernism separated the labor and precision of craft from art.  The time, scale, and medium of these “masterpieces” are not to be considered as part of the rubric as to what qualifies as exemplary art.  We may no longer judge artwork based on its craftsmanship.  Only if that craftsmanship is so terrible that it interferes with the concept.  In David’s work there is an overwhelming need to compliment its technique rather than the dialogue.

MICHAEL DAVID – THE  ONE-EYED TURTLE AND THE FLOATING SANDALWOOD LOG VII – ENCAUSTIC & MIXED MEDIA ON PANEL – 44 X 51 -2013

michael david 2

Maple Viewing at Takao (mid-16th century) by Kanō Hideyori (ja) is one of the earliest Japanese paintings to feature the lives of the common people.[1]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ukiyo-e

Expressionism

“Michael David may be the most innovative master of immediate surface since the Abstract Expressionists. He has acknowledged his debt to Abstract Expressionism, but he has transformed it.”-Donald Kuspit

The conversation that has been brought up readily in the David’s work is Abstract expressionism, and this comparison for most would be acceptable, but this is not completely accurate. David’s “Navigator” has a replica war airplane that appears to have crashed in the sea of wax on the surface. What is transformative about this? “Navigator” is clearly a wax illustration. The piece is static and placed the opposite of expression. This piece was the key to David’s codex. Often three-dimensional objects are placed on the surface glued in place by the encaustic medium. The proper term for these would be arranged artifacts, an impression of expression.

Surface & Sculpture

Painters with an affinity for surface manipulation often become stuck in-between painting and their aspirations to become completely three-dimensional.  These painters never accomplish more than an additive relief.   These reliefs are unsuccessful at painting and sculpture equally.   These artworks do not have the deliberation of space to become suitable sculpture, equally also do not meet the fluidity of paint. David’s is additive praxis with no other concern but to accumulate more.  More does not equal excellent.

 A bas-relief at Banteay Srei in Cambodia depicts Ravana shaking Mount Kailasa, the Abode of Lord Siva. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relief#Notable_reliefs


A bas-relief at Banteay Srei in Cambodia depicts Ravana shaking Mount Kailasa, the Abode of Lord Siva.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Relief#Notable_reliefs

Thornton Dial & Academia

 The best piece of the exhibition was due to David’s new muse, a Thornton Dial inspired piece called “Ophelia”.  Again here we have a second key to David’s exhibition appropriation.  A fusion of derivative influences that are not so readily apparent of which Thornton Dial is the most recent.   This exhibition had all David’s muses present, Ukiyo-e Japanese composition and color, Abstract Expressionist technique, and Southern Folk art all academically-appropriated.  David is well aware of this and has credited those influences, however should this be accepted the way Donald Kuspit intends?

David’s abstract paintings renew immediacy; they reconstitute and strengthen, even apotheosize it. They raise it to a feverishly fresh intensity with their remarkable touch, indicating they are among the very best painterly abstractions made.”-Donald Kuspit

 Or should it be placed as cleverly disguised influences remade with encaustic mastery?  Not fresh. Not New. Well crafted.

michael david 6



Christopher HutchinsonChristopher Hutchinson is an Assistant Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and Archetype Art Gallery Owner in Atlanta, Ga. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama. He lived in Alabama for 10 years before moving to Atlanta in 2008. His installations mostly consist of black folded paper airplanes.

Learn more about Christopher and his work at Black Flight 144.

%d bloggers like this: