Transfixed is how I’d describe the first time I experienced Rashaad Newsome’s work. In a white booth at The Armory Show, his video performance Shade Compositions SFMOMA looped on a flat screen. With Newsome as the maestro, this sea of performers dressed in sass, accentuated lips, flexing with scattered matching handbags started a chorus of what Newsome calls “ghetto gestures” – snapping heads back and forth, sucking teeth while saying things like “what” and “excuse-me” over and over till it built itself into a neighborhood crescendo of ‘what happens/what you hear on your block’.
I dare you to watch the video below and not understand a fraction of the fierceness.
Once I pulled myself out of the video performance, I realized the collage artwork hanging in the booth was also by Newsome. Pieces that emulated a vocabulary lived through and taught. His style is a seamless swaggering blend of urban culture and fine art – a mix of collage, video, and performance. His art is propped up on color, framed off with blingy status symbols – chrome hubcaps and heavy gold rope chain punctuate collage images that low-ride through the traditional art world culture like it owes him money.
Some of my favorite works have been his recent art performances that focus on transforming what you think defines the popular dance form known as voguing. In the performances, dancers perform effortlessly for the camera, showing off the skill and beauty involved in this cultured narrative.
Over the years, I’ve enjoyed watching Rashaad navigate through the art world on his terms, weighing in on more than visual terms. It allows you to realize that there is a place in the contemporary art world for an artist to give an accurate representation of the world they come from. Inhabiting that space is the unfiltered version of creative freedom – precisely what Newsome continues to creates for the subjects he’s often inspired by.
Rashaad Newsome – Born 1979, in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lives and works in New York.
The More You Know:
- Rashaad Newsome, Blending Hip-Hop and Heraldry | New York Times
- Want more of Newsome’s Videos on his Vimeo
- Rashaad Explores The History of Hip-Hop Gestures | Huffington Post
- At NOMA (New Orleans Museum of Art): A look back at the first solo exhibition in Louisiana by renowned video, performance, and collage artist Rashaad Newsome (born 1979), Rashaad Newsome: King of Arms explores the artist’s interest in ornament, systems of heraldry, and Baroque grandeur.