SPOTLIGHT: Visual Artist Clifford Owens

SPOTLIGHT: Visual Artist Clifford Owens_hahamag

We’re continuing our Black History Month Series with a profile on the always controversial, Visual Artist, Clifford Owens.

Preferring the term Visual Artist over Performance Artist; Owen’s work is never dull, usually centering on the body and often including spontaneous interactions with the audience.  His performances push the envelope with heavy issues of race, gender relationships, and auto-eroticism – often leaving you to deal with/question his purposeful lack of emotional and physical control.

Like when I found myself confronted with his video work that dealt with different forms of objection and how we deal or don’t deal with it for that matter. That’s all well and good – I was down to explore that until I was confronted with Owens gutting, fingering and doing all sorts of things to fruit that one couldn’t imagine unless one saw.  He takes you to the precipice… it gets uncomfortable. He’s transforming a meaning, and part of the journey is trying to hold out and watch it unfold.

Owens claims no interest in the art world, “because the art world is not interesting,” but there’s no denying his work has spurned newfound interest in performance art.  I could keep rambling on, but truly you need to see it for yourself.

Enjoy these links to more information on Owens

  • Here’s a link to a great ArtInfo article – 27 Questions with Clifford Owens.
  • This quick documentary on Clifford Owens, 2004 by Kristen Spillane will give take you through several of his performance pieces.
  • Take on his audio pieces here.
  • Want to see the anthology of work that made me squirm? Well ok…ready, set, go!

SPOTLIGHT: Conceptual Artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE

Yinka Shonibare, MBE — the MBE stands for Most Excellent Order of the British Empire —is a British-Nigerian artist living in London. His work explores cultural identity, colonialism and post-colonialism within the contemporary context of globalization. Shonibare, is best known for his whimsical life-sized mannequins dressed in vivid Dutch-wax (African prints and patterns) fabrics.  The costumes are usually Victorian, the Victorian era being the period of British history when Africa was colonized.  The Dutch-wax period costumes are really an Indonesian-designed fabric called, batik that has become popularly assimilated into West African culture. As his work continues to take on the authenticity of historical moments, the fabrics that were originally to be used to connote African identity, not really being originally from Africa are a constant ironic coincidence – working to his advantage as a conceptual artist.

The sculptures add a lightness to addressing weighty themes including race, enlightenment, capitalism, authenticity and least of all identity.  You’ll notice that the mannequins are headless, it’s so the figures aren’t racially identifiable. The fiberglass bodies are mixed race, “kind of coffee colored,” Mr. Shonibare said that he conceived of the headlessness as a joke related to the revenge killings of aristocrats in the French Revolution. “The idea of bringing back the guillotine was very funny to me,” he said.*

Throughout the past decade, Shonibare has shown his distinctive pieces extensively from the United States to Hong Kong, with notable exhibitions including mid-career retrospective at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art.

–>Take a look below at some of the pieces from Shonibare, MBE’s exhibitions as we offer quotes from the artist himself about his inspiration:

 

SPOTLIGHT: Conceptual Artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE Sculpture, Cakeman II

Called Cake Man (II), it features a lifesize mannequin dressed in African print, with a huge pile of cakes balanced precariously on his back. “It’s my tribute to bankers,” said Shonibare. “There’s been a lot of talk about bonuses to bankers and the top 1% literally taking all the cake. So this piece, I guess, is about greed. It has more cakes than anyone could ever eat or manage.”

 

Yinka Shonibare MBE, The Swing (After Fragonard), 2001 (Tate, London) © Yinka Shonibare. The Swing (After Fragonard) is a three-dimensional recreation of the Rococo painting after which it was titled, which itself offers testimony to the opulence and frivolity of pre-Revolutionary France. Painted in 1767, Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s The Swing depicts a coquettish young girl swinging in a lush and fertile forest and, of course, playfully kicking up her shoe. “Living in England, with my colonial relationship to this country, one cannot escape all these Victorian things, because they are everywhere: in architecture, culture, attitude…” – Yinka Shonibare

 

“Gallantry and Criminal Conversation (Parasol),” 2002 Two life-size fiberglass mannequins, two metal and wood cases, Dutch wax printed cotton, leather, wood, and steel, 64 1/5 x 44 1/10 x 75 4/5 inches Collection of Beth Rudin DeWoody, New York Photo by Werner Maschmann © Yinka Shonibare MBE

 
“Being able to indulge in your fantasies really belongs to the privileged and the wealthy. I was fascinated with the fashion that comes with that luxury and excess, and I wanted to produce a piece that would be slightly surreal and also a bit of satire as well—poking fun at the whole thing, but also loving it at the same time. It’s not sexually explicit. Really it’s about people having a sense of humor.” -Yinka Shonibare MBE

SPOTLIGHT: Conceptual Artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE

“How to Blow Up Two Heads at Once (Ladies),” a 2006 work by Yinka Shonibare with mannequins, guns, Dutch wax-printed cotton textile, shoes, boots and plinth. Credit Steve White/Museum Purchase, Wellesley College Friends of Art

SPOTLIGHT: Conceptual Artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE

SPOTLIGHT: Conceptual Artist Yinka Shonibare, MBE

“He reminds us that every action has ramifications. A girl sprouting butterfly wings, and a male figure outfitted in a spacesuit with his worldly possessions strapped to his back. They are poised for takeoff to  escape the mess we have made on Earth and begin anew elsewhere—hopefully having learned from history, so as not to repeat our mistakes.” – —Karen Kedmey via Artsy Editoral, “Yinka Shonibare’s Haunting New Sculptures and Installations Present a Link Between Climate Change and Our Dark History”

Yinka Shonibare MBE’s The Last Supper Exploded is based on a sculpture of the same name first on view at the artist’s solo show Pop! at Stephen Friedman Gallery, London, 2013. The exhibition’s main themes explored corruption, excess and debauchery in contemporary society, with particular reference to the most recent on-going economic crisis. In The Last Supper Exploded, Shonibare investigates the worship of luxury goods and the reckless behaviour of in particular the financial industry by paying art historical homage to one of humanity’s best known artworks: Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.

 

Yinka Shonibare [Website] [Twitter]

*quote taken from, Headless Bodies From a Bottomless Imagination – The New York Times

 

SEE IT NOW:

  • Until June 2017 a commission by artist Yinka Shonibare, produced by Up Projects for the Royal Opera House. Titled ‘Globe Head Ballerina’, on display on the exterior of the building overlooking Russell Street.  The work is inspired by a famous photograph of ballerina Margot Fonteyn. Shonibare’s sculpture depicts a life-size ballerina, modelled on Melissa Hamilton, a soloist with the Royal Ballet. Encased in a giant ‘snow globe’, the figure, whose head is a replica Victorian globe, rotates slowly.

    Spotlight: Yinka Shonibare MBE

    photo:Sim Canetty-Clarke, courtesy UP Projects ROH
    ‘Globe Head Ballerina’ by Yinka Shonibare

The More You Know:

Spotlight: Whitfield Lovell


Whitfield Lovell is a contemporary artist known primarily for his drawings and masterful installations based on vintage photographs of unidentified African Americans from the first half of the 20th century (usually between the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights Movement). 

Lovell creates these drawings in pencil, oil stick, or charcoal on paper, wood, or directly on walls. In his most recent work, these drawings are paired with found objects that Lovell collects at flea markets and antique shops –  with these found objects he evokes personal memories, ancestral connections, and the collective American past.

Lovell’s work illuminates the humanity and richness of anonymous people, engraining their legacies in our cultural memory.*
“The importance of home, family, ancestry feeds my work entirely,” Lovell has said. “African Americans generally were not aware of who their ancestors were, since slaves were sold from plantation to plantation and families were split up.”

The More You Know:

Lovell’s major installations include: Visitation: The Richmond Project, which traveled to the University of Wyoming in Laramie, the Columbus Museum in Georgia, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia; SANCTUARY: The Great Dismal Swamp at the Contemporary Art Center of Virginia in Virginia Beach, VA; and Grace: A Project by Whitfield Lovell at the Bronx Museum of the Arts in New York City.

Works by Whitfield Lovell are featured in major museum collections including The Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY: The Corcoran Gallery, Washington, DC; The Smithsonian American Art Museum, DC; The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, DC; Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, PA; The Yale University Art Gallery; The Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, TN; The Brooklyn Museum, NY; The Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; Seattle Art Museum, WA, and many others.

*information culled from Whitfield Lovell’s bio.

 

SPOTLIGHT: CONCEPTUAL ARTIST GLENN LIGON

 

Glenn Ligon is an American conceptual artist whose work explores race, language, and identity by engaging the subjects within wordplay. Sourcing literary gems from influential writers including, Zora Neal Hurston, Gertrude Stein, and James Baldwin, he uses language and textual experiments with legibility and eligibility to speak on challenging subject matters. His medium of choice—oil crayon used with letter stencils—transforms the texts he quotes, making them abstract, difficult to read, and layered in meaning, much like the subject matter that he appropriates.  For the viewer, the words slowly dissipate into powerful messages as the text begins to blur and morph into a larger meaning.

His later work with text-based neon signs crossed that bridge – finding a connection between the illuminated signs  and his text heavy paintings that move his message on our collective experiences forward.  Repetition is often a highlight in his work self expression;  to promote a  progression of clarity in his thoughts and meditations.

Ligon’s paintings and sculptures continue to examine cultural and social identity through found sources—literature, Afrocentric coloring books, photographs—to reveal the ways in which the history of slavery, the civil rights movement, and sexual politics inform our understanding of American society.

 

 

Glenn Ligon_ Untitled

Glenn Ligon – Untitled (I’m Turning Into a Specter before Your Very Eyes and I’m Going to Haunt You)

Stand there long enough to realize that you are re-reading a single phrase; Ligon’s repetition of this phrase begins to dissipate into a powerful message as the words begin to blur and disappears into a bigger meaning.

 

 

The More You Know:

  • VIDEO – Watch Glenn Ligon as he explains some of his more widely-known pieces.
  • VIDEO – Watch Curator Thelma Golden and Glenn Ligon in Conversation.
  • The Whitney Museum holds the largest collection of Ligon’s work.  Visit their website for a listen & learn of influential pieces in their collection.

Spotlight: Photographer Carrie Mae Weems

Carrie Mae Weems, 2013 MacArthur Fellow_ Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

American photographer and video artist, Carrie Mae Weems works with text, fabric, audio, digital images, and installation video but is best known for her work in the field of photography. Weems’s gift for storytelling enables her to investigate the intricacies of family relationships and gender roles, as well as the histories of racism, sexism, class and political systems.

In her Kitchen Table Series, she staged these snips of everyday domesticity and stretched them into long unspooling questions about our identity within relationships. Within every stunning black & white image of a sparse kitchen, Weems fills up the space with astute introspection into connected themes and human experiences.

“The camera gave me an incredible freedom. It gave me the ability to parade through the world and look at people and things very, very closely,” Weems reveals. This ability to embody the spirit of her stories makes her work transcendent, moving across time and place as only the soul can.

Carrie Mae Weem The Kitchen Table Series Carrie Mae Weem The Kitchen Table Series Carrie Mae Weem The Kitchen Table Series

“The Kitchen Table Series is not simply a voice for African-American women, but would be a voice for more generally all women… these ideas about the spaces of domesticity has historically belonged to women. It is sort of the site of the battle around the family, the battle around monogamy, the battle around polygamy, the battle between the sexes – it’s going to be played out in that space.  It begs the question, ‘how do we begin to alter the domestic space’?  How does the social contract get changed?

In helping us seek a shared connection with traditional narratives, –this relationship between power and aesthetics magnifies Weems own truths; her spirit captured there in the lens.

Carrie Mae Weem The Kitchen Table Series

Carrie Mae Weems [official website] [Facebook]

The More You Know:

  • Carrie Mae Weem’s, The Kitchen Table Series.
  • Guggenheim Museum’s website hosts videos featuring live performances, an all-star cast joined Carrie Mae Weems to celebrate the spirit and ideas found within Weems’s photography and video works.

Spotlight: Meet Photographer Ayana V. Jackson

Meet Photographer Ayana V. Jackson

 

Ayana V. Jackson is an US American photographer, filmmaker, and contemporary artist based between Johannesburg, New York and Paris.

Jackson restages colonial-era photographs in a series of digitally-collaged images in which she photographs herself moving through past and future themes, invoking social identity narratives. The captivating sepia tinted moments are told through period costume, demonstrative body language and her knowledge of historical lore.

Assuming the place of the original sitters helps Jackson to critique the historical significance of African-Americans in the history of photography, during the rise of European colonialism.  As well, as to identify the significant themes in the continuing struggle to interrogate their structures.

In this contemporary realm of art, Jackson digs deep into African-American and African diaspora experiences, giving new life to older narrations by performing stories see wants to see, and in turn granting the viewer a new way to reconstruct the fabric of expression.

 

‘To Kill or Allow to Live’ eyes closed, looking inward toward the Black Lives Matter movement (hands up), and expressing Blind Justice and Dodging Justice.

 

Grow on:

 

Ayana V. Jackson | Medium: Photography | Website | Facebook | Ayana V. Jackson is represented by Gallery MoMo & Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

Meet Photographer Ayana V. Jackson

Meet Photographer Ayana V. Jackson

 

 

 

 

SPOTLIGHT: MIXED MEDIA ARTIST – LAKWENA MACIVER

lakwena maciver black history month

Lakwena Maciver is a London-based mixed media artist who uses a kaleidoscopic colors to make her mark.   She’s part of the new generation of female British artists on the art scene – collaborating with institutions like Tate Modern, Wynwood Walls and Clinique.  Her work been has exhibited everywhere from street installations to galleries. Informed by decoration both aesthetically and conceptually, she explores the messages that decoration is used to communicate, its traditional use in worship and myth-making and how this translates into contemporary popular culture.

“Concerned with the significance of how and who we decorate, and what this reflects about our values and beliefs, Lakwena positions kaleidoscopic colours, bold pattern and adornment as powerful signifiers to redefine and reassign value and glory. Using words as both images and as anchors of meaning, she borrows from the techniques and conventions of traditional sign-writing and contemporary graphic design.”

Check her out: Website | Tumblr | Instagram

Spotlight: Titus Kaphar

titus kaphar headshot

Titus Kaphar. (©Titus Kaphar. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York)

 

Titus Kaphar tops my list of ‘Artists to Watch’, though it seems that most of the art world had their eyes trained on him already. When it come to iconography in art, Kaphar seems to be screaming the loudest.  His series of solo shows, project and installations continue to bend and shape conversation on race, hidden histories, and our justice system – or lack thereof.

“My work is an introduction to my vocabulary,” Kaphar says. “It looks at the way I deal with history and my different modes of intervention.”

Indeed it does. Kaphar works with conceptual goals; he reimagines historical events looking for his truth.

You stand before his paintings –  these contextual Classic and Renaissance painting styles and just as your brain begins to dive into that natural art recall, a reprogramming starts.  You notice the intentional cuts, bends, and sculpts in the canvas’, reconstructing and manipulating the way people of color are seen in this version of art history. Kaphar confronts you with the possibilities of exploring new narratives – there is no onrushing of guilt or innocence an appropriating that doesn’t feel de humanizing but that challenges the originality of story that once took precedence on the canvas, until Kaphar reshaped that narrative.

 

“A painting may inspire, but it’s people who make change.”

Spotlight: Titus Kaphar, Stripes, (2014).

Titus Kaphar, Stripes, (2015) at Jack Shainman Gallery, NY

Spotlight Titus Kaphar, to be titled, (2014)

Titus Kaphar, to be titled, (2014) at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Spotlight Titus Kaphar, to be titled, (2014).

Titus Kaphar, to be titled, (2014) at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Spotlight Titus Kaphar

Drawing the Blinds (2014) at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

 

Enjoy exploring these great links to more information on Kaphar:

  • Titus Kaphar website.
  • In this Time video, watch Kaphar in the process of making his oil painting, “Yet Another Fight for Remembrance” for Time Magazine’s cover of the Ferguson protests.
  • Titus Kaphar: History in the Making – a short video on his 2009 Seattle Art Museum Show
  • Dismantling History: An Interview with Titus Kaphar | Art21
  • See what engages him by taking on some books from Kaphar’s ‘Recommend Reading’.

    Feature photo of Titus Kaphar with Gift of Shrouded Descent, 2014, Oil and mixed media on canvas by Kubiat Nnamdie.

    Photos by HAHA Magazine

Spotlight: Jean-Michel Basquiat

jean-michel-basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat (December 22, 1960 – August 12, 1988) was born and raised in Brooklyn, the son of a Haitian-American father and a Puerto Rican mother. His career as a graffiti artist and musician was fostered in the 1980’s New York Art Scene. Under the pseudonym SAMO he’d leave poetical messages impregnated on city walls… “Plush safe he think’… ‘SAMO as an alternative to the bourgeois”. With his crowning of trademark dreadlocks, Basquiat was a regular downtown fixture – he’d go on to become one of the most important artists of the 20th century.

Jean-Michel is credited with introducing graffiti into the realm of fine art. His paintings are often described as childlike; dealing with human anatomy, dense imagery, and his African-American heritage. The mixture of Afrocentric themes with graffiti, anchored on canvas with his esoteric texts and symbols was unconventional and hard to ignore.

His genius trapped in a burgeoning art movement set on ‘crazed’ did nothing to help slow down the excesses he became a victim of. At the age of twenty-seven he was found dead of a drug overdose in his Great Jones loft…the Radiant Child had left his canvassed works behind screaming at the world, their many faces torturing and riveting, like his legacy. The Whitney Museum of American Art held the first retrospective of his work from October 1992 to February 1993, and in 2016 his large canvas Untitled (1982) broke auction records with a final price of $57.3 million.

“He disrupted the politics of the art world and insisted that if he had to play their games, he would make the rules. His images entered the dreams and museums of the exploiters, and the world would never be the same.” – Keith Haring

Basquiat is sometimes more commonly talked of in the context of celebrity than artistically; his friendships/collaborations with Pop Art icon Andy Warhol are still critiqued in the vortex of pop culture phenomena. But there’s so much more…

Enjoy these great links to more information on the life of Basquiat:

  • The official Basquiat website.
  • For a closer look at Basquiat works now in circulation and editorial imprints from those still inspired by the Radiant Child, try Artsy’s resource.
  • Use this link  or this one , to read ‘The Radiant Child’, Rene Ricard’s 1981 Artforum article that launched Basquiat onto the art world.
  • Watch: Basquiat, the movie directed by Julian Schnabel starring Jeffrey Wright as Basquiat.
  • Or rent, Basquiat: The Radiant Child, this Tamra Davis movie boasts never seen footage.
  • At Basquiat’s memorial, Fab 5 Freddy “interpolated” the poem ‘Genius Child’ by Langston Hughes. You can read it here.
  • For a page-turning read on Jean-Michel & the 1980s art world, try ‘Basquiat: A Quick Killing in Art‘.
  • Did you know Basquiat’s Great Jones Street Loft  was immortalized last year?
  • 1st Dibs has rare vinyl record albums with offset cover art from Jean Michel Basquiat’s band, Gray.
  • How could I forget the movie he starred in, Downtown 81 – that bizarre urban fairytale-like dream that mirrored his early life. You can stream the remastered 30th Anniversary edition on Amazon Video .
    *images Jean-Michel Basquiat in 1985 Photo: AP