Wednesday, March 16, 2016

“AfroCool” : The Rise of Black Atlantic Art in South Florida Exhibit Review

   To quote the polarizing Kanye West “Last night was mad treal!” I accompanied Exhibit Treal co-founder and brilliant artist TracyGuiteu down to Opa-Locka, Florida as she was going to drop-off some of her pieces to the gallery for an upcoming show. To my pleasant surprise, this wouldn’t be any ordinary routine drop… it would be become an examination into what is it is to unapologetically accept that being of African descent equaled everything that makes America cool.

   Within the notorious streets of Miami’s Opa-locka stands TheArc. And the name couldn’t have been a better choice. Once you stepped in you were instantly transported into a “whole new world”. This world, so masterfully crafted belongs to the brilliance of curator Ludlow Bailey. The world traveler greets you with the warmest of grace and brightest of smiles. His energy sets the tone immediately, here stood a proud black man welcoming you to indulge in the visual banquet spread upon the walls.

   Right of the bat, you are given the sense that this isn’t just a walk through, take a selfie exhibit. This was thought-provoking, it was meant for those within the walls to engage with each other and the works. And this is made clear when Mr. Bailey gently yet with a firm enough presence suggests that you after looking around, select your three favorite pieces and then explain to him why they are. Here is the defining moment to myself that redefine what a curator’s role is.

   Mr. Baily with a simple request place on you a challenge. One that made your focus sincerely, encouraged you too really dive-in to the art. There was an assignment, an examination to question yourself on why we find ourselves drawn to specific pieces. When you learn Mr. Bailey study philosophy at Brown University, it all begins to be clarified. This was his art, every work selected, where each piece hung and why… each inch intently planned out to let your mind roam and be blown by what it took in. I had no intentions of failing this assignment.

   Though this was the closing reception for the exhibit, the energy swirling around the corridor felt as lively as a grand opening. Everyone that sauntered in became fully enthralled in what their eyes noticed. “AfroCool” through being a multi-media showcase of diverse subject matters that dwelled so deeply in the conscious of Afro-America moved you. It literally feels as though you are partaking on a journey, one that was as Mr. Bailey noted “A celebration of ourselves”.

   With such a vast collection of breath-taking works it was so hard to narrow it down to just three. And in this I couldn’t help but imagine the large task Mr. Bailey encountered carefully crafting this exhibition. Paintings that capture the beautiful struggle such as “Red Hat” by the Dominican Republic born Rafael Santa Vargas, who has a BA in visual arts spoke volumes. Graphic artist MOHKAI works span across the walls with deliberate messages screaming to be creative, be yourself and love the revolution all statements in one’s self evolution.  Jackson Shuri’s “Isolation” , whom happened to be the only woman artist in the show’s large scale painting sang a melody Billie Holiday would love with it’s layers of complexity. Born in St. Croix, Rodrigo Richardson, who is a tall friendly spirit artwork reflected his personality. He’s creative energies shine brightly though his works like “Cry Blood” & “The Good Jesus”

   The elusive Miami artist M.O.AL.’s works and installation pieces push your conscious to really check yourself and your stance in America. Two of his works “Full Metal Jacket” (which presented a silhouette of America outlined by bullet shells) and “Steel Pulse” that were within the group exhibit were hauntingly powerful. And in the next room, you step further into M.O.A.L’s visual analyst of society and who we are with “Cultivating the God Gene”. An installation and solo exhibition of the secretive artist. Miami’s very own Banksy who as far as we know may or maynot of been in the building was well  represent both through art and his street team which took time to expound upon M.O.A.L’s art, creative intentions and pass out stickers.

   Yet when it was time for me for seek out Mr. Bailey and present my final decision, I did such with my head held high and completely assured. My number one favorite was what Mr. Bailey describe as the heart of the exhibition. And that’s Dinizulu Gene Tinnie’s “Seven Masques”, which steals the show. The elongated masterpiece felt like an epic poem, an ode to then, now and what’s to come. It depicted the Atlantic slave trade, but in this harsh journey it expressions the seeds for the artistic trees that would go on to bloom America’s most exciting aspects of culture. Gene would again conqueror my attention with “Monk’s Crossing”, an elaborately design work that for me reminded me of the power of music to travel us from this earth to furthest reaches of the galaxy. The figures in “Rum, Molasses and Cargo” somehow while depicted slaves still exudes a sense of pride and strength often found in people of African descent when under the darkest of moments. Charles Humes Jr’s use of texture brings the piece to life, and left my eye fixed on its message.

 “AfroCool” was as Mr. Bailey stated a screenshot of the new renaissance. It was here, among curators, poets, writers, painters, singers & scientist all of African descent that Mr. Bailey broke the news of Donald Trump’s victory of Florida in the primaries. As disheartening as it may be to know that his hatred keeps growing, you can’t help but when you hear in the lecture of former Marine (who studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison), Ethiopian born Merbebe Solomon say things like “I believe America is here to teach collaboration, self-interest leads to self-destruction”. Well your energy shifts, you are now on a wave where you realize great minds in beautiful different shades of brown and black exist and are making themselves known. So as Kendrick Lamar chants “we gonna be alright!”

   An expert marksmen taking his first in his thousand hours journey as a public speaker, Solomon’s ability to deliver his message, his perspective with such an attention grabbing and digestible manner would make the late great James Baldwin proud. “So if your target is peace and collaboration”… Solomon declares as he launches into a firing stance in front of his crowd of listeners eagerly soaking in his words “you can’t look at the world as it is but as it can be!”

We were even treated to be among the Myron D  Jackson the senator of the Virgin island who spoke of his aspirations for an amazing art program.

   Ludlow Bailey, a curator, is a man of many hats and blessings. The art enthusiast did not just curate an exhibit, he curated an atmosphere that personified the idea that being of African descent is what it means to be Cool. “AfroCool” was without a doubt #CertifiedTreal.

Don’t miss out on the next exhibit… opening this Sunday. Featuring the works of Exhibit Treal’s very on co-founder Tracy Guiteau!!!  As part of the META Series “Mother Goddess” at The Arc. The opening is this Sunday, March 20 from 1pm – 4p. 675 Ali Baba Ave, Opa-locka, Fl 33054. 

1 comment:

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