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This journal is a creative outlet of all the things Kali Brown loves, from fashion, diy's, art, museum galleries to even food.  I am not a professional blogger and the things I share are my sole opinion. Enjoy my creative voyage!

Daniel Arsham "Circa 2345"

Kali Abdullah

Kali Brown_Daniel Arsham Exhibit 1

This past weekend I viewed the Daniel Arsham "Circa 2345" exhibition at Galerie Perrotin, which recently opened Thursday, September 15th.  I love a good installation show and this one did not disappoint.

Kali Brown_Daniel Arsham Exhibit 2
Kali Brown_Daniel Arsham Exhibit 3

Arsham using a medium of crystalline calcite, created standout pieces such as a glowing Spalding ball, an intriguing tower of footballs, a Yankees Hat and a Chicago Bulls Jacket (to name a few) in this radiant blue/purplish hue.  The collection gives the illusion that you are viewing old deteriorated human artifacts of the past.  The intense blue tone in his work is a stark difference from his previous collections which were mostly monochromatic black and whites. Apparently this stark blue results from Arsham’s research in correcting his inherent colorblindness.  

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On the lower level of the gallery, Arsham created this cave-like installation. Drawing on the themes of the fragility of human civilization and the nature of time itself, by transforming elemental materials such as stone, crystal, and ash into cultural artifacts. Arsham’s “Circa 2345” exhibit offers a glimpse into our current culture from the perspective of a future archeological site in the faraway future — from which the exhibition draws its name.

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Kali Brown_Daniel Arsham Exhibit 7

His work may seem familiar to you because Usher featured two views of a sculpture in this same archaeological style for his new album cover art.  It was a collaboration between the two (artist and musician) and apparently Usher spent four hours sitting still while Arsham put him through the process of creating an ancient statuesque piece that might be discovered in sometime in the future.

Daniel Arsham's Exhibit: 

September 15th - October 22, 2016 

Galerie Perrotin - 909 Madison Ave, NYC 11021

 

 

 

29 Rooms

Kali Abdullah

29 Rooms-Gurls Talk-1

This past weekend Refinery29 created one of the coolest interactive installations I've been to in a long time.  My favorite art enthusiast and adventure sidekick Cory and I were so stoked for this event that we talked about it for days and made sure we arrived there early to avoid a long wait and major queuing. Open for only three days (September 9-11) visitors had the opportunity to explore 29 Rooms and immerse themselves into a wonderland of fashion, beauty, design, art, and technology while being able to capture and share the amazing moments and obligatory selfies on social media platforms.

29 Rooms

The 29 Rooms event took place in a massive 80,000 square foot warehouse in Bushwick Brooklyn.  Each room had a different theme, some were designed by individual artists, and others collaborated with various brands such as Perrier, Ulta, Papyrus, Google and Michael Kors.  Some of the collaborators included artist Baron Von Fancy, Broad City‘s Abbi Jacobson, singer Tinashe, actor Adrian Grenier, artistic director for Diesel Nicola Formichetti, RuPaul, makeup artist Ryan Burke, and interactive artist Daniel Rozinare.

 "Show Your Pride" room, photo by Kali Brown

"Show Your Pride" room, photo by Kali Brown

 Ulta's "Beauty Wonderland" Room, photo by Kali Brown

Ulta's "Beauty Wonderland" Room, photo by Kali Brown

 Lonely Whale Foundation "Turn the Tide" room, photo by Kali Brown

Lonely Whale Foundation "Turn the Tide" room, photo by Kali Brown

29 Rooms - Cory
 Adwoa Aboa's "Gurls Talk" room, photo by Kali Brown

Adwoa Aboa's "Gurls Talk" room, photo by Kali Brown

The most popular rooms were those that combined interactivity with great photo opp's, such as the Gurls Talk room created by founder Adwoa Aboa.  The room had an installation with over 500 old-school pink telephone receivers hanging from the ceiling. 

When you put the gold phones to your ears you heard various voices. Later I learned that the people speaking through the phone were women that Aboah admires like activist Erica Garner, model Cara Delevinge and Denise Gough.

In the “You-niverse” room you could get an "aura photo" taken or a Polaroid portrait that reads your spiritual energy through color.  The line for this room was very long and you had to pay a $15 fee for the picture so I skipped that and just took cool photos in the room decorated like a moonscape, with tons of brightly lit stars and moon-like sand covering the floor.  

 Perrier "Beyond the Bubbles" Room, photo by Kali Brown

Perrier "Beyond the Bubbles" Room, photo by Kali Brown

One of my favorite rooms was the “Beyond the Bubbles” room created by Perrier. It was filled with hundreds of balloon displays to give the illusion of bubbles. Also, I loved  RuPaul’s “Wig Out” room, which had these amazing over the top wigs that you could pose under in a salon chair.

Here are some of my favorite flicks while at 29 Rooms.

 Ford's "Garden of Energi" room, photo by Kali Brown

Ford's "Garden of Energi" room, photo by Kali Brown

Ford was promoting its environmentally-friendly Fusion Energi car, in a glowing garden installation.  But what made Ford really win was the complimentary rides they offered to guest as they were leaving the event. Our driver Joe was awesome and got us to our next destination in less than ten minutes.

29 Rooms-Ford -1
 In our complimentary Ford car

In our complimentary Ford car

Overall it was a wonderful experience. Some rooms were more interesting than others and it was a little sensory overload, but Cory and I had a blast.  It was a great event and I can’t wait until next year! 

Brooklyn Garden Party

Kali Abdullah

KaliBrownBKGardenParty1

I can't believe how fast summer came and went, it's already September.  I've been slacking on my blog posts (sorry), but I definitely had to share this party I threw a few weeks ago.  So my birthday was mid-August and I wanted to have an intimate gathering with my close friends.  After perusing Pinterest for endless hours for cute ideas I decided on planning my own Garden Party.  Of course, there were a few hiccups to consider, I don't own a home with a yard or have rooftop access (just a studio apartment in Brooklyn) and most importantly I didn't have a big budget to throw such a fabulous event.  But that didn't really stop me and fortunately, I was able to find a way to pull it off.  

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Venue. My homegirl who has a beautiful home and backyard oasis in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn was gracious enough to allow me to use her backyard for my gathering.  Keeping my guest list to around 20 people, my next big feat was how I would decorate it to accommodate everyone.  

 Photo by Kali Brown

Photo by Kali Brown

My original concept was to have a seated family style dinner amongst friends. However, my friend had a huge 10 ft x 12 ft pergola that took up most of her backyard, so in order to get that seated dinner feel I had to make a temporary table that could fit all 20 of my friends on the pergola.  I'm pretty handy with building things on the spot so I went to my local hardware store and purchased two 8 ft x 4 ft pieces of plywood and some cinder blocks to make a low seated T-shaped table.  I cut them down a bit and then added 2x4 studs to the sides of the plywood to keep the table from warping.  I then stained the table a dark walnut because I thought it would make the table settings pop more.  I also purchased a few canvas drop cloths to place on the floor of the pergola and a bunch of $2 pillows and a few small rugs from IKEA for everyone to sit on.  I'm telling you guys the hardware store is my best friend.  The diy table, flooring, and pillows in total were just shy of a $100. 

Ambiance. For the table setting, I got these really cool sturdy plastic plates that give the look of white china.  I paid about $16 for a pack of 50 dinner/salad plates from Costco and purchased the plastic cutlery that looked like silverware from Target for $5.  Cups and napkins were purchased from the local dollar store.  You're getting the pattern here, right?  There are ways to look fancy without paying a lot of money.  The centerpieces where faux hydrangeas from Michael's, I put them in white painted clay pots. I didn't really come out of pocket for those because I already had them in my home. My friend Cory who also has  a background in decorating and interior design brought the glass whirlies and candles to add nice accent lighting for when the sun went down, he hung them from the top of the pergola.

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  Photo courtesy of  Cory Spotswood

Photo courtesy of Cory Spotswood

  Photo courtesy of   Taneda Ashaolu

Photo courtesy of Taneda Ashaolu

  Photo courtesy of  Cory Spotswood

Photo courtesy of Cory Spotswood

Now my favorite added touch was the place cards that I made and printed myself.  Once everyone was seated and it was time to give the sentimental thank you for coming speech, I instead told everyone to turn over their place cards. On the back of each card was a personal hand-written note to each individual telling them what they meant to me and how much I appreciated their friendship. (WINNING).

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  Photo courtesy of  Wendy Correa

Photo courtesy of Wendy Correa

I asked that all my guest wear white or cream light colors. My dress also white was adorned with flowers.  I made it myself with 2 yards of $5 white fabric and some artificial flowers from Michael's, but I'll do a whole separate blog about that.  

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Menu. I didn't really feel like cooking so I had several friends who can throw down in the kitchen prepare a few things for me and honestly the amount of money I would have spent on groceries where better spent paying my friends for the ingredients needed for their delectable dishes. 

  Photo courtesy of  Joi Addison

Photo courtesy of Joi Addison

  Photo courtesy of  Wendy Correa

Photo courtesy of Wendy Correa

The menu consisted of grilled lemon pepper chicken (with a little sunshine and magic) and the best mac & cheese I have ever had in my life. I also had turkey meatballs, salmon cakes, curried potato salad and a traditional salad. The food was so good I didn't even have a chance to photograph it before it was all gone. For dessert, my friend Nekia of Feed Me Seymore made homemade banana pudding (my favorite) and mini sweet potato cheesecake. We also had the tastiest spiked ginger lemonade cocktail, with lots and lots of vodka.

 Photo courtesy of Wendy Correa

Photo courtesy of Wendy Correa

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My background is in photography, production and event management so I really wanted to add those elements to the party. I had a seamless backdrop set up in the corner where I personally took portraits of all my friends.  This was fun because everyone loves a photo booth. I also had a few props that I'd made from past Halloween costumes for them to add in their portraits.

As the sun went down the candles were lit, the drinks still flowing and the conversations continued.  The party was a great success and one for the books to remember.  Overall it was an amazing DIY garden party with family, friends and loved one. 

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Fairy Tale Fashion

Kali Abdullah

Fairy Tale Fashion Entrance

I finally had an opportunity to stop by my alma mater FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) and take a glimpse at the Fairy Tale Fashion exhibit at their museum. I LOVE COSTUMES particularly those in correlation with fairy tales. Television shows like Once Upon A Time or movies such as Snow White and the Huntsman will always get a front row viewing from me because I am in awe at the craftsmanship and skill that is put into these wardrobes.  It is this fascination that turns me into a mad scientist around Halloween because I have to always top my much-involved costume from the year before (but we will get more into that closer to Halloween). Anyway I think you get my point, I love a good costume and this exhibit was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

 The Little Mermaid, Jean Louis Sabaji sea foam evening gown.

The Little Mermaid, Jean Louis Sabaji sea foam evening gown.

Curated by Colleen Hill, Fairy Tale Fashion is a unique and imaginative exhibition that examines fairy tales through the lens of high fashion. The costumes were selected for its direct reference to clothing or its mention of important recurring motifs from 15 tales by prominent writers such as Charles Perrault, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Lewis Carroll.

 (l to r) Snow White, Judith Leiber apple minaudier; Charlotte Olympia book clutch bag

(l to r) Snow White, Judith Leiber apple minaudier; Charlotte Olympia book clutch bag

This exhibition features more than 80 objects placed within dramatic, fantasy-like settings designed by architect Kim Ackert. Since fairy tales are not often set in a specific time period, Fairy Tale Fashion includes garments and accessories dating from the 18th century to the present. There is a particular emphasis on extraordinary 21st-century fashions by designers such as Thom Browne, Dolce and Gabbana, Tom Ford, Giles, Mary Katrantzou, Marchesa, Alexander McQueen, Rick Owens, Prada, Rodarte, and Walter Van Beirendonck, among others.

I photographed my favorite pieces, sorry for the quality of the images I forgot my camera and had to resort to the cell phone and it was a pretty dark room. There's no need to go into detail about the costumes everything was awesome and I think the pictures speak for themselves. 

 Little Red Riding Hood, Comme des Garcons (Rei Kawakubo) hooded ensemble

Little Red Riding Hood, Comme des Garcons (Rei Kawakubo) hooded ensemble

 (l to r) Sleeping Beauty, Marchesa evening gown; Zuhair Murad haute couture gown

(l to r) Sleeping Beauty, Marchesa evening gown; Zuhair Murad haute couture gown

 (l to r) Bibhu Mohapatra white evening gown; Zandra Rhodes gold dress

(l to r) Bibhu Mohapatra white evening gown; Zandra Rhodes gold dress

 (l to r) The Queen of Hearts, Hideki Seo; The Bear Prince, Thom Browne

(l to r) The Queen of Hearts, Hideki Seo; The Bear Prince, Thom Browne

 Sleeping Beauty's Court, Dolce and Gabbana

Sleeping Beauty's Court, Dolce and Gabbana

 (l to r) The Snow Queen, J. Mendel hooded cape and evening dress;  Tom Ford mirrored dress

(l to r) The Snow Queen, J. Mendel hooded cape and evening dress;  Tom Ford mirrored dress

If you are in New York City definitely check out the show in person.  The exhibit is up until April 16th at The Museum at FIT on 7th Ave and 27th Street.

Find Us On The Map

Kali Abdullah

 Satirist Sports by Andile Buka

Satirist Sports by Andile Buka

Last week I went to the opening of Find Us On The Map! a photo exhibition presented by Lagos Photo and Rush Arts Gallery.

The exhibit explores recurring themes in contemporary visual culture in Africa and encourages the audience to Find Us on the Map in accordance with the title of the exhibition.  Though there is now a widespread awareness that Africa is not a country, are we better informed about the vast geographical entity? We may be able to name a few countries within Africa but can we find them on a map? 

 Nigerian Identity by Ima Mfon

Nigerian Identity by Ima Mfon

Some of the featured exhibits include Ima Mfon's Nigerian Identity series that tackles the false stereotype of homogenized blackness.  In this series of photographic portraits all the subjects are presented in a uniform manner, photographed on a white seamless background, looking directly into the lens, and enhanced so that their skin tones are virtually identical.  This idea stems from Mfon's experiences living in America where "black" has always been used as a generic descriptive label.  By using a plain background he eliminated any cultural or ethnic context, whether it be urban or an African wilderness and he makes the skin tones in these images rich, deep and beautiful to celebrate beautiful skin that's often oppressed and marginalized.

 Nigerian Identity by Ima Mfon

Nigerian Identity by Ima Mfon

Jenevieve Aken's series Great Expectations is inspired by Dickens iconic novel of the same title. "Society today, especially in Africa, places a huge emphasis on marriage as an institution and this leads to pressures and stress on a lot of women some of whom are successful but yet feel unfulfilled until married. Happiness, love, friendship are all after thoughts. Marriage first." Jenevieve immersed herself and reinterpreted this story in contemporary Africa-Nigeria society through self-portraiture.

 Great Expectations by Jenevieve Akens

Great Expectations by Jenevieve Akens

 Great Expectations by Jenevieve Akens

Great Expectations by Jenevieve Akens

My favorite collection was by Andile Buka from South Africa who's portrait series Sartist Sport takes a more comical approach to identity.  It was created as a result of wanting to challenge previous edifice ideas of what it means to be black or African in modern society.  The project started as the untold story about urban black sports culture and black identity. It highlights South African athletes, people who went through difficult circumstances, the remnants of colonialism and apartheid when sports were seen as a novelty for black people, a "white man's" activity. The series was to challenge previously conceived ideas of South African black culture that have social and cultural impacts using clothes that were seen only being worn by white people.

 Satirist Sports by Andile Buka

Satirist Sports by Andile Buka

Other exhibiting artists include Joana Choumali (Cote d'Ivoire), Colin Delfosse (Belgium), Logo Olumuyiwa (Nigeria), and Nobukho Nqaba (South Africa).

Photography was initially used in Africa to engage audiences with a place that at the time was a complete fantasy. African art, objects, dress, people, and lifestyles were photographed as a means to inform us of the otherness of Africa.  These fantasies of Africa, based on very real objects, artwork, and peoples in the past, were the foundation introduction to a continent of 54 independent countries and more than 3,000 ethnic groups. Today, the concept of fantasy is reclaimed and repurposed to narrate stories and engage viewers in innovative ways.

Curated by art historian and artist Chika Okeke-Agula, she said "Folks can't seem to come to terms with the fact that African artists have now taken and secured their seat at the dinner table invited or not.  With works of art from Africa receiving long deserved acclaim from museums, curators, and collectors, finding these places on the map becomes a prerequisite for us to be allowed to sit at the table with them.  As we begin to develop our understanding of art created on the continent beyond the antiquated, overarching, and superficial title of 'African art', we seek additional information that gives us clues about society religion, and love in African countries."

The show is on exhibit from March 17 - April 8th at Rush Arts Gallery, 526 West 26th Street, Suite 311 NYC

 

DOUGHFEST

Kali Abdullah

Sweet tooth overload! Yesterday my good friend from Feed Me Seymore invited me to join her at Doughfest presented by TimeOut (well honestly I read about the event and I was like WE SHOULD GO LOL).  She got tickets and being as though I am a devout doughnut lover this was the holy grail of foodie events for me.  The event took place in Manhattan at the Marquee on 10th Avenue. It was like going to a day party at the club with several sweet tables.  When we walked in there was a DJ playing classic tunes on the stage and various vendors situated around the club.  I was pretty excited because a lot of the bakeries featured have been on my list of places to try out for a while. 

Doughfest TimeOut

So first up was Underwest Donuts.  Out of their selection my favorite was the Maple Waffle doughnut.  It was fairly spot on in tasting like a breakfast waffle, yummy.

 Underwest Donuts

Underwest Donuts

 Underwest Maple Waffle Donuts

Underwest Maple Waffle Donuts

Then I checked out Mike's Donuts, they're a Brooklyn based bakery I've been ive been meaning to check out for a while. They had the most variety of cake style donuts to choose from and they were all pretty tasty, however my favorite was the apple filled pastry.

 Mike's Donuts

Mike's Donuts

 Mike's apple filled donut.

Mike's apple filled donut.

Orwashers Bakery had these strawberry and blackberry doughnuts. I found the jelly a tad bit sweet for me, but my friend really enjoyed them.

 Owashers Bakery, strawberry and blackberry jelly filled donuts.

Owashers Bakery, strawberry and blackberry jelly filled donuts.

A little overwhelm and on a sugar rush at this point I went to the vendor who had the longest line and the least amount of doughnuts left The Doughnut Project, and boy they did not disappoint.  They were my favorite bakery from the event.  I usually prefer the yeast style of doughnuts and they had this artisan olive oil black pepper doughnut called The Bronx that was out of this world. It was light, fluffy and moist.  I was expecting it to be savory but it was just the right mix of sweet. I wish I had a better picture to share but they were rationing out fairly small pieces of this heavenly delight so it was hard to capture it.

 The Doughnut Project

The Doughnut Project

Other vendors included Leske's Bakery who had an enjoyable peanut butter and jelly doughnut, and David Burke Kitchen.  Doughfest also had numerous beverages to choose from like Sweetleaff coffee, Tsingtao Beer and Baileys cocktails.  Overall the event was enjoyable.  I left there with a serious sugar high, but I am now knowledgeable of more delectable doughnut options in the city and even though Dough will always be my favorite doughnut spot I now have a few new bakeries to frequent this summer.

Doughfest2016

 

 

Black History Art: Gordon Parks

Kali Abdullah

 Invisible Man, 1952. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Invisible Man, 1952. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Growing up I spent my summers in North Carolina with my grandparents.   My grandfather was the original budding photographer in our family, he had a variety of different cameras and the whole art fascinated me.  I was around seven when he gave me my first camera and that is the officially moment that I fell in love with photography and decided it would be a part of my career.  Though my family fully supported my creative process, society and grade schools made the decision to be an artist or a photographer as a profession a form of failure because the arts was not considered “a real job” or a successful source of income.  Then I learned about a self-taught artist who turned a fascination into a life long career. Gordon Parks is the reason I decided to embrace my love of the arts and pursue photography in college.

Gordon Parks (born November 30, 1912) is what I would consider a renaissance man.  He was a musician, writer, and film director, but was most celebrated for being a photographer documenting many of the most important aspects of American culture ranging from issues of civil rights and poverty in the African-American community to glamour and fashion.

  Department Store, Birmingham, Alabama , 1956. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Department Store, Birmingham, Alabama, 1956. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Born in Fort Scott, Kansas, Parks left home at the age of 15 after the death of his mother. He lived with relatives for a short time before setting off on his own, taking whatever odd jobs he could find. At the age of 25, while working as a waiter in a railroad dining car, he began seeing the portfolios of portraits in magazines and decided to become a photographer.  He purchased his first camera at a pawnshop and started a portrait business in Chicago.

Gordon Parks became the first African-American photographer for Life and Vogue magazines. He also pursued movie directing and screenwriting and was the first African-American to produce and direct major motion pictures. He developed films relating the experience of slaves and struggling black Americans, such as The Learning Tree and created the "blaxploitation” genre which produced Shaft.

 American Gothic, Washington DC. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

American Gothic, Washington DC. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

He is best remembered for his iconic photos of poor low-income Americans during the 1940s taken during his fellowship with the Farm Security Administration (FSA).  Parks created some of his most enduring photographs during this fellowship, including one of his best-known photographs, American Gothic, Washington, D.C.  Parks striking photograph shows a black woman, Ella Watson, who worked on the cleaning crew of the FSA building, standing stiffly in front of an American flag hanging on the wall, a broom in one hand and a mop in the background. Parks had been inspired to create the image after encountering racism repeatedly in restaurants and shops in the segregated capital city.
 
When the FSA job ended he became a freelance photographer for Vogue. Parks worked for Vogue for a number of years, developing a distinctive style that emphasized the look of models and garments in motion, rather than in static poses.

 Long Haired Fur. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Long Haired Fur. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 Eartha Kitt 1952.  Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Eartha Kitt 1952.  Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Relocating to Harlem, Parks continued to document city images and characters while working in the fashion industry. His 1948 photographic essay on a Harlem gang leader won him widespread acclaim and a position as the first African American staff photographer and writer for LIFE magazine, at the time the nation's most prominent and highest-circulation photographic publication in the world. Parks held this position for 20 years, producing photographs on subjects including fashion, sports, and entertainment as well as poverty and racial segregation. He took memorable portraits of African-American celebrities, politicians, and leaders, including Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael, Adam Clayton Powell, and Muhammad Ali.  In the 1970s, Parks served as the editorial director during the first three years of Essence Magazine’s circulation.

 Harlem Gang Leader. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Harlem Gang Leader. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 Muhammad Ali.  Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Muhammad Ali.  Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

 (l to r)  Ethel Shariff in Chicago , 1963;  Evening Prayer, Muslim Father and Son , New York, 1946. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

(l to r) Ethel Shariff in Chicago, 1963; Evening Prayer, Muslim Father and Son, New York, 1946. Copyright The Gordon Parks Foundation

Many of Parks photos capture the essence of activism and humanitarianism in the mid-twentieth century America and have become iconic images, defining their era for later generations. They also rallied support for the emerging Civil Rights Movement, for which Parks himself was a tireless advocate as well as a documentarian.

 Gordon Parks

Gordon Parks

I had the opportunity to meet Gordon Parks my junior year of college when he came to speak at my school Pratt.  It was a full circle moment in my life.  He was an active photographer until his death on March 7, 2006, at the age of 93. Parks spent his life expanding his style, a style that would make him one of the most celebrated photographers of his age. He broke the color line in professional photography while creating remarkably expressive images that consistently explored the social and economic impact of racism.  He will always be a legend and one of my all time favorite artist.

Black History Art: Emory Douglas

Kali Abdullah

Last week I watched an excellent documentary on PBS called The Black Panthers: Vanguard of The Revolution.  It is a must see of all ages and races.  With the upcoming 50th Anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party, and the renewed emphasis on racial tensions in the 21st century I thought it would only be fitting to wrap up the last week of Black History Month highlighting one of the amazing artist who had an integral part in designing artwork that became potent symbols of the Panther movement. 

Emory Douglas (born May 24, 1943) worked as the Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party.  As the art director, designer, and main illustrator for The Black Panther newspaper, Douglas created images that became icons, representing black American struggles during the 1960s and 1970s.

Born in Michigan, Douglas grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, raised by a single mother who was legally blind. After a series of run-ins with the law, he was incarcerated for 15 months at the Youth Training School in Ontario, California, where he worked in a the print shop that made product labels for businesses. Here he learned the basics of typography and layout. He later studied commercial art, taking graphic design classes, at San Francisco City College, where he gravitated towards the commercial art classes that taught him the skills he needed for large-scale print production. He began making flyers, programs, and pamphlets for student groups working to advance civil rights and self-determination for African-Americans.

Emory Douglas Art 2.jpg

Douglas' role involved communicating the party's message to a community with low literacy rates and little experience of formal politics. He illustrated and laid out the Black Panther newspaper, drawing images of empowered black folk, as well as representations of their oppressors, The Pig, an animal, which stood for everyone from the local police to the president.  “Artists have a way of instantly communicating essence,” says Douglas. “Things are made clear, almost like a language, and so art is a powerful tool to communicate with the community.”

After The Black Panther newspaper was no longer published, Douglas worked at the San Francisco Sun Reporter newspaper for over 30 years.  He continued to create activist artwork. 

 Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas Book

Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas Book

In 2006, artist and curator Sam Durant edited a book of Emory Douglas’ work, Black Panther: The Revolutionary Art of Emory Douglas, with words commissioned from Bobby Seale, Kathleen Cleaver, Danny Glover, Amiri Baraka and Sonia Sanchez, amongst others.  After the book's publication, Emory Douglas had retrospective exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and the New Museum in New York. In fact, this fall the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) will present a major exhibition to coincide with the 50th Anniversary of the Black Panther Party’s legacy from multiple perspectives including some of Emory’s work.  

 

Since the re-introduction of his early work to new audiences, Emory Douglas continues to make new work, exhibit and interact with audiences in formal and informal settings all over the world. With the renewed interest in the Panthers and the tumultuous racial upsets that defined the latter half of the 20th century, a younger generation of political artists has now discovered Douglas’ work, more than three decades later. He is proud of his work and the Panthers' achievements but says there's plenty more to be done.

First Monday In May, Fashion's Biggest Night

Kali Abdullah

 Magnolia Pictures

Magnolia Pictures

When I saw the trailer for this film "The First Monday in May" yesterday I got really excited. I love the Metropolitan Museum of Art's annual costume exhibition. Since moving to New York, I think I've gone every year (my favorite show was Alexander McQueen's Savage Beauty show).  However before the exhibit even opens to the public the big extravaganza is the Met Ball, where you have an opportunity to see major celebrities walk the red carpet in themed couture gowns and suits.  As André Leon Tally says "The Met Ball is the super bowl of fashion events".  So when it was announced yesterday that this film about the biggest night in fashion was premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival beginning in April I was ecstatic.

 Magnolia Pictures

Magnolia Pictures

The film, directed by Andrew Rossi, documents the process, planning and what goes on behind the scenes leading up to the major event.  It was filmed during the prep for last year's exhibit "China: Trough the Looking Glass", which was a beautiful exhibition. The movie follows Costume Institute curator Andrew Bolton and Vogue EIC Anna Wintour who is responsible for organizing the entire gala.  The film will be in theaters April 15th, I can't wait.  Here is the trailer below.


Double Bind

Kali Abdullah

 Backstage at the Pyer Moss AW16 show (credit: Kali Brown)

Backstage at the Pyer Moss AW16 show (credit: Kali Brown)

This weekend (February 13, 2016) I had the opportunity to assist backstage at the Pyer Moss AW16 Fashion show "Double Bind" presented by designer Kerby Jean-Raymond and styled by singer Erykah Badu. A double bind is an emotionally distressing dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, and one message negates the other.  The show addressed a powerful message regarding the issue of depression and mental issues, which is often "swept under the rug" in black culture.

"I think the whole world is depressed," Badu told Huffington Post, but noted that she hasn't personally suffered from any type of clinical depression. "We mask it in different ways -- technology is one of the ways we've found as a group to mask it. Normal bouts of depression are very common -- for all of us -- and we don’t really discuss it and talk about it, we just kind of numb it some kind of way.”

 Erykah Badu talking to Wale backstage at the Pyer Moss AW16 show (credit: Kali Brown)

Erykah Badu talking to Wale backstage at the Pyer Moss AW16 show (credit: Kali Brown)

The models were accessorized in police/chauffeur style hats, fitted with buttons reading names of various medications such Prozac, Xanax, and Lean; while walking to a choir composed of classically trained opera singers performing operatic renditions of popular hip-hop songs such as Fetty Wap’s “RGF Island” and Future’s “Trap N-----”

 Backstage at the Pyer Moss AW16 show. (credit: Kali Brown)

Backstage at the Pyer Moss AW16 show. (credit: Kali Brown)

 Backstage at the Pyer Moss AW16 show. (credit: Kali Brown)

Backstage at the Pyer Moss AW16 show. (credit: Kali Brown)

 Backstage at the Pyer Moss AW16 show (credit: Kali Brown)

Backstage at the Pyer Moss AW16 show (credit: Kali Brown)

The show ended with the last model walking out holding a sign that read: “My demons won today. I’m sorry.” That was the last Facebook status shared by MarShawn M. McCarrel II, a Black Lives Matter activist and founder of Pursuing Our Dreams, who killed himself outside the Ohio Statehouse on Monday.

 (credit: Pyer Moss)

(credit: Pyer Moss)

Black History Art: Jacob Lawrence

Kali Abdullah

 Migration Series: In the North the Negro had better educational facilities. Panel 58

Migration Series: In the North the Negro had better educational facilities. Panel 58

Jacob Lawrence(September 7, 1917) is among the best-known 20th-century African-American painters.

Born in Atlantic City, New Jersey but raised in New York City's Harlem, Jacob Lawrence was most widely acclaimed for producing narrative collections that brought the African-American experience to life using blacks and browns juxtaposed with vivid colors.  Lawrence referred to his style as "dynamic cubism," though by his own account the primary influence was not so much French art as the shapes and colors of Harlem.

 This is Harlem

This is Harlem

Lawrence was introduced to art when his mother enrolled him in classes at an arts and crafts settlement house in Harlem, in an effort to keep him busy. The young Lawrence often drew patterns with crayons. In the beginning, he copied patterns of his mother's carpets; one of his art teachers noted great potential in Lawrence.

Throughout his career, Jacob Lawrence emphasized the crucial role that the black community of Harlem played in his development as a young man and as an artist. In his images of Harlem, Lawrence painted his vision of poverty, crime, racial tensions, and police brutality based on his experience of urban life around him. He also portrayed a vibrant, thriving community and the aspirations of its people. Harlem was a constant backdrop to many of Lawrence’s paintings.  His themes included black working women, health concerns, leisure time, and the role of religion and spirituality in people's daily lives. In these works, Lawrence portrayed the community in bold colors, repeating patterns, and asymmetrical compositions. He also incorporated the rhythms, breaks, and changes of jazz music into his visual representations of the Harlem environment.

 There are Many Churches in Harlem. The People are Very Religious.

There are Many Churches in Harlem. The People are Very Religious.

 The Seamstress

The Seamstress

Lawrence concentrated on exploring the history and struggles of African Americans. He often portrayed important periods in African-American history. He was 21 years old when his series of paintings of the Haitian general Toussaint L'Ouverture, who led the revolution of the slaves that eventually gained independence, was shown in an exhibit of African-American artists at the Baltimore Museum of Art. This impressive work was followed by a series of paintings of the lives of Fredrick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, as well as a series of pieces about the abolitionist John Brown.

 Harriet Tubman Series

Harriet Tubman Series

 Harriet Tubman Series

Harriet Tubman Series

Lawrence was 23 when he completed the 60-panel set of narrative paintings entitled Migration of the Negro, now called the Migration Series. The series was a portrayal of the Great Migration, when hundreds of thousands of African Americans moved from the rural South to the North after World War 1, and showed their adjusting to Northern cities. In the 1940s Lawrence was given his first major solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, and it brought him national recognition. He became the most celebrated African-American painter in the country, and a part of this series was featured in a 1941 issue of Fortune Magazine. Last year the MoMA exhibited this series for the first time in 20 years.

 Migration Series: From every Southern town migrants left by the hundreds to travel north.

Migration Series: From every Southern town migrants left by the hundreds to travel north.

 Migration Series: Panel 1

Migration Series: Panel 1

 Migration Series: Panel 22

Migration Series: Panel 22

Lawrence married Gwendolyn Knight, a sculptor and painter, in 1941. She actively supported his work, providing both assistance and criticism, and helped him compose captions for many of his series.

 Jacob Lawrence with wife Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence with wife Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence

During World War II, Lawrence was drafted into the United States Coast Guard. He was assigned to be the Coast Guard artist aboard a troopship, documenting the experience of war around the world. He produced 48 paintings during this time, all of which have been lost. When his tour of duty ended, Lawrence received a Guggenheim Fellowship and painted his War Series.  Of this series my favorite painting in this series is The Letter. Though the image is minimal in design the message is so strong and poignant.

 War Series: The Letter

War Series: The Letter

 War Series: The Prayer

War Series: The Prayer

Lawrence grew depressed in 1949, he checked himself into Hillside Hospital in Queens, where he stayed for 11 months. He painted as an inpatient, and the work created during this time offered insight into the circumstances of mental illness and therapy, from the patients’ absorption in the occupational therapies of weaving and gardening to the spiritless of the depressed.  His paintings differed significantly from his other work because it was the only work that depicts exclusively white subjects. It also has subdued colors and people who appear resigned or in agony.  After leaving Hillside, Lawrence returned to the strengths of his earlier work. 

As David Harrison said "Lawrence has taken us from the polite world of abstract painting to a much uglier place and returned us, effortlessly. That he crosses easily between these two concerns, seemingly miles apart, fits neatly within the boundary-crossing theme that Over the Line proposes. But when Jacob Lawrence was at his best, boundaries ceased to be the issue. He was able to absorb contradictions and inequities, history and myth, beauty and atrocity, humor and gravity. He took what he would from all of them and made something as complicated as his experience."

 New York Transit

New York Transit

 New York Transit

New York Transit

Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, Lawrence spent much of his time painting commissions.  Lawrence taught at several universities, including Pratt Institute (my Alma Mata). In 1970, Jacob settled in Seattle as a professor of art at the University of Washington.  He continued to paint until his death in June 2000 at the age of eighty-two. His last commissioned public work, the mosaic mural New York in Transit, was installed in October 2001 in the Times Square subway station in New York City.

 Jacob Lawrence

Jacob Lawrence

Black History Art: Malick Sidibé

Kali Abdullah

 

Malick Sidibé (born in 1936) is a Malian photographer noted for his black-and-white images chronicling the exuberant lives and pop culture, often of youth during the 1960s and 70s in Bamako.  His work documents a transitional moment as Mali gained its independence and transformed from a French colony steeped in tradition to a more modern independent country looking toward the West. He captured candid images in the streets, nightclubs, and sporting events and ran a formal portrait studio.

Malik Sidibé 1.jpg
Malik Portraits 2.jpg

Malick Sidibé is a generation behind Seydou Keïta and I’d like to think that he was influenced by Keïta’s photography.  Similar to Keïta, Sidibé was a studio photographer known for his black-and-white portraits, but what set him apart is the sense of youthful pride and fun captured in the photographs. He enjoyed using the studio as a way to pretend and create new lives for his subjects. Also people enjoyed coming to his studio because unlike the others he had electricity, which was a luxury at the time. When talking about his studio portraits he states in an interview:

“As a rule, when I was working in the studio, I did a lot of the positioning. As I have a background in drawing, I was able to set up certain positions in my portraits. I didn’t want my subjects to look like mummies. I would give them positions that brought something alive in them. When you look at my photos, you are seeing a photo that seems to move before your eyes. Those are the sort of poses I gave them. Not poses that were inert or lifeless. No. People who have life need to be positioned that way. It was quite different at my studio. It was like a place of make-believe. People would pretend to be riding motorbikes, racing against each other. It was not like that at the other studios. That’s why my studio was so popular, already by 1964, 1965. The studio was a lot more laid back.”

Malick-Sidib--Nuit-de-No--001.jpg

I was first introduced to Malick Sidibé in 1997 when Janet Jackson put out the “Got ‘til It’s Gone” song featuring Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell.  The music video, directed by Mark Romanek used African photography as a motif, creating what he called a "pre-Apartheid celebration based on that African photography."   The video wanders a massive house party and includes scenes inspired by the work of photographer Malick Sidibé. After falling in love with the video and being an aspiring photographer at the time I dove deep into finding out what Sidibé was all about. I love how Sidibé captured the essence of that time period and the sixties and seventies fashion.  It gave me a whole new perception of African culture, which before then I thought was very traditional and tribal.

Joni Mitchell, Janet Jackson & Mark Romanek discuss the Music Video "Got 'Till It's Gone" Includes music video by Janet Jackson w/Q-Tip and Joni Mitchell - "Got 'Til It's Gone" (Def Radio Mix). (C) Virgin Records. Directed by Mark Romanek. From the album "The Velvet Rope"

I also learned that Malick Sidibé was like the original club photographer in Bamako (days before social media).  In an interview with lensculture.com he states:

“At night, from midnight to 4 am or 6 am, I went from one party to another. I could go to four different parties. If there were only two, it was like having a rest. But if there were four, you couldn't miss any. If you were given four invitations, you had to go. You couldn't miss them.  I'd leave one place, I'd take 36 shots here, 36 shots there, and then 36 somewhere else, until the morning. Sometimes I would come back to parties where there had been a lot of people.  Afterwards I had to develop the photos and print them out. Sometimes, right up to 6 in the morning, I would be at the enlarger. For the 6 x 6 films there was a contact printer, but the 24 x 36 had to be enlarged.  You could work in the morning, but, by Tuesday, the photos had to be ready for display. The proofs were pinned up outside my studio. Lots of people would come and point themselves out. ‘Look at me there! I danced with so-and-so! Can you see me there?’  Even if they didn't buy the photo, they would show it to their friends. That was enough for them. They had danced with a certain girl, and that was enough. I wasn't happy, though. I wanted them to buy these photos!”

The true hustle of a photographer hahah.

Sidibé’s work has been exhibited extensively.  His photos are in numerous public and private collections all over the world and he’s received several honors and awards.  He has become a true inspiration in portrait photography for me especially in men's fashion and style.

In a 2010 interview with John Henley in The Guardian Sidibé explained, “To be a good photographer you need to have a talent to observe, and to know what you want. You have to choose the shapes and the movements that please you, that look beautiful. Equally, you need to be friendly, sympathetic. It's very important to be able to put people at their ease. It's a world, someone's face. When I capture it, I see the future of the world. I believe with my heart and soul in the power of the image, but you also have to be sociable. I'm lucky. It's in my nature."

Malick Sidibé presently resides in Mali.