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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!

Filtering by Tag: African-American Artist

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! 

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: 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: Kerry James Marshall

Kali Abdullah

Portrait of a Curator (In Memory of Beryl Wright)

Portrait of a Curator (In Memory of Beryl Wright)

Kerry James Marshall (born October 17, 1955) is an American artist who uses painting, sculptural installations, collage, video, and photography to comment on the history of black identity both in the United States and in Western art. I was recently introduce to his work while doing research for a project.  He is well known for paintings that focus on black subjects historically excluded from the artistic canon, and has explored issues of race and history through imagery ranging from abstraction to comics. As he describes, his work is rooted in his life experience: “You can’t be born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1955 and grow up in South Central [Los Angeles] near the Black Panthers headquarters, and not feel like you’ve got some kind of social responsibility. You can’t move to Watts in 1963 and not speak about it.”

De Style

De Style

Strongly influenced by his experiences as a young man, he developed a signature style during his early years as an artist that involved the use of extremely dark, essentially black figures. These images represent his perspective of African-Americans with separate and distinct inner and outer appearances. At the same time, they confront racial stereotypes within contemporary American society. This common theme appeared continuously in his large-scale painting throughout the subsequent decades, especially in the 1980s and 1990s.

(l) Untitled, (r) Handsome Young Man

(l) Untitled, (r) Handsome Young Man

Some of Marshall’s notable works include the Garden Project, which critiques the glorified names of housing projects that conceal desperate poverty and the Lost Boys series about young men killed or abandoned by various social systems. This collection was semi inspired by an autobiographical situation where Marshall’s  youngest brother was incarcerated for seven years.  Marshal says it’s about “the concept of being lost: lost in America, lost in the ghetto, lost in public housing, lost in joblessness, and lost in illiteracy. And all of those things sort of changed...all of those things kind of came together with the fact that my own brother now seemed to be one of those lost.

Untitled (Altgeld Gardens)

Untitled (Altgeld Gardens)

Lost Boys: AKA Black Johnny

Lost Boys: AKA Black Johnny

Marshall explored the concept of black beauty in contrast to Western ideals with paintings where a nude female figure, literally blends into her dark surroundings, her sensuous shape barely discernible. Yet once the viewer looks closely, her curvaceous figure evokes a womanly power only enhanced by the deep black of her skin. As Marshall admits, he himself “‘had not considered that a black woman could be considered a goddess of love and beauty,’” but with his painting he proves its possibility. He challenges the classic perception of a goddess as only a Caucasian woman with long flowing hair, speaking again to the issue of African American identity in the Western world.

Small Pin Up Finger Wag

Small Pin Up Finger Wag

Beach Towel

Beach Towel

Marshall studied in Los Angeles with acclaimed social realist painter Charles White and participated in the residency program at the Studio Museum in Harlem. He has received solo exhibitions throughout Europe and North America and his work has been included in prestigious international exhibitions.  His paintings are in private collections and foundations as well as major public collections including the MCA’s.

Kerry James Marshall

Kerry James Marshall

Kerry James Marshall now lives in Chicago, where he previously taught at the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is a 1978 graduate of Otis College of Art and Design.

Black History Art: Romare Bearden

Kali Abdullah

Pittsburgh Memory, 1964

Pittsburgh Memory, 1964

Romare Bearden (born September 2) was an American artist and writer who depicted African-American life. Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Bearden moved to New York City at a young age.  Recognized as one of the most creative and original visual artists of the twentieth century, Romare Bearden had a prolific and distinguished career. He experimented with many different mediums and artistic styles, but is best known for his richly textured collages, which are my favorite of his collections. Snippets from magazine photographs, painted papers, foil, posters, and art reproductions were among his materials. Bearden’s collages fractured space and form, leading one writer to describe them as “patchwork cubism.”

Spring Way, 1964

Spring Way, 1964

The Dove, 1964

The Dove, 1964

Romare Bearden was somewhat of a Renaissance man. An innovative artist with diverse interests, he also designed costumes and sets for the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, created book illustration, comics, album art, and public murals. Bearden was the author/coauthor of several books, and was a songwriter who co-wrote the jazz classic "Sea Breeze", which was recorded by Billy Eckstine and Dizzy Gillespie.  Jazz and the blues provided Bearden with many subjects. He grew up hearing rural blues and uptown jazz: Duke Ellington’s orchestra, Earl Hines’ piano, Ella Fitzgerald’s scat singing. For sixteen years, his studio was above the Apollo Theater, still a Harlem musical landmark.

Showtime, 1974

Showtime, 1974

Billie Holiday Album

Billie Holiday Album

Bearden studied with a Chinese calligrapher, whom he credits with introducing him to new ideas about space and composition in painting. He also spent a lot of time studying famous European paintings he admired, particularly the work of artists such as Johannes Vermeer, Pieter de Hooch, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Rembrandt. He also revered African art such as sculpture, mask and textiles.

(l to r) The Family, 1948; Three Men, 1967; Circe, 1977

(l to r) The Family, 1948; Three Men, 1967; Circe, 1977

Bearden became a founding member of the Harlem-based art group known as The Spiral, formed to discuss the responsiblities of the African-American artist in the struggle for civil rights.  Critical of special or separate treatment he was nevertheless aware of their limited opportunities and made important commitments to leveling the playing field for black artists.  His lifelong support of young, emerging artists led him and his wife to create the Bearden Foundation to support young or emerging artists and scholars. In 1987, Bearden was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

Romare Bearden

Romare Bearden

Bearden died in New York City on March 12, 1988 at the age of 76. In the obituary for him, the New York Times called Bearden "one of America's pre-eminent artists" and "the nation's foremost collagist."