So I took a trip to Cali For Ni Yaaaaae! Sorry, if you haven’t noticed yet, I’m corny!
But while there I of course had to visit the California African American Museum because it’s my goal to visit every museum, monument, and site of black history on EARTH! I call it, “My Black History Bucket List.”
The museum included the California Bound: Slavery on the New Frontier, 1848-1865 exhibit, Los Angeles Freedom Rally, 1963 exhibit, the Robert Pruitt: Devotion exhibit, and the Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush exhibit.
This blog however will focus on the art work displayed in both the Robert Pruitt exhibit and Nina Chanel Abney exhibit.
Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush
First of all, thank God for a description because I was lost at first! Not going to lie when it comes to art, many of things go over my head. But after reading about the artist and the descriptions of her work I really began to appreciate her work and her message.
Before we jump into my favorite pieces here’s a little information on her:
“she visually articulates the complex social dynamics of contemporary urban life”
“Abney draws on mainstream news media, animated cartoons, video games, hip-hop culture, celebrity websites, and tabloid magazines to make paintings replete with symbols that appear to have landed on the canvas with the stream-of-consciousness immediacy of text messages, pop-up windows, or the scrolling headlines of an incessant 24-hour news cycle.”
-Information provided by CAAM webiste
Here are a few of Abney’s pieces that I really enjoyed:
In Untitled (XXXXXX), Abney depicts a seemingly innocent interaction between two police officers and a citizen. But just beneath the top layer the word “Kill” is hidden. Abney is playing on the theme of violence and death as it pertains to interactions between the police and those they are sworn to protect and serve. Abney often likes to leave her work up for interpretation by its viewing audience. So what do you see? How do you feel? I felt fear for the citizen. Fear that he wouldn’t make it out alive or back to his family. But he must have done something wrong right? Marijuana in his system, spoken to loudly, moved to boldly, acted too human for comfort. Does he not deserve death? Do the police not assume the right of judge, juror, and executioner? Or is this just the case when the races are switched?
In this second companion image, Untitled (IXI Black) the scene is much more confrontational than that of the first. Kill is hidden again. But is this man more deserving of death? Both images contain silhouettes of doves, symbols for peace. So although these interactions have the potential to end violently Abney still remains hopeful of a better outcome. In both of these works Abney is fighting for the right to live, to survive interactions with police. Abney is fighting for the cooling of the tensions between these two groups so that we all can survive and live another day.
The bold COM in the piece made me think it’s focus was the internet, how we interact with one another online. The hate and negativity. How we we seem to drop all compassion and humanity at the login screen. The tears on their faces representative of the pain we cause each other as we sit behind computer and phone screens.
Robert Pruitt: Devotion
This was my favorite of all the exhibits. I just loved how Pruitt depicted the beauty of black women on such large canvases. He made us larger than life even though we are normally marginalized and ignored. He showed off our beauty, our strength, and the variety of our existence.
” Through drawing, sculpture, animation, and photography, he illuminates connections between spiritual traditions, fictional narratives, and technology and investigates how black identity can reside at the intersection of these arenas.”
-Information provided by the CAAM website
We women come in many shades, in many shapes, no more or less beautiful than the other.
We women wear many different hats and exist individually as manifestations of our varied experiences.
My absolute favorite:
How wonderful it made this black girl feel to see us depicted as Adam and Eve. And again in such large images. Beautiful! I also loved how Adam for instance is dressed in contemporary style trends (Supreme Brand).
I just love to seen black men and flowers in the same image. Yin and Yang. Masculine meets feminine.
In Archangel, Pruitt illustrates the connection between violence and repression domestically and internationally as a result of militarization and the connection between increased repression and advancements in technology. In Freedom is a Constant Struggle, author Angela Davis links the militarization we saw in the wake of protests in Ferguson after the murder of Mike Brown with militarization in Palestine. In Archangel, Pruitt makes this same connection by hanging a “I Can’t Breathe” shirt, the last words spoken by Eric Garner turned rallying cry and language of resistance, to a military drone.
Ivy leaves represent strong attachment.
I am we.
A threat to justice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and what happens to one of us happens to all of us.
On second thought, after writing this Archangel was my favorite piece of the day.
Art!! What would our world be without it.
The Robert Pruitt: Devotion exhibit also included works of various artists who inspired him. The work of these artists follows below.
Ella Fitzgerald’s wig!!!! May I to be famous enough one day to have my wig in a museum!!!
Alex Haley, a man I respect for constructing the Autobiography of Malcolm X and for giving us Roots both of which were and remain cultural phenomenons.
A thinking cap with an “X” embroidered on it? Has to be for Malcolm X right? And how befitting, as I did not begin to truly think until I read his Autobiography. I am forever indebted.