Rashaad Newsome Presents: Art and Performance, the Remix
1 year ago
An artist who fearlessly collages hip-hop, vogue culture and opera.
The culmination of an artists work is the exhibition. The space where his/her research, practice and discipline is manifest. What is on display can be either flat or dimensional depending on the material and subject matter. Rashaad Newsome’s work is hyper-dimensional without being banal. It is sophisticated without being pretentious. His work is provocative, positioning him as one of the most influential artists of his time.
What makes Newsome’s work compelling is his understanding of the multiplicity of language. He states, “My work is about language.” Additionally, his research, the studied history and participation in culture, his stealth manipulation of objects, use of color and materials, and how he positions himself and his subjects, are what brings the necessary intellectual swagger to the bling and bodies in his work. Newsome’s art functions within the realm of popular culture yet at the same time securing its appropriate position in the histories of art and culture.
Last fall, Newsome debuted his groundbreaking work Herald at Marlborough Chelsea, in New York City. The gallery’s selection of Newsome as an artist was a strategic decision as it aimed to reposition and redefine itself.
“We knew that changing the direction of Marlborough Chelsea would require bringing in artists who were not only dynamic and prolific in their practice, but also furthered dialogue around contemporary art. Newsome’s practice embodies this,” stated Max Levai, Director of Marlborough.
The project, Herald, Newsome explains “came out of how Heraldry functions as a language.” It also explores the history and symbols of status. His research took him to London to the Royal College of Arms to experience first hand what he had been studying for so long.
The depth of Heraldry is complex but an identifiable symbol is the coat of arms. Newsome transforms this history and applies it to contemporary hip-hop, creating an explosive juxtaposition between the elements of something that was of a high and noble form to something contemporary that originated in the streets of New York. In Heraldry as in hip-hop there are battles for territory and in the end everyone is going for the crown or in some cases, the bling [recall Kanye being inducted into Roc-A-Fella Records with a chain].
Herald, as an exhibition (and with an accompanying rap battle/performance at New York’s Performa) was a multimedia experience comprised of collages in customized antique frames, some embedded with rims and ball caps. The collages revealed other contemporary status symbols of the hip-hop variety such as gold watches, diamonds and images of the female posterior en masse. One in particular titled Swaggalicious, included the fleur-de-lis, a nod to Newsome’s own cultural history and place of origin.
Newsome’s work FIVE, is about vogue culture. This work is re-appropriating this art/dance form by realigning it with its history, origins and community. It introduces viewers who are unfamiliar to the five elements of voguing: hands, duck walking, cat walk, floor performance and dip spins. Comfortable with the tension that notions of high and low create Newsome has vogue performers, violinists, an opera singer and a vogue performance commentator all in the same space over a beat. It is the ultimate performance remix. To further expand this work, Newsome uses a motion tracker in one performance that tracks each dancers movement based on the color they are wearing and creates drawings that are projected onto an elevated screen above and behind the dancers.