RSS

Tag Archives: art

Signs of Life in Detroit

Been hearing rumbles of this for a while. The first thing I heard about was some very creative groups working in the area of urban farming, who were leading the country with revolutionary concepts on hanging urban landscapes. It appears that Detroit may be “catching fire” again with creative talent, drawn by the low rent, and possibilities to chart their own space.

Two years ago, the renowned graffiti artist Revok moved from LA to Detroit Josh Harkinson

Graffiti Artist Revok

Detroit may be down… But it ain’t dead quite yet.

How to Bring Detroit Back From the Grave

“Warning! This city is infested by crackheads. Secure your belongings and pray for your life.” So reads a hand-scrawled sign just off I-75 in Detroit, where a post-apocalyptic cityscape of looted and charred homes has come to represent a sort of sarcophagus of the American Dream.

But beyond simply fueling murders and bribery scandals, decades of hard times have finally birthed new signs of life here in the Motor City, as its gritty neighborhoods attract a burgeoning community of artists, hipsters, and socially minded entrepreneurs. “With a little bit of motivation, you can make anything happen here,” says Jason Williams, a.k.a. Revok, a renowned Los Angeles graffiti artist turned Detroiter, whose lively murals adorn walls not far from the crackhead sign. “It’s all about the reality that you create for yourself.”

For those willing to brave the nation’s most dangerous major city, Detroit offers a tight-knit and successful creative community. The birthplace of Motown and techno still manages to turn out chart-busting artists like Eminem and Jack White. And growing numbers of bohemians have found that a few thousand dollars will buy them a classic brick townhouse or a loft in an art-deco skyscraper. Where old buildings have fallen, hundreds of urban gardens sprout.

Detroit is hardly the first city to lure urban homesteaders with access to cheap and artfully crumbling buildings. The same formula revitalized (and eventually gentrified) neighborhoods such as the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn and San Francisco’s Mission and Dogpatch districts. The big difference in Detroit, however, is that its economy blew a rod long ago, triggering an exodus of more than half the city’s population—last year, it lost another 28,000 people. Barely a quarter of those who remain have a degree from a four-year college. During my recent visit, local elected leaders were warning that the city could run out of money—within the week.

Last year, in Guernica magazine, Wayne State literature professor John Patrick Leary cautioned against what he called “Detroitism,” the fetish for urban decay mixed with utopianism, “where bohemians from expensive coastal cities can have the $100 house and community garden of their dreams.” But Detroit offers much more. Here is a city that foretold the woes of America’s middle class—and spent decades searching for a path out of its recessionary wilderness. Forget the clichés about heirloom tomatoes and check out these four examples of creative Detroiters who are making a difference

The Power House Gina Reichert

Meet the Power House and the new “Hood Cat” changing neighborhoods a brick at a time

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 16, 2012 in The Post-Racial Life

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

French Hip Hop?

There is an old saying that a “Lie can get half way around the world before Truth has a chance to get its pants on”.

There is one thing faster – music.

Festival celebrates French hip-hop

Since the founding of Washington, it has been tres facile to sense the French influence in the circles, grids and diagonals bequeathed by Pierre L’Enfant, and in recent years, it seems no office is more than steps away from a French (or French-named) place to buy a croissant.

You’d think Sylvain Cornevaux, cultural director of the Alliance Francaise, would consider his mission accomplished now that it’s so easy to pick up baguettes in our French-formatted city. He doesn’t.

“The bread, the architecture — these things are French, and these things are very nice, but they are also very old,” Cornevaux said. And so this month, in an effort to connect the District’s streets with the New France, he has organized a festival of French hip-hop dance.

Oui. French hip-hop dance. Does that sound oxymoronic? Au contraire, Cornevaux explains. Given the influx of immigrants from former French colonies and the general French fascination with urban American life, hip-hop culture caught on in France but quickly merged with higher-brow art. The result is choreography that’s now being exported back to the United States. And thus we have “Urban Corps: A Transatlantic Hip-Hop Festival,” which continues through Friday, May 25, at venues in Arlington County and the District.

“It is very interesting, because hip-hop was born in the U.S. but it has quickly developed in another way in France,” Cornevaux said. “Hip-hop was still an emerging artistic field in the beginning of the ’80s, but at the beginning of the ’90s, many hip-hop artists started working a lot with classical choreographers and with artistic directors of theaters. [Dancers] kept their hip-hop skills but transformed to show them in a contemporary manner. They incorporate hip-hop, mime and Capoeira,” a Brazilian blend of athletic dance and martial arts.

The Alliance, a nonprofit group dedicated to promoting French language and culture, worked hard to obtain visas for 13 dancers affiliated with four French companies, and each troupe received funding from its home town or region to cover travel. The city of Nantes even paid to ship extensive sets for KLP Company’s show “Tour of Duty” to that Atlas Performing Arts Center.

“Tour of Duty” may sound like a show inspired by military battles or war video games, but according to press materials and the company’s Web site, it’s actually a narrative tracing the history of hip-hop in Brooklyn, beginning in 1960, and recounting years of gang wars and communities coming together.

Junious Brickhouse, founder of the District-based hip-hop collective Urban Artistry, is a bit skeptical about the storyline — Brooklyn? What about the South Bronx? — but suspects that the dancing will be on target. “I’ll be honest. I think there are some things that get lost in translation,” Brickhouse said, “but at the end of the day, I just want to get down with some nonverbal art.”…

Chez Chez…Indeed.

 
 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Juvenile Incarceration

"Juvenile in Justice" photo project captures kids behind bars

The above pic is from a series called “Juvenile in Justice”. They don’t say what this particular kid did to get in that cell – but some of the other pictures are of juveniles who have committed extremely violent crimes.

Worth a look.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on May 3, 2012 in The Post-Racial Life

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Elizabeth Catlett

A Master Artist passed Monday. Mrs Catlett was 96 years old.

My Time With Elizabeth Catlett

By: Harriette Cole

I was a young, wide-eyed magazine editor just starting my career when I had the great fortune to meet the artist Elizabeth Catlett. I was working at Essence magazine in the lifestyle department, and one of my beats was the art world. I would go to art openings all over New York City, learning about and meeting black artists who were presenting their work.

It was a fascinating experience, for so many reasons. Even though I grew up in a household where we appreciated fine art and did have paintings made by local black artists hanging on our walls, I had no idea that there were actual black masters. The only masters I knew about were Van Gogh, Matisse, Manet, Picasso and such. I knew nothing of Romare Bearden or Jacob Lawrence — or Elizabeth Catlett — back then. I had no idea that we had our own masters.

I believe it was the art dealer June Kelly, who has long had a gallery in Manhattan, who introduced me to Catlett. In the early 1980s, Catlett was already an acclaimed artist whose work — clay, wood and stone sculptures as well as woodcuts and linocuts — was housed in museums and galleries across the country and beyond.

What a humble woman she was. Gracious and generous, Catlett took time to talk to me about the work she had created thus far, which uniquely documented the stories of African-American people. I remember being mesmerized by the woodcuts and linocuts that she made.

With her hands and a few special tools, she transformed simple pieces of material into stories of triumph and struggle. The piece that drew me in the most is one of her most famous, the 1952 linocut Sharecropper.This carving represents a strong black woman wearing a full-brim hat and proper coat. Her face exudes the power, strength and inward glance of one who is a survivor.

As I crafted the first of several stories I would write about Catlett, I continued my fascination with her, her work and that piece. In those early years, I would see her at various openings for her work in New York and Los Angeles. The artist Samella Lewis wrote a book about Catlett, The Art of Elizabeth Catlett, and I visited with the two of them in Los Angeles when the book came out.

I feel so fortunate that over the years our paths intersected many times. Once, early on, Catlett was visiting New York City with her husband, the Mexican artist Francisco Mora, whom she fondly called Pancho, and she invited me to visit with them at her apartment in lower Manhattan…(more)

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on April 5, 2012 in Black History

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

A Confederate Flag Taken Down… By Neo-confederates

Confederate Flag Art Removed After Complaints

Apparently the guardians of the Southern Myth didn’t like a painting by Gainsville State College, located in Gainsville, Georgia by  Professor Stanley Bermudez. Seems Professor Bermudez made the mistake of painting what he felt when he saw the flag…

Neo-confederate and hate groups promptly voice their ire, intimidating the College to remove the flag from the Art Exhibit.

GSC professor teaches the importance of art as his own work comes under fire

“When I was growing up in South America, we had the freedom of expression in my country. But when Hugo Chávez came into power, he started manipulating that freedom. Everything from the media to art was being censored,” said Bermudez, who is from Venezuela.

“Anyone who made a negative comment about the government … was being attacked or repressed. I don’t agree with that kind of censorship.”

As an artist, Bermudez often takes to canvas to express his feelings and thoughts. One of his most recent works, “Heritage?,” illustrates what comes to his mind when he thinks of the Confederate flag.

The red flag, with the blue St. Andrew’s Cross emblazoned across the front adorned with white stars, was carried onto the battlefield by Confederate soldiers during the Civil War. While some people argue that the flag represents Southern heritage and pride, other people — Bermudez included — see it in a less positive light. Read the rest of this entry »

 
4 Comments

Posted by on February 4, 2011 in Domestic terrorism, The New Jim Crow

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

World Cup… Soccer 1 – Sex 0

It would seem that some of the predictions and dire warnings didn’t pan out…

Soccer fans shun hookers for art’s sake

The influx of thousands of soccer fans would increase demand on South African sex workers; at least that was the belief of a leading expert prior to the start of the 2010 World Cup.

But it seems fans of the beautiful game that traveled to the Rainbow Nation have created a flop in sex-worker business — leaving prostitutes out-of-pocket and out of work — in favor of more high-brow pursuits.

“The World Cup has been devastating. We thought it was going to be a cash cow but it’s chased a lot of the business away. It’s been the worst month in my company’s history,” the owner and founder of one of Johannesburg’s most exclusive escort companies told CNN.

“No one is interested in sex at the moment. I think we’ve had three customers who traveled here for the World Cup which has seen my group’s business drop by 80 percent. I enjoyed watching the games, but I can’t wait for everyone to just go home now!” the madam, who works under the alias of “Tori,” added.

The behavior of fans in South Africa has run contrary to what was predicted prior to the start of the tournament after David Bayever told World Cup organizers in March it was feared that up to 40,000 extra prostitutes could converge in the host nation to meet the expected demand.

Bayever, deputy chairperson of South Africa’s Central Drug Authority (CDA) that advises on drug abuse but also works with prostitutes, warned: “Forty-thousand new prostitutes. As if we do not have enough people of our own, we have to import them to ensure our visitors are entertained.”

But the tournament in 2010, if anything, has seen the modern-day soccer fan attracted to art galleries and museums over brothels.

A trend that has seen a drop in revenue across the board for the prostitution industry, which is illegal in South Africa. “Zobwa,” the chairperson of Sisonke — an action group representing around 70 street prostitutes in Johannesburg — said business had been down over the last month. Read the rest of this entry »

 
1 Comment

Posted by on July 10, 2010 in News

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: