Photo by Al Larriva-Latt. All the works of the artists.
An inflatable plastic form lies inert on the lower level of the gallery at the Creative Arts Workshop. He is white, featureless and massive, with limbs, arms and head. There is more plastic on the back wall; cheap curtains from ceiling to floor. With black magic marker, the artist Moshopefoluwa “Mosho” Olagunju scribbled a sprawling net of loops on it. Captivity and death hover from the plastic.
Superimposed on the plastic sheet, a platoon of blacks on bicycles lunges forward, the front wheels pointing towards the front wall of the building. They move as a unit, far into the future.
Olagunju’s work captures the viewer’s gaze Remodeled | Refocuseda science fiction and afrofuturist exhibition in dialogue with the classic novel by Octavia Butler Parable of the Sower and the “One City, One Read” initiative of the International Festival of Arts and Ideas. The exhibition ties together the work of the three emerging black artists—Greg Aimé, Amira Brown and Olagunju—to comment on the twin and intertwined crises of racism and environmental collapse, and the imagination and creativity needed to overcome them.
Aimé’s work in the exhibition.
The exhibition will be held at the Creative Arts Workshop (CAW) at 80 Audubon St. from 10 June to 9 July. It is curated by CAW Program Director Reggie Woolery. In addition to the Festival, collaborators include the New Haven Free Public Library and the Yale Schwartzman Center.
“Using both experimental and familiar materials and processes, the artists enter Remodeled | Refocused reflect and reformulate their own notions of containment, presence and freedom ”, writes Woolery in the exhibition brochure.
parable traces the development of Lauren Olamina, a hyper-empathic and spiritual black teenager. In the midst of climate disaster, violent class struggle and a host of other crises, she flees her Southern California community of hers. With a band of others, she travels to Northern California, where she seeks to spread the Earthseed religion and ultimately initiate the settlement of humans on other planets. For Lauren, another future is possible: it simply has to be imagined before her.
The artists were given a two-month period to produce text-based works, during which they participated in conversations with Woolery and each other. Woolery encouraged artists to get involved parable conceptually, rather than illustrating it. All the work is new, except for the two plastic pieces that Olagunju created for his 2022 graduation thesis at Bard College.
Upstairs, Olagunju reshapes the human form.
Upstairs, Olagunju reshapes the human form. Six paper silhouettes of people on bicycles were arranged in an arch on the floor. Two others hang from the ceiling. The suspended paper forms loose coils, taking on a new density, mass and dimensionality. Given its propensity to wrinkle and furrow, paper is a particularly evocative material for this exhibition.
The suspended bodies prevent the viewer from moving towards the focus of “Stars and Stripes”, a multi-toned black and gray portrait of a black boy. With his head cocked to the side, he looks past the vertical stripes that pin him to the painting. They blossom from the skin of the boy’s hand and gather between the locks of his curls there are two galaxies. Within these galaxies, stars roam, burn and expand and new possibilities emerge.
Yet, to see this future sprout inside the boy, one must be in communion with these hanging paper bodies, recognizing their presence. This sense of possibility coexists with that of confinement and death; they are intertwined.
The work of Aimé, who uses the help of the Artivive app.
Aimé continues this issue of imprisonment. Her work involves multiple realities, both physical and virtual, with the help of the Artivive app. On the second floor hang four digital collages in notebook format, including portraits of mythical and real-life people. When the viewer opens the Artivive app and points the camera at a collage, the visual data of the painting acts as a QR code that launches the viewer into a virtual and imaginary realm.
“Venus Rising”, a portrait of Venus in profile, is a pastiche of cultural references. Venus is worn in gold-plated armor. The edges of each individual plate are scalloped, reminiscent of the arches of Islamic architecture. His helmet, crisscrossed with tiny ornate golden curls, evokes a medieval chain mail headdress, like that of the pop star Doja Cat wore on Instagram Live in 2020. On his back is a jetpack with dual engines, a reminder of the character. of Star Wars Mandalorian. For Aimé, the future seems to lie in this mix of ancient and pop culture.
In the virtual realm of the Artvive app, imagination runs wild. “Venus Rising” comes alive from a still image in a video. The video zooms in on a battalion of angels beside her, guns in hand, aimed skyward. Clouds rise and fall around her head, gaining momentum, and the translucent bubbles surrounding her head glow.
Brown: “You remained faltering, you are just like, where are they?”
The potential energy within the still images is linked to Brown’s work, which addresses the themes of potentiality and darkness.
parable it was the second Butler work Brown had ever read. (They read first Relative on the recommendation of her twin sister, who is also an artist.) Before reading parablethey had just completed a Darkstar I series, centered around a young black female character named Black Star.
They were shocked by the parallels they discovered between Darkstar and Lauren, the parable hero.
“When I started reading the book it was like getting kicked in the face, it was just like, you know, you staggered, you’re just like, where are they?” Brown said
Both characters were young black women, full of potential energy, on the verge of release.
One of Brown’s most captivating works is “A fire (Lauren).” He takes an additive approach, building on the wooden frame with a mix of medium – burlap, foam core, rope and lined notebook paper – to create a large surface that breaks the boundaries set by a conventional frame.
The result is an expansive space with tears and tears. Only three quarters of the rough canvas are present; a quarter was cut from fame. The profile of Lauren’s back, shoulders and face extends beyond the top edge of the frame. Chin up, shoulders restrained, she looks forward into the future of her own imagination. Yellow flames flicker from the edge of her silhouette: she is the spark, the source of change.
Yet this silhouette was created by cutting Lauren’s shoulders and head out of the foam core. The top of her head, where her brain is, is an empty space. The rest of her body is filled with a lower layer of canvas. Presence is a mix of emptiness and full space.
This ties in with Brown’s focus on potential, which they define as “the ability of something to have more than what is immediately connoted”.
A guide by Remodeled / Refocused leaves the viewer in this liminal space, where science fiction imagination, community resilience and darkness show the way forward.
Remodeled | Refocused will take place at the Creative Arts Workshop until 9 July. Follow these emerging artists on Instagram: Amira Marrone, Moshō Olagunju, Greg Aimé