Imagine all the bling in the world, laced with Gucci girls and Louis Vuitton dons... then sprinkle on some Ace of Spades champagne, throw in some bangin beats... et voila, you have yourself a melange of glaring ghetto imagery, courtesy of a permeated hip-hop culture.
With his first solo exhibition Standards, visual artist Rashaad Newsome has tackled those conflicting ideals associated with Black culture, via rap/hip-hop imagery and its videos, and has turned those negative stereotypes on its head.
Located in the heart of Manhattan's Chelsea district, the Ramis Barquet gallery coolly invites patrons to enter Newsome's lyrical lounge and offers the opportunity to decipher each one of his works, one wall at a time. Through collages (made of pieces of cut paper taken from discarded music magazines and auction catalogues), sculptures, and video installations, Newsome mixes the urban connotations altogether, producing a showcase that challenges "established ideas of cultural ownership, and illustrates an acutely contemporary understanding of the way socially specific signifiers convey meaning," states the gallery -so eloquently- in its press release.
When traveling through the gallery, a silver-plated gate (replete with 'dipped-in-ice' chains hanging from top to bottom and 22-inch rimmed doorhandles), welcomes visitors into Newsome's world.
Towards the back of the space, there are two rooms that are sectioned off, the first room contains a wall-mounted TV screen with attached speakers that blasts orchestral sounds from a looped music video montage of Newsome's work (the video is two-parts and interprets the expressive hand gestures/booty bumpin/and big pimpin of several famous hip-hop music videos)...
...And the second room contains an interpretive coat-of-arms, a supple piece of black fabric embellished with 'ice,' a gem-encrusted lion's head, and a descriptive 'hustler' name plate; it hangs on the wall as if it were proudly hanging in the corridor of an 18th-century castle... after all, weren't kings and queens just hustlers anyway?!
The symbolism in Newsome's entire collection becomes a fresh antidote to the exploitative (and self-exploiting), conundrum that Blacks have come to accept and purport to the world.
Newsome, a 2009/2010 Artist in Residence at The Studio Museum In Harlem, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana and holds a Bachelors of Art degree in Art History. In addition to his solo exhibition, Newsome has previously exhibited nationally and internationally at venues including New York's Project Gallery, Paris' Fondation Cartier, and Berlin's K.U.E.L. We here at STYLE 101: feel that a new-millennium Renaissance is in order (where Black imagery is concerned), and Newsome would do well as one of its torch bearers!
The Ramis Barquet Gallery is located at 532 West 24th Street, New York, NY 10011. Gallery hours are Tuesday-Saturday, 10:00am-6:00pm. For more information, call 1.212.675.3421 or firstname.lastname@example.org.