Sunday, February 5, 2017

Rashaad Newsome: Explorations of identity, status and symbols

Rashaad Newsome uses what he knows-- his culture and environment, his education in art history-- to create an aesthetic that is not only representative of his own identity, but also deeply political. His ability to work in so many different medias, like video, sculpture and print, works through the collective theme of collage that runs through his pieces and ties back to his central themes. Although his pieces are heavily inundated with images of wealth, the works themselves are heavily critical of advertising and its depictions of power, beauty and wealth. Newsome's work is influenced by both Baroque art and hip-hop culture. His trilogy on the Royal College of Arms and heraldry combine the hierarchal symbols of class with the modern symbols of power and success in black American culture. His works represent the use of media to change or control one's own depiction of self, "a formula for putting on the universe-- participation mystique" (114).

His next narrative, on the legends, statements and starts found in ballroom voguing, looks at the ties between collage and movement. He heavily relies on his use of space, using repeated symbols of collage while also using dancers in the vogue world to depict how their bodies create collages. He uses the five elements of vogue performance to show how important each different movement is to the collective. I admire Newsome's respect for the culture of vogueing and the dancers he uses while simultaneously challenging the notion that depiction of body must be overt, instead using architecture as a means of representation. He is also heavily critical of the "canonized art world" which he is now a part of, and his pieces themselves are both a part of this world and challenging the previous representations seen in the high society art world. His work was born out of a lack of representation for his personal identities, which continues to be of vital importance when Newsome's creates.

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