Black To The Future Series
Introduction to an article series on Sixty Inches From Center
What is Afrofuturism and Afrosurrealism? The art historian in me finds it exciting to be in the middle of a rapidly advancing movement that is all at once undefined but unmistakable in presence, expanding and unfolding, and setting the tone for new waves in art, music, fashion and cultural production at all levels. The chapters of most art history textbooks I’ve come across have made it clear: our understanding of art and how it fits into a historical context is often shaped by historian-identified movements that are pinpointed late in the game or in hindsight. With these things in mind, I have borrowed the title of cultural critic Mark Dery’s essay to create the Black To The Future Series–a series of interviews that pose questions to several artists who have identified their work as Afrofuturist and/or Afrosurreal with the hopes of allowing the practitioners to be at the center of determining what it is.
Though the philosophies behind these movements have been around for quite some time and at the heart of some circles for nearly a century, Afrofuturism and the Afrosurreal have increasingly gained momentum in the last decade or so. They seem to have found new nourishment through artists who have stepped forward to add fresh stems and leaves to the roots established by legends such as Amiri Baraka, Sun Ra and countless other foremothers and forefathers. This has resulted in the conceptually abysmal and beautifully rendered work landing on radar of larger institutions, being the subject of exploration by some noted art theorists, and being woven into the fabric of major exhibitions.
But the truth of any artistic movement and what makes this moment one to be savored, in my opinion, is an age-old one. Movements don’t start on the walls of museums. They begin on the ground with electrifying dialogue in intimate spaces, on the walls of homes, studios and off-the-radar galleries, and during the of off-the-cusp performances by those pushing new limits, exploring new territories and attempting to capture the transcendental at the edge of comprehension. Chicago is rich in this right now if you know where to look.
Read the interviews from the series...
Krista Franklin, "See Line Woman" Collage on book, 2011.
D. Denenge Akpem, Installation for Extreme Studio, June 24 - July 21, 2010. (Image Credit: A+D Gallery.)
Avery R. Young, reconstructed blk; waka flaka flame blk!, letter press sheet music, 2012. (Image courtesy of the artist.)
Krista Franklin, "Do Androids Dream of How People Are Sheep" (Detail), Mixed medium collage on watercolor paper, 2011.
Cauleen Smith, A Star Is A Seed, Installation, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, 2012. (Image Credit: Tempestt Hazel.)