This body of work seeks new methods to explore the contemporary African – American portrait.As artists both addressing a new visual representation of black identity while using images that reference stereotype and cultural appropriation we seek to create images from within the culture (and subcultures) we’re addressing.
The history of African – American imagery is rich in symbolism and an exploration of materials and cultural appropriation, particularly where it refers to the use of the figure. From adapting traditional African images to the combination and adaptation of a western aesthetic, the influence of Outsider Art, the images have continued to transform. As we deal with more contemporary issues the materials become reflective of that aspect as well, they address concerns of physicality, scale and accurate translation of image to concept. Painting and photography mirror much of that same dichotomy as they have sat on opposite ends of the artistic spectrum for much of their existence constantly addressing the traditional idea of the “high vs. low” arts. Within all of these aspects, stereotype and assumption play important roles of how a viewer relates to the world around them.
The secondary role of this work is to examine the nature of evolving perception as it relates to race and gender, particularly ideas of perceived superiority. Overall the goal of the images is to positively empower or tear down stereotypes (depending on the image) thereby giving dignity to the figures within the images by the way they’re handled while confronting the viewer in a new way. In the end this confronts the viewer with a new way of seeing and asks them to reconsider the manner in which they address stereotypes of race, gender and the barriers they create.
Armon A. Means (Photographer: Conway, SC)
These images manifest themselves as large-scale digital portraits of black bikers presented life-size and exploring the nature of the photograph as a physical surface, much like a painting. There are two direct stereotypes utilized here; the biker as an image of Caucasian male, and the image of African – Americans as a threatening figure of violence. By combining the two stereotypes of biker and African – American these pieces seek to question the connection between the viewer and subject. life-size images they address an immediate connection between people in the way we communicate and relate on a day – to – day basis.
Derrock Burnett (Painter: Indianapolis, IN)
These paintings deal heavily with the utilization of portraits, abstraction, and symbolism to create discourse relating to the elevation the African American figure using other imagery and the juxtaposition of objects, animals and forms. By the use of traditional and non-traditional ways of using symbols, borrowing from the language of graffiti, abstraction and the urban environment they address both a contemporary landscape and ideas of diversity, gentrification and cultural appropriation.