On view in the museum’s Imprint Gallery, this exhibition focuses solely on the video-based component of the artist’s larger practice, and highlights works that showcase his engagement with the dance phenomenon of voguing. Although voguing emerged from Harlem’s queer ballroom scene during the 1960s and 70s, the dance style entered the cultural mainstream in 1990 with Madonna’s iconic music video “Vogue,” now remembered as a notorious instance of cultural appropriation. Newsome, however, celebrates the true origins of voguing, thereby reclaiming a vital cultural history by giving it back to the queer Black and Latino community from which it arose.
The exhibition includes Untitled (2008) and Untitled—New Way (2009), two of Newsome’s earlier works that document contemporary vogue culture: the artist filmed dancers’ vogue improvisations, edited the footage to isolate certain dance elements, and asked the dancers re-perform their movements based on his video-edited choreography. Also on view are two of the artist’s more recent video works, ICON (2014) and Stop Playing in My Face (2016), both of which weave together the exuberant pageantry of voguing with digitally-rendered backdrops of glittering architectural spaces. At a moment when individuals of all races are questioning sex and gender-based binaries, Newsome’s videos offer a timely examination of cultural power and agency within the context of gender, sexuality, and race.
Combining baroque grandeur, hip-hop swagger, and black and LGBTQ subcultures, Rashaad Newsome creates evocative works of art that highlights fantasy, capitalistic obsessions, and systemic oppressions. The opulence of fashion magazines and society culture is subverted through the vocabulary of voguing, the New York ballroom scene, and New Orleans bounce music. Newsome applies a keen awareness of art historical and alternative cultural sources to offer pointed commentaries on contemporary culture and identity politics. On the McNay’s AT&T Lobby wall, the artist presents the video KNOT, 2014, floating over an entire wall wrapped in his striking Jungle Gardenia print.
Newsome will work in Detroit over the summer engaging local communities and preparing for a parade, a video installation at the Detroit Institute of Arts, and a performance at the Detroit Film Theater.
Connecting diverse local communities, King of Arms will enliven the streets of Midtown in the tradition of a second line brass band. Acknowledging Detroit’s integral connection to music, the parade will be led by the storied Cass Technical High School Marching Band and the Gabriel Brass Band. The procession will feature the Miami Bike Life motorcycle crew; members of the Detroit Vogue scene; Newsome’s NYC troop the Vogue Knights; Philadelphia LGBTQ rapper Kevin JZ Prodigy; and a King of Arms float, a customized Ford F150 truck wrapped in the artist’s imagery. Drawn to the city’s history and exciting future the artist remarked, “Detroit is a place that I find incredibly inspiring, it is a privilege to be invited to work in the city and partner with its community. Over time, the city has both prospered and suffered making it a poignant and challenging place to conduct the King of Arms mass processional performance and Shade Composition. At the core of these projects is my interest in highlighting performance practices and communities that I feel connected to personally while giving those who often feel silenced, a voice.”
Throughout the summer Newsome will be working in Detroit casting local performers and staging rehearsals for Shade Composition, the artist’s critically acclaimed performance artwork which concludes the DLECTRICITY festival at 8 p.m. on September 23rd at the Detroit Film Theater located within the Detroit Institute of Arts. In this signature performance, the artist is both conductor and vocal choreographer leading an ensemble of locally cast self-identifying Black female performers whose individual voices and gestures are synthesized to form improvisatory orchestral music collaged with live video and audio mixed using hacked video game controllers. Costumes for the performers will be designed by Rick Owens.
The Conductor combines clips culled from rap music videos with selections from composer Carl Orff’s classical masterpiece “Carmina Burana,” a piece of music that has itself been widely sampled in pop culture. The music video footage has been edited to isolate and remix shots of the rap artists’ hand gestures so they appear to be conducting Orff’s orchestra, a juxtaposition that allows Newsome to playfully break down boundaries between seemingly opposed cultural forms. As part of the presentation of this work, June 2nd and 3rd Newsome has invited New York Hip Hop Mc. Controverse to write and perform new material inspired by the installation.
On Sunday, April 2nd Rashaad Newsome received the Artist & Edition Award at the Baltimore Contemporary Print Fair held at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Established in 2002, the Artist & Edition Award recognizes the work of a leading artist or master printer who has made a substantial contribution to the imagery, themes, and techniques of printmaking today.