Black Magic: Conversation with Jasmine Wahi
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Rashaad Newsome in conversation with To Be Real curator Jasmine Wahi at Rhoden Arts Center/PAFA.
Interdisciplinary artist Rashaad Newsome’s multipart project, Black Magic, at Philadelphia Photo Arts Center and New York Live Arts, is a holistic reflection on agency, Blackness, and the futurity of intersectional identities and oppression. To Be Real, is an exhibition of all new work in collage and sculpture. At the conceptual center of To Be Real, which takes its name from Cheryl Lynn’s 1977 queer anthem, is Newsome’s ‘child,’ a cloud-based, A.I. being named Being (2019), whose mind has been populated with the works of radical authors, revolutionaries, theorists such as Paulo Freire, Michel Foucault, bell hooks, Janet Mock, and the like. Being acts as a critical guide to the exhibition, exploring ideas agency and hegemony within artificial intelligence. Also on view is Ancesista a fully 3D version of the neo cubist figures seen in the more 2D collages suspended in a Vogue dip. Though formally it takes an assemblage approach, it is analogous to cubism, which is heavily investigated in many of the works in the exhibition. The substrate is an African mahogany torso of a non-binary figure, who’s face is inspired by the female Pho mask from the Chokwe peoples of the Congo. As a way to queer the object, the lower body is a lifelike sex doll, thus making the work one to one of the figures in the collages. Outfitted in drag padding, a custom wig, acrylic nails, high heel boots, and a costume that fuses traditional African and drag ballroom aesthetics, the piece draws from life itself – intuitive, honest and tied to the culture that inspired it.