3 Cool Things 4.24.2015

“One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North”, MoMA

3 Apr—7 Sept, 2015

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Image: “During the World War there was a great migration North by Southern Negros,” Jacob Lawrence; Courtesy of the Whitney

“One-Way Ticket” is a group exhibition of African-American artists that documents the Great Migration period (1915-1960) of U.S. history. The show is a well-organized and thoughtful presentation of art and ephemera documenting this historically rich era, including a timeline of notable events that provides context and orientation for the viewer.

For the first time in 20 years, all 60 of Jacob Lawrence’s “The Migration Series” (1940-1941) paintings are shown together. The 18 x12 inch panels and accompanying text are installed as an unfolding narrative.  With this series, Lawrence used a restricted palette (shades of black, brown, green, yellow, and blue) and straightforward language. The simplicity of Lawrence’s highly-graphic characteristic style elucidates the historic event and their enduring impact  on our country’s cultural and political fabric. Other works on view include: music by Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and Bessie Smith; literature by Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Richard Wright; and photographs by Gordon Parks, Dorothea Lang, and Ben Shahn.

This exhibition prompted me to think about the poetry of activism as art (or vice versa). As Jacob Lawrence, Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes and so many others included in “One-Way Ticket” did this for their generation, I wondered: Is there a comparable group, artist, or approach at play today? What would an exhibition of this caliber look like for our Ferguson-era of civil rights, 50 years hence? Possibly a hologram of rapper Kendrick Lamar reciting 2010s-themed racially and politically charged lyrics? Will it resonate and move the public as “One-Way Ticket” does now?

“Arts and Laughs (w/ Nathaniel Mary Quinn)”, The Brilliant Idiots, Podcast Episode 43

Brilliant Idiots Blog Image

Image: Andrew Schulz, Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Charlamagne Tha God

Following the experience of “One-Way Ticket,” I was reminded of an episode of one of my favorite podcasts. “The Brilliant Idiots” is a weekly podcast hosted by TV and radio personality Charlamagne tha God and comedian Andrew Schulz. I have been a loyal listener of this podcast for almost a year and continue to be entertained by their often hilarious (and sometimes inane) antics.  Every Thursday they deliver a rousing conversation about the social, political, and pop-cultural events  of the previous week. So far, the most memorable episode has been with contemporary artist Nathaniel Mary Quinn.

Charlamagne has been skeptical of so many hip-hop artists “running down to Art Basel” when he feels as if they “have no clue about art.” Quinn was invited to help Charlamagne understand the basics of the art world so he could begin to realize the allure of the art scene to rappers.  Quinn successfully fulfills his task, using pop-culture references to best explain the art market in terms a “brilliant idiot” could understand. In addition to the art lesson, Quinn speaks about his life experiences both inside & outside the arts. A Chicago native, Quinn speaks about the gang violence that continues to plague the city. He touches on The Great Migration to offer insight as to why some of Chicago’s neighborhoods have developed such a turbulent atmosphere that continues to stifle its communities. According to Quinn, during The Great Migration housing projects were built to accommodate the influx of southerners; over time, these environments bred gangs.  Somehow, Quinn and the “Brilliant Idiots” used humor in a way that tempers the heaviness of the subject. This discussion gave the audience stimulating cultural  and historical commentary unique to their show and format.

To listen to the podcast click, here.

“Sunday Candy: Short Film” by Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment

Sunday Candy

Image: Center: Jamila Woods and Chance the Rapper; Courtesy of indienative.com

“Sunday Candy” is an upbeat homage to grandmothers everywhere. ‘Sunday Candy’ is a single from Surf, the highly-anticipated debut album of Chicago-based musical creative The Social Experiment. They perform as a live trio (trumpet, keys and drums) alongside MC Chance the Rapper. “Sunday Candy” has been released as a visually stimulating short film, written by Chance the Rapper and co-directed by Austin Vesely, Ian Eastwood and Chance. The short plays like a sophisticated high school musical, complete with a moving set, 50’s costumes, and elaborate choreography. The lyrics are colorful and heartfelt as Chance raps about his beloved grandma. With the combination of bold lighting, energetic dancing, and the warmly colored costumes and set, the film succeeds in mirroring the exuberance of the feel-good tune.

The Social Experiment has a sophisticated understanding of musicality and a knack for blending Chance’s hip-hop lyrics with soulful instrumentation. They are discretely providing their generation with a healthy dose of updated jazz and soul music disguised as hip-hop.The grandmothers of the Social Experiment should be proud.

To watch the video click, here.

-Naana Frezel, Digital Intern

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