New York-based multidisciplinary artist Rashaad Newsome, whose thought-provoking work draws on material ranging from rap music, black youth, and pop culture to medieval heraldry, the Renaissance and early modern architecture, has his first solo museum exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum
. The exhibition features two video works and a large selection of Newsomes collages and wall sculptures that take the forms of royal coats-of-arms created for rap royalty and constructed of contemporary status symbols including bling jewelry and iconic hip-hop fashion. Incorporating video, performance, sculpture, and collage, Newsomes work combines elements of high and low art in an effort to level the social and political playing field. Part of the Wadsworths ongoing MATRIX contemporary art series, the exhibition is on view from February 3 through May 1, 2011.
Newsome also curated a small exhibition in the museums Connections Gallery that juxtaposes his collage and wall sculpture works with objects from the Wadsworths collection that contain coats-of-armsincluding British and American silver, Bavarian glass, and Italian ceramics. His works alongside these historic objects bring new life to the museums collection and encourage audiences to view them through the lens of contemporary society.
Newsomes work unites the classical and popular, equalizing the two in a seamless composition. said Patricia Hickson, the museums Emily Hall Tremaine Curator of Contemporary Art. The Wadsworth Atheneums superb collections serve as an ideal backdrop to his provocative work, creating a second layer of dialogue between the historic and contemporary.
The exhibitions features thirteen of Newsomes collages and wall sculptures as well as two video works. The first video space features three works from Newsomes Shade Compositions seriesincluding two screen tests and once performance that feature women choreographed throwing shade, a non-verbal gesture-based form of communication that originated in the African-American community. The second video space shows the first two completed parts of The Conductor, which is based on the musical masterpiece Carmina Burana that has been accentuated with hip hop beats and illustrated with montages appropriated from popular rap and hip-hop videos. The expressive movements of the hip-hop artists keep time with the cantata to create a fusion of classical music and contemporary pop culture.