In the galleries: ‘Afrofuturism,’ defined in the moment, by nine artists
“In the Face of History,” by Adama Delphine Fawundu, is a wall of documents that are each topped with a silhouette of the artist’s head. (Adama Delphine Fawundu/Stereo Vision Photography/Honfleur Gallery)
By Mark JenkinsSeptember 7, 2017
Originally describing African American science fiction from Samuel R. Delany’s novels to Funkadelic’s jams, “Afrofuturism” has grown to encompass far more. Nonetheless, Niama Safia Sandy balances the term with another in the subtitle of “Black Magic: AfroPasts/AfroFutures,” which she curated for Honfleur Gallery. An update of a show in Brooklyn last year, this nine-artist version includes three Washingtonians amid a mostly New York cast.
The most explicitly archival work is Adama Delphine Fawundu’s “In the Face of History,” a wall of documents about the oppression of African Americans, women and other marginalized groups. Atop each piece she has overprinted a silhouette of her own head, perusing the past as shown in news clippings about lynchings, a photo of suffragettes and the cover of “Tintin au Congo.”
Pierre Bennu’s “The Listener (Ceremonial Use: Inspiration),” on view at Honfleur Gallery. (Stereo Vision Photography/Pierre Bennu/Honfleur Gallery)
Pierre Bennu combines tradition and technology in ceremonial masks, modeled on West African ones but also incorporating natural objects and bits of today’s electronic gear. The masks’ purpose is contemporary as well: to protect wearers from such menaces as celebrity culture.
History is nearly buried in Danny Simmons Jr.’s bold mixed-media painting-collages. One is entirely abstract, but the other includes scraps of fabric and the notoriously racist name and logo from a long-defunct chicken eatery.
Fawundu isn’t the only artist to depict the viewpoint of herself or her peers. Jamea Richmond-Edwards’s mixed-media drawing of a female nude is titled “Consequently Vulnerable,” but the figure’s gaze appears far from defenseless. In Ivan Forde’s powerfully stark silk-screens, black men have multiple, overlapping faces. The beings may be multi-headed gods, or just guys who understand the value of keeping an eye (or more) out for trouble.
One of the most intriguing pieces is Tariku Shiferaw’s large abstract painting, which plays with the surfaces above and below a sheet of clear acrylic. The picture may not have anything much to do with past or present, but it vividly embodies conflicting strata and shifting perceptions.
Black Magic: AfroPasts/AfroFutures On view through Oct. 7 at Honfleur Gallery, 1241 Good Hope Rd. SE. 202-365-8392. honfleurgallery.com.