Where Theater Intersects Art

Door poster at pop-up gallery-Art-in-FLUX/Harlem

We normally connect art with music, especially jazz, in Harlem galleries. But new show Art Speaks! featured in a pop-up gallery, pairs visual art with theater.

President Obama Wet Paint by artist Andre Woolery: “the wet paint that Obama has painted will not dry for many years as it is still soaking into the canvas of American’s mind.”

Blacken the Bubble, a theatrical “affirmative action comedy” examines post-racial America. The play follows a Black guy who refuses to “blacken the bubble” on his employment application at a firm that hired him to fix their bad diversity numbers. Presented by Art-in-FLUX Harlem, New York’s hottest movement for pop-up art galleries, the play’s cast and participating artists will be featured in a community talk-back event Art and Identity: Obligation or Choice, Saturday, October 13, 3-5pm, 118th Street, & 7th Avenue (Adam Clayton Powell Blvd.)

“We are thrilled to create positive use of vacant retail spaces that stimulate Harlem’s vibrant emerging artist like Leonardo Benzant,” said Stella, Art-in-Flux/Harlem founder.

The most recent theatrical production that featured art, that I can remember, was Stick Fly. However, the African-American masterpieces on the walls in Stick Fly were not in dialogue with the players. The art work served a purpose for setting a certain bourgeois tone.

In Art Speaks! however, there is a deliberate dialogue between the art and the theater piece. You might say that each art work is talking to the play and visa versa.

Inspired by playwright Eric Lockley’s farce about race, class, gender and sexuality, each artist featured in this show tells their own mixed-media narrative about identity. The gallery artists all live or work in Harlem. All the art on display is for sale and a portion is donated to Harlem children’s programs. A mounted video screen shows excerpts from the theatrical production.

“The community response since the show opened last week has been wonderful. We believe that most were thrilled by the amazing ways theater and art can intersect and by the diverse artists assembled by our curator Daniel Pizarro,”’ said Leanne Stella, Art in Flux/Harlem founder/director. “We are thrilled to create positive use of vacant retail spaces that stimulate Harlem’s vibrant emerging art scene, commerce and community.”

Idou Ndoye poses in front of his series called “Facial Scarifications.” His art work is ‘speaking’ to the theater production “Blacken the Bubble” on the topic of ‘identity.’

Senegalese artist Idou Ndoye’s Facial Scarifications deals with African scarifications meant to decorate, beautify or convey complex messages. Such marking can also identify one’s specific tribe, ethnic group or societal rank, he explained.

Dominican artist Leonardo Benzant described his Kalunga Inbetween World Series – Sunset, Twilight and Tierraan allusion to the Middle Passage with its straight line/rod bound by colorful beads and fabric. Each of his mixed-media pieces reflected a quiet and rhythmic Afro-centric sensibility.

“Action:1964” by Jill Knox speaks to the play on ‘identity’ as it relates to “racial struggles and how it’s a fight to count and a fight to be counted.”

The other notable art work on display included: Margaret Rose Vendryes’ African Diva Project; Jill Knox ‘s Black at Heart and Action: 1964; Ivan Forde’s De I section, improvisational spatial collages; Beatrice Lebreton’s Still I Rise, inspired by Maya Angelou’s poem; and Andre Woolery’s President Obama Wet Paint.  The exhibit will be on display through October 21. Blacken the Bubble will be presented October 16-21 at the Harlem School of the Arts (HSA) Theater.

Sowei RuPaul is part of Vendryes’ “African Diva Project,” each one wearing a mask.