UMAR RASHID (FROHAWK TWO FEATHERS) – THAT AIN’T GOLD. THAT’S A SOUL.
ANDREA CHUNG – PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
New Image Art Gallery
7920 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood, CA 90046
SEPTEMBER 24th 2016 – OCTOBER 15th 2016
UMAR RASHID (Frohawk Two Feathers)
I have to admit that I had not heard of Umar Rashid when I visited ‘That Ain’t Gold. That’s A Soul’ at New Image Art last week. All I knew was I was heading to West Hollywood to check out a new show. I peeked through the window and thought about how WeHo was really the last place I’d expect to find what appeared to be artifacts from an archaeology excavation. Not until I began to research Frohawk Two Feathers for this review did I realize that my first impression was actually spot on.
Umar Rashid, also known as Frohawk Two Feathers, is not exactly your average artist. Nor is he your average storyteller. Using hip-hop flavored imagery, historical references, and a wild imagination, he illustrates the tale of “Frengland”, a fictitious blending of France and England. In an exceptionally detailed account of the exploration, colonization, and culture of Frenglish territories, Two Feathers combines the actual history of the various cities he exhibits in with his own conceptualized history of Frengland to create a rich, continuous dialogue that challenges the traditional subjective view of history.
The latest chapter of his ongoing saga is now showing at New Image Art. Two Feathers says, “‘That Ain’t Gold. That’s A Soul’ is a title taken from ‘Watch and Learn’, a song by Brooklyn rapper Cavalier. In this installment of my ongoing narrative, “The History of Frengland” (1680-1880), I’m focusing on the Spanish colonial “Mission System” in the area known today as Los Angeles. Some minor narratives run concurrent with the main narrative involving the disease, violence, and repression that the Spanish colonial government inflicted upon the indigenous polities of Upper California. These include, my retelling, and revision of the end of the Lewis and Clark expedition, mercenary activity to weaken Spanish colonial power, and an alternative narrative on the pluralism in regards to race, class, and gender. Indigenous and Judeo-Christian philosophy dovetail as the belligerents seek to find justification for their actions.”
Even though I was previously unaware of Two Feather’s work, I found this show to be interesting, colorful, and animated. Large paper scrolls detail grand tales of epic battles and social division while smaller tiles focus on key players. Various artifacts and relics breathe life into the chain of events described in the scrolls. Small statues suggestive of chess pieces, some black, some white, emphasize the definition between stereotypes. Ironically, not knowing the backstory allowed me the freedom to appreciate the artwork with a completely open mind, no bias, and no prejudice. Which, in the end, is what I consider to be the significance of “The History of Frengland” (1680-1880)”.
Continuing the theme of ‘exploring colonization’ is “Pride and Prejudice” by Andrea Chung. In the far room of the gallery are three wonderful large scale cyanotypes of lionfish in formation. Each work consists of a number of smaller panels bound together to form a larger, complete image. The sumptuous blues, reminiscent of the Sun Prints I used to make as a child, appear regal at first but are actually the artist’s contemplation of conflict. Chung explains, “The images in Pride and Prejudice depict images of lionfish, arranged in various military formations, on their way to battle. While the images are confrontational, I have left them partially ambiguous. I also construct the fish armies out of the same basic shapes so that the viewer must decide who the colonizer is, and our relationship to them….For the past few years I have been collecting articles about the lionfish invasion in the Caribbean. They have been destroying coral reefs and since they are non-native, they have no local predators. Their invasion is a fitting metaphor for colonization in at least two different ways: they are non-natives that are reshaping their environment to serve themselves but they were also brought there without consideration for their will.”
“That Ain’t Gold. That’s a Soul” by Umar Rashid (Frohawk Two Feathers) and “Pride And Prejudice” by Andrea Chung runs through October 15th at New Image Arts in West Hollywood. For more information visit newimageartgallery.com