Art on the Black Male

Today I stopped by Kehinde Wiley’s exhibition DOWN on Wooster Street in Manhattan. Between lunch and getting back to work, and kind of dragged because for some reason I resist taking time to see art, I was stopped in the jawdropped way art can do: boom, offguard. The pieces are stunning, candy-colored, morbid, erotic, and clearly the work of someone who truly adores the black male figure, sees the divinity and art of it.

The pictures place young black men (men who give that specific sharp together-sexy-and-grown look of gay hip-hop divas in Brooklyn, Harlem, Oakland) into simple poses against intricate floral backdrops – the poses harken death, sex and divinity. I was reminded of every black man I have ever loved.  The hands of one figure made me think of my father and his brothers, who each have the most distinct hands and knuckles, crooked when they point.

The art was stunning because it brought together vulnerability and strength and the gorgeous warm brownness of black bodies, ancient and childlike eyes, the fluidity of gender really. Needless to say I was moved, impressed. Here’s my attempt to capture one of the giant pieces:


I then was clearing out my email and found a message that was forwarded to me a while ago, with links to The Masculinity Project, which I have been wanting to check out. So I took 10 minutes and watched these videos – highly recommend them. Also lovely, in a melancholy and honest way – about two black men, homeless, 40ish. Their stories are simple, could be anyone’s stories; if you start at point A and get twisted about a bit, you could end up anywhere. Here’s the message from the artist, Angela Tucker:

I just wanted to call your attention to two short pieces that I directed entitled INVISIBLE MEN.  They are now live on The National Black Programming Consortium’s (NBPC) new site, Black Public Media.  I worked with a homeless outreach program, Common Ground, to find two, formerly homeless men to interview for these pieces.  They are both really amazing men.  These pieces are a part of NBPC’s Masculinity Project which features commissioned shorts about the black male experience in the US.  I am really proud of them so when you have a sec, check them out.

INVISIBLE MEN:ANDREW’S STORY:  http://blackpublicmedia.org/project/masculinity/media/110

INVISIBLE MEN: GREGORY’S STORY:  http://blackpublicmedia.org/project/masculinity/media/109

There are a lot of other great pieces on this site so have a look around.  Byron Hurt’s piece, BARACK AND OBAMA, for example, is quite good.

THE MASCULINITY PROJECT’S HOME PAGE:  http://blackpublicmedia.org/project/masculinity/