As I entered the lofty warehouse located in downtown Atlanta, I took note of the enormous moveable white walls that surrounded me. Some featured partially completed works of art; some with just sketches of what was to come; and some still bare, waiting to be blessed with the touch of their assigned artist's hand. The pungent scent of paint lingered in the air, and brushes, buckets and rollers were scattered everywhere. My hosts Jabari Graham and Dwayne "Dubelyoo" Wright greeted me in the midst of this beautiful mess. Graham and Wright are the founders and producers of Jack Daniel's Art, Beats and Lyrics - or AB+L - the country's largest traveling art and music tour, and are the occupants of this warehouse.
Jabari and Dubelyoo are responsible for the brilliant concept of marrying contemporary urban art and hip-hop, and in doing so have provided a platform for not-so mainstream artists to showcase their work. This year marks the 10th anniversary of their show. Some past artist that have performed during AB+ L exhibitions include Snarky Puppy, Kendrick Lamar, and Shock-G.
What I dig the most about AB +L is the accessibility that it provides for a demographic that has largely been ignored by mainstream art galleries, and debunks the notion that urban dwellers do not consume and cannot appreciate high art. The installations are also interactive and allow viewers to photograph installations and carry this art back home with them, something typically forbidden at mainstream galleries.
Exactly how did they come up with the concept of AB +L? Graham explained.
At the time AB+L came about, I was laid off. I couldn't find a job. I knew that I needed to keep myself busy and try to make some kind of money. In time the art show idea came about. I went to art shows and figured out what could I do to make this art show different, because the art shows that I went to were a little bit stale. They weren't funky enough and I wanted to add my touch to it: And that was by adding good live music... getting some of these artists who other galleries passed up or just didn't get enough attention and giving them some exposure, putting them on a good platform and promoting the hell out of it.
This year's tour kicks off at its home base in Atlanta on October 3rd. It will include installations by artists Miya Bailey, Kat Goduco, Dubelyoo, Paper Frank, Kazilla and several more. And on the music side of things? None other the Master P himself will give a live performance.
If you can, imagine yourself at an AB + L art show. Now imagine the essence of visual art in the form of music. That's where ABL radio comes in: an alternative to mainstream music, or what's known as "playing the B side" of things. A year after its launch, ABL radio continues to fill a void contemporary radio has not been able to satisfy. It's providing a diverse, uncut, unedited selection of music - something quite unconventional.
What began as a small art show in Atlanta has grown into the nation's largest traveling art show. City after city - from Atlanta, to LA, to St. Louis and Miami - AB+L continues to attract the creatively curious, pulling audiences of up to 3,000 people. AB+L has transformed into a brand that celebrates creative freedom in an innovative way, providing a space for exhibit visitors to not only gaze - but to jam - at the same damned time.