BLACK IS THE GIANT @ THE LONG GALLERY IN HARLEM

08/26/2016 11:45 am ET Updated Aug 26, 2016
MADE IN THE USA, 2015<br>3' X 7'
IMAGE COURTESY LONG GALLERY
MADE IN THE USA, 2015
3' X 7'

 “Black is the Giant is a multi-disciplinary exhibition that explores the effects of the mystical, magical, and super human powers associated with blackness. This potent idea is the unacknowledged elephant in the room and is often the source of brutality and lethal attacks on black people.” Explains Dareece J. Walker in his artist statement for his exhibition at the Long Gallery.

For Walker, “Black is the Giant means a lot of different things – “such as prejudice against Black Americans being the elephant in the room in terms of social topics, or that giants are mystical and feared for their seemingly larger than life attributes. Like a giant, black people tend to stand out and be easily identified when surrounded by a majority of people with distinct physical differences. I am also speaking to strength in unity, and how coming together to address issues can create a giant force to be reckoned with”    

ST. MICHAEL SLAYS THE SLAVE DRIVER, 2014<br>&nbsp;64" X 40"
IMAGE COURTESY THE LONG GALLERY
ST. MICHAEL SLAYS THE SLAVE DRIVER, 2014
 64" X 40"

 As I entered the Long Gallery I was impressed with the rawness of Walkers work. It is intense ― using emotionally wrenching subject matter; bringing up the psychic and physical injuries between the Black and Brown communities and the symptomatic psychic mind set of law enforcement, which at times, seems  to be a far more complicated issue than is fully realized. A subject that has yet to find its depth in regular discussion and more importantly change. Something is wrong here…Something is deeply wrong. Can the cause and effect be changed? Though one thing is certain, the dialogue continues…The stars await alignment…

“MADE IN THE USA,” one of the many tableaux Walker presents; a portrait of a young black man with his face partially turned to the side.  His hair in dreads softly defined in realistic countenance with a close shaved beard adorning his face. He wears hipster glasses and with his back towards the viewer and his hands up in the air, an American flag bearing the words MADE IN THE U.S.A. tattooed on his back, he is not only beautiful but vulnerable and ours, as in our American son; our American progeny― who we gave birth to and are witnesses to his experience. Walker smartly portrays him on a simple piece of a cardboard box, a disposable canvas- assigning the fragile and disposable nature of how he feels Black Lives Matter, or rather don’t.

Walkers’ painters hand, is classically expressed in a beautiful depiction of “St Michael Slays the Slave Driver,” a large biblical image is splendidly rendered in charcoal on the same cardboard surface as is “MADE IN THE U.S.A.”.  Coming down from the clouds, St Michael, a black angel, is a larger than life protector who grabs onto the whip of the slave master, with sword in hand the angel is about to kill him, while slaves get down on their knees and pray. With ominous clouds in a dusky sky this work lends itself to a 150 year old etching.

There are many portrayals of unrest and death, the riots, and the grief in black communities which we have seen all too commonly.

The show as a whole is obviously profoundly meaningful, but at times, as is in the case of 12 year old Tamir Rice, it extended itself into gratuitous territory. Instead of showing the boy playing in the park with a toy gun, as it happened, Walker takes dramatic license and presents him holding something that appears to be a pop gun, while hands holding a real gun reach out from behind the boy to execute him in the back. 

The act of the officer anticipating the boy is going to kill him ― is already “mystical!”   A gun pointed to the back of the child’s head deflates the expectation of the moment through the eyes of both subjects. The child’s ability to scare the officer enough to shoot, therein lies the true drama. 

To some extent the show is on uneven…While some pieces are finessed, some seem less complete and grittier, a heap of emotion matched to political content.

In terms of the “mystical, magical, and giant” qualities, or rather perceived identification of black people by which Walker feels society has towards them ― I believe he can depict this in ways that he has yet to discover in lieu of the obvious results of race bias and fear, of what he wants to convey that occurs from this perception. We have seen the pictorial images on the news and in the tabloids of what Walker presents in his visual expression, but have we truly seen the essence of what he is trying to say?

The psychic transactions which prey upon society as a whole are truly the meat of the matter. 

Seeing that would be quite something.

 

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