Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It's Hard To Be A Pimp

You may be wondering what I have been up to the past couple of days. I am in super-promotion mode at my job.

I am excited to announced the exhibit that is currently hanging - Alfred Conteh, Non-conformist Artist. IMPRESSIVE stuff. The Tubman African American Museum is proud to be premiering his 'Pimp Series' of paintings. This will be the first time they have been publicly shown (which is exciting for us.)

Now I could go on and on about all of it - but instead I will share two stories that were recently written.

One story is by Jonathon Dye, he does what I do, but for Macon Arts Alliance. Then there is another great story by Joe Kovac, Jr, who happens to be a senior reporter at the Telegraph.

Here is Jonathon's fantastic piece:

The Tubman African American Museum, a Knight Arts grantee, will be showcasing the compelling and sometimes controversial work of Atlanta-based artist Alfred Conteh. The exhibit, which runs July 13–August 10, is an overview of Conteh’s body of work, which includes mixed-media assemblages, paintings and sculptures. An opening reception and gallery talk by the artist will be held July 20 at the museum.

“Most of what he does are these kind of mixed media, highly symbolic, highly stylized paintings,” explained curator Jeffrey Bruce. “Most of the paintings have some sort of constructed wood, assembled kind of quality to them.”

The exhibit is titled, “Alfred Conteh: Non-Conformist Artist,” and as the title would suggest, it is very hard to pigeonhole Conteh’s work. His free-standing sculptures are completely non-objective studies of color, form and texture. His paintings are colorful, yet dark. Some of his works contain subtle discourse on African American culture. Other works have in-your-face text and imagery that is loud and abrasive.
According to his website, he uses a variation of symbolism, historical elements, themes and imagery in his representational work. On the other end of the spectrum, he feels compelled to stop “leading the viewer down the road of visual symbolism” and allow rhythm, composition, texture and color to express itself without the intrusion subject matter.

For Conteh, this exhibit is a bit of a homecoming, because he is originally from the Macon/Fort Valley area. After high school, he attended college at Hampton University in Virginia, where he received his BFA in 1997. He later moved to Atlanta, where he maintains his studio. While the exhibit does not focus on a particular aspect of the artist’s wide-variety of styles, it does feature the first exhibition of six works from the artist’s contentious “Pimp Series.”

“These work have never been exhibited before,” said Bruce. “We will be the first institution to show these works.”

The curator described the series as using the pop culture image of “the pimp” to provide commentary about African American culture. Each piece contains imagery and a large paragraph describing a different type of pimp. Examples include “The Athlete Pimp,” “The Preacher Pimp” and “The Natural Pimp.” While the simplistic nature of the titles could easily lead the viewer to believe they already know what direction the artist has taken and move on, the texts are often surprising. Each adds a deeper sense of understanding and a bit of confusion.

In his work, Alfred Conteh struggles to be a non-conformist. The wide and varied nature of the work featured in this show are a clear indication of that fact. But his representational work is clearly about the portrayal of African Americans in the media, and upon reflection, it’s conceivable that his non-objective work might stem from a desire to escape the burden of trying to deal with such a huge issue within his work.

According to the curator, the struggle between being defined as an artist who happens to be African American, and being defined as an African American artist, has been a longtime issue for artists. Conteh’s body of work seems to be divided between the two camps, either from of a desire to be neither, or a desire to be both.

Tubman African American Museum: 340 Walnut St., Macon; http://www.tubmanmusem.com/


Then there is Joe's piece :

Don’t get the wrong idea about Friday evening’s premiere of what a Macon museum is billing as “the controversial ‘Pimp Series.’ ”

It isn’t performance art.

It’s a series of non-conformist, mixed-media paintings and sculptures by a Fort Valley-raised artist who sought to show some of the ways that we, consciously or not, dupe, scam, exploit and finesse others -- and in some cases ourselves.

“When it comes to the word ‘pimp,’ I want to try to get people to think more about what that means outside of the age-old image of a dude with a big hat and platform shoes,” artist Alfred Conteh says. “Pimping goes so deep.”

Five works from his 13-piece “pimp” collection -- along with more than two dozen other works -- will be on display at the Tubman African American Museum through Sept. 29.

The “pimp” works he’ll show in Macon include “Natural Pimp,” “Preacher Pimp,” “Property-Owning Pimp,” “Athlete Pimp” and “Mother Pimp.”

The titles, along with the text that accompanies them, come from Alfred “Bilbo” Gholson’s 1997 book “The Pimp’s Bible: The Sweet Science of Sin.”

In a release, the museum says Conteh “appropriates the pop-culture concept of the pimp as a vehicle to engage in commentary about different aspects of contemporary black life.”

Conteh, 36, who lives in Atlanta, says, “The imagery in conjunction with the text makes you think of people you know, people that might be in your family, people that might be co-workers or your loved ones. ... No one’s immune. Everyone has done it in some way in their lives.”

His rendering of Gholson’s “Mother Pimp” is based on women with beautiful daughters, daughters they teach to pursue rich husbands, acculturating and coaching them to reel in men of wealth.

“And it happens every day,” says Conteh, who graduated from Peach County High in 1993 and went on to study at Hampton University and Georgia Southern.

His “Preacher Pimp” painting, which comes in a church-shaped frame with a cross on top, describes religious leaders who can be what he calls “one of the more influential and more powerful pimps.”

“People know that he’s doing wrong,” Conteh says in a YouTube video that explains the work, “that he’s sleeping around, that he’s, you know, touching boys or stealing, and they’ll still take up for him in the end.”

At the bottom-right corner of the painting is a small offering plate containing a couple dollar bills and, more prominently, a human brain.

“He’s taking your mind as well,” Conteh says.

To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.


Exciting stuff! We plan to have Dean Brown and the Dub Shak perform Friday night at the opening reception...

 as well as have food from Jamaican Kitchen! If you want to come - just show up at the Tubman African American Museum on Friday, July 20th at 6pm. I'll be here loving every minute of it!

1 comment:

Leanne said...

Really amazing work . . . Thank you for sharing it with us, Nicole. what an amazing environment to be spending your days. Love that you are there now!!!


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