Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Author: Shelley Rice

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Rashid Johnson. Seeing in the Dark

Johnson, Jonathan (Seeing in the Dark Series), 1999 (0120050) A

(…) Rashid Johnson’s photographs are arenas of action, places where people come together and cultures comingle. Seeing in the Dark and the abstractions are deeply personal works. However different they might seem, they both explore the conflicts and convergences of the artist’s race and class, and the dual spaces he inhabits as a middle class Black American. The portraits are encounters that help him to test, and sometimes bridge, the social divides within his life and his community; the abstractions, on the other hand, are an almost Utopian space where the bedrocks of two cultures can co-exist and flourish. Together these two series, made when the artist was very young, laid the foundation for all of the mature explorations to come.

Shelley Rice on Rashid Johnson’s Seeing in the Dark
Jonathan (Seeing in the Dark Series), 1999, Gelatin Silver Print, 40, 3 x 50,8 cm

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On the Road: Africa in Brussels

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On July 9, editor Rob Perrée and I decided to take a trip together, separately. Rob was home in Amsterdam; I was in Paris. It occurred to us that we might not be in the same city during the summer, so we decided to rectify that by buying train tickets to meet in Brussels — a city geographically in the middle, and one rich in things to see for those of us interested in African art. Moving between cities and countries in pursuit of cultural knowledge, Rob and I chose to participate in the “Afropolitan Age”, a concept central to the two major exhibitions on view in Belgium that inspired us to go on the road in the first place.

Shelley Rice on the exhibitions incarNations: African Art as Philosophy and Multiple Transmissions: Art in the Afropolitan Age

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Okwui Enwezor, the teacher


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Kara Walker’s Norma


As many of the readers of this magazine know, I am an art critic, not an opera critic – or even an opera fan. My interest in this production was simple: I wanted to see what would happen when a formidable African American concept artist like Kara Walker confronted and re-interpreted a cornerstone of European culture.

Shelley Rice on Kara Walker’s stage design, set design and costumes for Bellini’s opera Norma as presented in Venice.
Photo Michele Crosera.

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Hank Willis Thomas, an essay


“He makes clear that even the most successful African American men and White Women make good within roles scripted for them by others, in narratives that provide them with few options or real alternatives. Hoop dreams and football fantasies, like suitable marriages, happy households and feminine charms, are constructed ideals, actualized within well-defined social cages, gilded though they may be.”

Shelley Rice on Unbranded: A Century of White Women 1915-2015 by Hank Willis Thomas.
No anxious moments, 1918/2015, digital chromogenic print, 2015.

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