A Conversation with Dalaeja Foreman, Curator, Reclaimed Rage; Resistance

BLACK FOLK Presents | Reclaimed Rage; Resistance, February 9 – March 11, 2017

At BronxArtSpace | 305 E 140 St, Bronx, NY 10454
Gallery hours: Wednesday – Friday 12-6:30 pm, Saturday 12 – 5pm

Francheska Alcantara, Shellyne Rodriguez, Clara Lenor Cruz, Jonathan Gardenhire, Cheyenne Julien, Milo Matthieu, Shani Peters, Adrienne Rose, Anthony J. Thomas & Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School Students

If you’re looking for socially engaged, meaningful political art in the city, the Bronx is arguably doing the best job of bringing it to the forefront. With Bronx Documentary Center’s photography exhibition, Who’s Streets? Our Streets! New York City: 1980-2000, The Point’s Mi Casa Es Mi Casa, and a host of creative actions by artist/activists including Alicia Grullon, Francheska Alcantara, and Shellyne Rodriquez, the issues facing our communities are being looked at and worked through incredibly effectively with art.

An ambitious debut presentation, Black Folk Collective’s Reclaimed Rage; Resistance, now on view at BronxArtSpace, is another example of this movement. The exhibition and public programs (see below) speak clearly to the feelings of rage brought on by the weight of the current racist and oppressive climate, and also show how the acceptance of rage as a vehicle can begin to solve these issues.

Installation view of Reclaimed Rage; Resistance at BronxArtSpace

Laura James | What is the overall message of the show, why the title Reclaimed Rage; Resistance?

Dalaeja Foreman | Reclaimed Rage; Resistance is an experiential group exhibition of contemporary artists working with photography, collage, sculpture and painting to expose the delicate yet crucial relationship between rage and resistance.

Oppression driven societal rage has influenced the resistant nature of their work, directly or indirectly. The work in this exhibition will influence the viewer to reassess their perception of rage, specifically Black rage and its place in the public discourse. Resistance becomes an innate yet involuntary response to rage, for the sake of both survival and social change.

This exhibition aims to legitimize rage and expose its bond to resistance by:
a. Identifying rage and its connections to the presenting problems
b. Validating rage
c. Developing constructive ways of channeling rage

All of the works expressed different and equally important themes I wanted expressed in the space. From liberation history to the black imagination and all in between.

MIlo Matthieu l-r, Strange Fruit (99¢ Series), Mixed Media, 2016, 26.75 x 25.5 inches | Jim Crow (99¢ Series), Mixed Media, 2016, 26.75 x 25.5 inches | Untitled Dinner Rendezvous (A HOME AWAY Series), Mixed Media, 2016, 12 x 16 inches

LJ | Tell us something about your group Black Folk.

DF | Black Folk is an aesthetic collective that is dedicated to uplifting, promoting, and protecting the individuality of the Black diaspora in culture through original collaborative projects. . The group consists of Adrienne Rose, Founder/Director, Jonathan Gardenhire, our Creative Director, and me, Dalaeja Foreman, Chief Curator.

Black Folk Collective, l-r Adrienne Rose, Dalaeja Foreman, Jonathan Gardenhire

Eileen Walsh | Do you feel that the exhibition is meant to be message driven or cathartic in nature?

DF | Yes, the exhibition is meant to categorize the ways in which rage can be expressed outwardly. Often among working class communities, the rage of living under constant oppression and attack is internalized (individually and communally).

Rage is a natural and healthy reaction to the constant implicit and explicit state-driven attacks brought on by capitalism and the legacy of racism in the United States (and all of the nations plagued by a history of colonization, imperialism, and erasure). In an attempt to tap into the idea of rage in itself as a cathartic experience, this exhibition is meant to challenge the internalized demonization of rage within working-class communities in order to utilize that rage for solution build and reclaiming of self against the forces that attempt to write our narratives for us.

Kenneth V. Hardy and Tracey A. Laszloffy’s sociological study “Therapy with African Americans and The Phenomenon of Rage” (1995) and “Killing Rage: Ending Racism” (1995) by bell hooks were both great inspirations for this exhibition.

At the opening reception, saging portraits in the collective work, “There Are No Second Chances Here” facilitated by Artist Traci Malloy in partnership with 9th and 10th grade students at Fanny Lou Hammer Freedom High School in the Bronx. The artwork was made to honor the lives of Black and Hispanic men and women killed by police officers in 2016. This only shows a fraction of the work.

EW | Was the order the work was presented in important to the storytelling?

DF | Yes, the exhibition was placed to lead guests through three classifications of resistance.
Beginning with resistance/aggression then resistance/reclaiming ending with resistance/action.

l-r Jonathan Gardenhire, Untitled, (Shomari), 2013-2017, Archival Pigment Print, 50 x 40 inches | Shani Peters, Terrible and Beautiful, 2016, Laser cut wood words – diptych, Both 12 x 16 inches

EW | Why the wall paint and the color variations?

DF | The painting of the space was a crucial factor in the storytelling of the exhibition. The different shades of purple represent different moods of rage. The classifications were broken down by color: resistance/aggression – deep purple, resistance/reclaiming – smoky purple, resistance/action – lavender.

I wanted guests to walk into a transformed space and feel moods change as they got deeper into the gallery. I am very interested in color theory and find purple fascinating. Purple is the color of creativity and is rare in nature. Purple is also the most powerful wavelength of the rainbow; it symbolizes magic, mystery, spirituality, the sub-conscious, creativity, dignity, royalty.

Purple is associated with supernatural energy, we are going to need to tap into spirituality and the power of our ancestors to continue to weather the storm of oppression. I believe creativity and the imaginations of working-class communities will be pivotal in the continued stride toward our liberation. Specifically, because arts and culture have always been used as a tool for organizing and liberation struggle and are the one things that can not be destabilized. We can be rent burdened, hungry, overworked, underpaid and abused but our creativity can not be stripped from us.

I also chose to paint the walls because the white wall standard is too reminiscent of what happens downtown. It isn’t often you find a space that is open to letting you completely transform the gallery (Big ups to BronxArtSpace). Lastly, Purple is the official BLACK FOLK color and looks great against melanin.

Installation view of Reclaimed Rage; Resistance at BronxArtSpace

EW | Do you feel the show being presented in the Bronx affected your vision? Did the locale add any element to the show?

DF | I originally wrote this exhibition for the CUE Arts curatorial open call. I made it to the second round of judging but my exhibition was not chosen, I think this was actually the universe providing a path I needed.

While writing the proposal, one of my biggest concerns was how I would get working-class folks of color to see the exhibition since it would be in Chelsea, a community that is FAR from working working-class. I was also afraid the exhibition would end up being a show for the voyeuristic consumption of the elite.

The fact that years later, Linda and Stephanie from BAS would ask me to submit a proposal was like the stars aligning to make my brainchild come to life in a place where the use of it would be real. Especially in between Patterson and Mott Haven houses and among a heavily immigrant community.

l-r Shellyne Rodriguez, Pheonix (Calling on the Spirit of the Garbage Offensive), 2015, Assemblage, 4.5ft. x 2ft. x 3.5ft. | Anthony J. Thomas, 2017, Untitled, Mixed-Media

As an organizer here in the Bronx with the People Power Movement, It is awesome to be collaborating with groups like Eztudio 43 that do work amazing work in Mott Haven and alongside all of the incredible Bronx-based groups we collaborated with: Bronx Social Center, NMBR 09, Odiosas, People Power Movement and Uptown Vinyl Supreme.

I see my curatorial work as a tool for my organizing and this exhibition debuting in the Bronx is probably the BEST thing that could have ever happened. I have been researching and contemplating whether or not it is actually possible to use curatorial practice as an organizing tool and this experience has shown me that it is possible and I look forward to improving and evolving that relationship.

LJ | Will you present more exhibitions with this theme?

DF | I am passionate about creating exhibitions that confront and demystify the capitalist system and will definitely be writing more proposals using themes that are influenced implicitly or explicitly, by the ways in which capitalism oppresses communities of color. Most importantly, focusing on the processes in which we can work toward popular control and fundamental social change.

Impromptu dance party at the opening reception for Reclaimed Rage; Resistance at BronxArtSpace with music provided by Uptown Vinyl Supreme.

PROGRAM SCHEDULE

Tuesday, February 14, 6:30pm & Thursday, February 16, 6:30pm | Political Education Sessions & Workshops w/ People Power Movement

Wednesday, February 22, 6:00pm-7:30pm | Formations in Community – Embodying Rage to Resistance –Black Women & Survival as Resistance: Using the Work of Sarah E. Wright

Saturday, March 4, 6:30pm | Decoding the “Angry Black Woman/Man”

Sunday, March 5, 6:30pm | Privatization of Public Housing

Friday, February 24, 6-8pm | Regular Degular Feminism Workshop w/ Odiosas

Wednesday, March 1, 6:30pm | Curatorial Conversation on Trolley Night

Saturday, March 4, 3-5pm & Saturday, March 11, 3-5pm | Curso De Defensa Contra El Desalojo // Anti-Displacement Defense Course w/ Eztudio 43

For more information about these events, visit the Facebook Event Page here.