Everyday Afroplay - Introduction
Thank you for stopping by. This is an introduction to a new practice: Everyday Afroplay : An online open studio of sorts, where I can share my work with you without the constraints of a production.
I have this ever-deepening artistic obsession with Chris Ofili’s work. I began writing Rum for Sale after a visit with Night and Day at the New Museum. Although Rum for Sale is primarily drawing from other Ofili work, Afromuses continued to catch my attention. So I promised myself that I would make time later to “play” with that work.
Afromuses, is a collection of 181 small watercolors presented at The Studio Museum in 2005. These small works appear to be figurative expressions of individual people from a different place in time. Almost portraits. When I looked further I also saw a repetitive investigation of something else – blackness. Each painting presented a person with a dark complexion adorned in bright colors and patterns which resembled African prints, though no pattern of clothing is the same. Hair shape and styles resembled each other, but none were identical. Lastly and most important, no shade of skin tone were the same. This speaks volumes (in the most indirect way possible) about the breadth-spectrum of blackness. Blackness is so expansive that it is unreadable. Okwui Enwezor, Author of The Vexations and Pleasures of Colour: Chris Ofili’s ‘Afromuses’ and the Dialectic of Painting put it best when he stated:
The Afromuses exist at a remove from any configuration in which blackness plays the role of a cultural protagonist or explains a racial dialect, rather than employing direct documentary references [Afromuses] seems to be a strategy deployed in order to move the viewer away from any over-determined reading of the images.
Everyday Afroplay creates the framework for a theatrical exploration of blackness in short daily bursts. This discourse of exploring blackness on the stage is by no means a new concept. Amazing playwrights are doing it prolifically and prodigiously all across the nation. In those worlds “blackness” is the cultural protagonist set against the ever-present challenge of white supremacy or maybe it’s just blackness all by itself that’s presented in dramatic form. Whether or not those great plays are produced in the American is another story. Check in with your nearest Artistic Director about when and how you can see that kind of play. Everyday Afroplay will be a daily pursuit to question and explore whether theatrical blackness can exist beyond recreating cultural protagonist or making documentary references. Can blackness exist alone in time and space?
Another element of Afromuses that shapes Everyday Afroplay is methods of practice and process. “Ofili describes making [Afromuses] as both pleasurable and challenging” Each painting is created within a strict compositional format showing only the head and bust. The women being shown straight on or in three-quarter view and the men are seen in profile. Afromuses for Ofili is a quick meditative ritual to begins the day’s work. Creating without pressure can open up a space where “In time, practice becomes oeuvre”
Everyday Afroplay are short plays that explore some form of blackness- since theatre encapsulates four dimensions versus the two of a painters canvas- blackness can and will show up in a multitude of ways, some clearer to read/identify than others. They will be short-ish, no more than 15-30 minutes worth of writing per play, just an exercise. After the play is written I will format the page into a jpeg document and posting as an image on this site. Thereby completing the circle- using a visual work to make a theatrical blueprint then turning the theatrical back into visual art. I don’t know where this will lead and I am happy in the not knowing. My hope is to create for myself a new space/ arena to play with this pigment without pressure to explain address, or apologize. This is just my open studio. I hope you’ll enjoy.
Note: If you are interested in staging any of Everyday Afroplay essentially or substantially as they are written, they are protected by copyright in the versions you read here, and you need to clear performance rights. For amateur performance, professional or international productions please email firstname.lastname@example.org