Colin Quashie: Plantation (Plan-ta-shun) Native Sun: Fahamu Pecou, 2009 to Now

Colin Quashie: The Plantation (Plan-ta-shun)

The Sumter County Gallery of Art is proud to present an important body of mixed media work by Colin Quashie. The works presented in The Plantation (Plan-ta-shun) explore the possibilities offered by seamlessly blending popular cultural imagery, media based communication and satire to investigate serious cultural, social, and political ideas and issues with sometimes raucous, scathing and tongue-in-cheek humor. Quashie addresses cultural issues using sarcasm intended to spark popular debate and discussion among his audience while challenging status-quo social and cultural assumptions. His works also often play upon various popular stereotypes and ridicules irrational cultural assumptions in order to trigger an awareness of our personal limitations in understanding each other’s daily life experiences.

Quashie states: “The Plantation is not about slavery. No one, black or white, wants to talk about slavery. Instead, the show deals with different aspects of plantation life, the pros and the cons. Ultimately, it is about the past and the present. He further observes: “Charleston is so much about the past. The South basically glorifies the past. As far as they’re concerned, the past isn’t the past. It’s still the present. So that’s what we market, that’s what we sell, but we do it in a lot of different ways, and plantations are a mirror of that. Plantations are in the present, but they reflect the past, and depending on your sensibilities and the way you look at the plantation system tells a lot about what your sensibilities are.”

Susan Cohen, writing in the March 28, 2012 edition of Charleston City Paper for the opening of “The Plantation (Plan-ta-shun)” at Redux Contemporary Art Center, notes: Quashie’s vision is nothing like the modern money shots of hanging moss and white weddings you’ll see on decadent blogs or in a luxury magazine — his is harsher and truer to their dark history. For each new piece produced for the show, Quashie took a part of that past and connected it to something the audience will know from the present. There is a playable “Plantation” Monopoly game (and Quashie hopes patrons play it). The familiar blue and green rectangles that signify the game’s most expensive properties – Boardwalk and Park Place – have been replaced with Magnolia Plantation and Boone Hall. Mr. Moneybags is still a central character, rewarding players with $100 if their slave mistress gives birth to mulatto twins. Instead of going directly to jail, you must pray for abolition in a Quaker church, and the railroad system is of the underground variety. “It’s the exact same game, except that everything has just been reconfigured,” he says, but certain adjustments have been made to reflect familiar Charleston landmarks and historical concepts. “I even rewrote all of the rules and everything like that. And of course, instead of hotels, once you get four slaves, you can buy yourself a mule to work on your plantation.” Other pieces in the exhibition include Harriett Tubman’s Twitter page and a wall sized prototype of the glossy “Plantation Digest” magazine complete with an editor’s note, a page with a pull back crease offering a sample of Mandingo cologne and advertisements for Fledex and a multipage section for J. Crow clothing which incorporates stark archival images of scarred backs (Look Solid With Stripes) and a lynching, (Black Tie Event?).

Cohen further elaborates: But there is a softer side of the exhibition, both in meaning and in presentation, Large pieces in gentle colors, paintings that will temper the volume of Quashie’s louder works. “I realized I was kind of getting out there a little bit as far as the cynicism was concerned, and so I wanted to pull it back in, because the bottom line is I also wanted to talk about who were the real people who lived on these plantations,” Quashie says. He found photographs of former slaves on the Library of Congress’ website, and he wanted to make them larger in life. In one painting, a man poses in a slightly crumpled blue suit, a white beard decorating his tired face, his wife and home in shades of black-and-white behind him. The faint background is meant to represent the past. The colorful subject is the present.

Colin Quashie was born in London, England (1963) and raised in the West Indies. At age six, his parents immigrated to the States and settled in Daytona Beach, FL. He briefly attended the University of Florida on a full academic scholarship and then joined the Navy as a submarine Sonarman. He has also worked as a comedy sketch writer on Mad TV and 6 other comedy series. He was an associate producer on an independent feature film and in 2001 received an Emmy award for documentary writing. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina where he paints while developing work for television and freelancing as a graphic artist.

Native Sun: Fahamu Pecou, 2009 to Now

The Sumter County Gallery of Art is also excited to present an exhibition of work by Fahamu Pecou, an American painter, performer and video artist based in Atlanta, GA. His works utilizes self-portraiture to challenge and dissect society’s representation of black masculinity in popular culture today – an early and ongoing ruse includes a series paintings featuring the covers of art magazines bearing his likeness – and how these images come to define black men across generational, geographical and economic boundaries.

Pecou states: “My work can be viewed as meditations on contemporary popular culture. I began my career experimenting with practices employed in contemporary branding strategies, particularly as they pertained to hip-hop music. These experiments ultimately led me to question not only the stereotypes that drive consumerism, fame, celebrity-worship etc. but how an unspoken racial and cultural divide often influenced these factors.  I appear in my work not in an autobiographical sense, but as an allegory. My character becomes a stand-in to represent black masculinity and both the realities and fantasies projected from and onto black male bodies. I seek to challenge the expectations around black men and, to a larger extent, society in general. Adopting the traits typically associated with black men in hip hop, I appropriate their more popular associations and distort or exaggerate them by placing them within a fine art context. The end result is a parody on our obsession with celebrity, our exploitation of black masculinity and the divide that racial ignorance and stereotypes perpetuate. These ideas are expressed in paintings, videos and live performances. Each medium allows me to articulate various nuances around my themes and further distort the assumptions we tend to make about one another.”

Pecou, who grew up in Hartsville, SC, is a fast rising star in the art world and has been featured in several solo and group exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad. His work has been reviewed and featured in numerous publications including Art In America, Harper’s Magazine, NY Arts Magazine, Mass Appeal Magazine, The Fader Magazine, Atlanta Peach Magazine, NY Arts Magazine and on the cover of Artlies Magazine. In 2008 Pecou was awarded a residency at the Caversham Centre in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa, additionally, Pecou’s work was included in “DEFINITION: The Art and Design of Hip Hop”, an anthology chronicling the impact of hip-hop on visual culture, written by famed graffiti artist and designer Cey Adams. A winner of the 2009 ARTADIA award, Fahamu was also featured in two international solo exhibitions; the first in Cape Town, South Africa and a second at the prestigious Volta show at Art Basel in Basel Switzerland. Pecou was selected as the first-ever Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture Resident at The McColl Center for Visual Art in Charlotte, N.C. in 2010.

In 2011 Pecou presented his first solo exhibition in Paris, France. Additionally Atlanta’s NBAF (National Black Arts Festival) awarded Pecou the Emerging Artist Award during their inaugural Interpretations: Black Visual Art – Past, Present and Future award ceremony alongside master artists; Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Samella Lewis, Betye Saar, Richard Mayhew, Thornton Dial and David Driskell. In Fall 2012, Pecou exhibited a series of new work: “All Dat Glitters Ain’t Goals” at the Lyon-Weir Gallery, NY, NY. The show in Sumter includes several pieces from the NY show.

This will be Fahamu Pecou’s first exhibition in South Carolina, the place of his childhood.

Sumter County Gallery of Art director, Karen Watson observed that it has been a few years since SCGA has had two challenging exhibitions such as these. She expressed confidence in the sophistication of the audience in Sumter as well as beyond, to be able to view and discuss provocative art and perhaps come away with a better understanding and appreciation of, how historical, social and psychological forces shape our individual lives in different ways.

Sumter County Gallery of Art would not be able to present important exhibitions like these without the support of businesses and individuals who support SCGA’s efforts to offer a wider art world to the citizens of Sumter. Special thanks to SAFE Federal Credit Union, DeAnne and Elielson Messais, Palmer Memorial Chapel, Representative and Mrs. J. David Weeks and Carolina Diabetes & Kidney Center for making these shows possible.