Art Feature: AFRICA IN AMERICA Reprise
And here we are again...
On December 17th, 2012, I was blessed to attended AFRICAINAMERICA: Reprise in the lovely home of Sir Anthony J. Thomas.
Upon entering the room, I had felt as if I had entered the heart of Anthony. Engulfed in warm tones and vibes, the chatter of others scattered about the room; Laughter, celebration, food, art, and heart.
Though I felt slightly uncomfortable because I was "overdressed", I could not ignore the overwhelming feeling of love and desire that circled the air. I felt truly lucky, not to mention it was Anthony's 22nd birthday.
After the Reprise I had the opportunity to sit and have lunch with Anthony at BORN thai in Downtown Brooklyn, and thoroughly discuss his works.
I asked him to tell me about his new pieces.
"My two new pieces are called D.A.D... It's about my pops, I haven't seen my father since three years old...
It's juxtapose with me being a man and wanting to know my descent, which juxtapose with me having no relational ties to my grandmother who I heard is sick in Jamaica, who I [also] don't know.
So it's like I have all these juxtapositions and none of them revolve around what I want, except for the 22 [year old] being a man thing.
But it's still superficial because I'm not really a man, I'm a child that just wants to see his father sometimes... but I can't see my dad... because if I saw him those pieces wouldn't be created."
D.A.D. part 1
He goes on to discuss the forms of D.A.D. part 1, and the materials and inspirations he used to help make it come to life.
"It has so many forms to it... The only solid pieces are heaven and hell; the heaven part consists of prints from V magazine. I did drapery images because I felt like my image of making it to where I wanna be includes not just visual art, but fashion, and women too."
"I listened to that piece and it listened to me...
On the top of the piece there's a hand. At the time when I made that I was trying really hard to include my feeling of art being lame and too deep... So I painted [the hand] and wrapped twine around it and kept it tied to the canvas... I put it there because I thought that I was going to be stuck in that Hell... tied down and restricted.
The reason why I used dirt and branches is because when you're stuck in your own insanity, it's sickening, so that was the only way I could give it to ya'll in a way that's aesthetically pleasing, you have to keep in mind the commercialism of art. If I would have put what I really wanted to put, you guys wouldn't have came in the room.
I used radio chips and radio pieces to relate to Social Media. [It's] a hell for me because we have so many lives, and when I drink sometimes I go on Social Media and rant. The last time I had a rant on twitter, and I was drinking Hennessy and I spoke about my pops and I was crying...
I noticed when you go on Social Media and you're like 'I just got a job. I'm super happy and my life is LIVING GOOD' - you'll get two retweets, but if you say 'I'm hurting now, so children don't have to hurt in the future' - you'll get about fifty retweets.
It's like America loves pain in relation, but not in experience. Cause I can say that same thing to someone in person, and they'll go 'Oh, I feel so bad for you', but when you're at home, and I'm on my couch and you're on your couch, you can feel me so much more, and it's because we have that medium."
After munching over some pad thai, Anthony proceeded to explain his piece D.A.D. part 2.
D.A.D part 2
"D.A.D. part 2 is three things, One: heavy. Two: Almost broke the wall. Three: One of the most different pieces I've done...
[I] made a self portrait of my dad and I, in landscape form. But the inside is me, and everything around me is my father, combined with parts of myself. I use ceramics because I wanted to pay homage to Julian Schnabel, who is a famous neo-expressionist artist from the 80's, and one of his earliest paintings was the dish paintings.
[But] the connotation I'm adding to it is different, because I'm African American... And African American artist never really say they were inspired by the greats, and I think that's because One: they're scared and Two: that's a big thing to look up to. But I feel like if you're an artist, you are in the same community as Dali, Picasso, Monet, and Van Gogh, so it doesn't matter, just do it. That's what I did, just did it.
The hand in the middle [of the piece] was suppose to be glued down, but five minutes before people came, I was about to go glue it down, and then I was like 'you know what? I'm just gonna keep it loose.' So whoever purchases [the piece] can move the hand anyway they want to depending on their mood, so it's like interactive."
Then Anthony begins to reflect on the entire process of the AFRICAINAMERICA: Reprise, stating:
"Everything we did, WE DID. We did this shit... I could of went to Chelsea, with my pieces, and said 'I have some amazing pieces you need to see, put me in your gallery', but I'm not going to submit myself to that agenda if I know that you have all of these exhibitions planned now until 2015, but you're telling me it's over submissions - No, fuck you bro! I'll do my own show, and see if they catch on, and if they don't catch on I'll just keeping doing these shows and eventually it'll get big...
I think my approach to this is so 'rap artist/hip-hop/mixtape' because I'm doing it my way."
Further into the interview, Anthony starts to speak about his plans for the future.
"And I'm going to stop painting soon, I don't know when, but I don't plan on painting my entire life. Eventually, I wanna make the power moves and be with the power makers, like Larry Gagosian. He's like my muse for life.... I plan on going to graduate school for Art Criticism and Writing at SVA. I wanna be an Art Critic.
Next, I just wanna design clothes for my grandmother's line .1950(Mamie). And just make more work. Plus, I have to move out my house because my pieces are gonna be massive and they're not gonna fit in my house now. I can't throw anymore shows in my room, cause I'd have to move my Aunt out and turn the apartment into a museum. I just have to find somewhere else and keep doing my thing. Paint, get my MA, then my PhD, make some money, have some kids, and play with them. With a dog. And not die.
I don't want to be a novelty, that's my mission, to not become a novelty. And live to become successful."
I had an amazing experience sitting with Sir Anthony J. Thomas, dissecting the AFRICAINAMERICA: Reprise, and getting to the heart of him as a man and an artist.
Anthony is Africa in America. Always and forever.