The Tokyo Show: Black & Brown Are Beautiful
at Hyde Park Art Center
June 30 – September 29, 2019
Link to website
featuring: Carris Adams, Brandon Breaux, Cog•nate Collective, Alex Bradley Cohen, Sarita Garcia, Jose Resendiz, Diana Quiñones Rivera, and special guest William Greaves / audio contributions by artists Désirée Coral, Ishita Dharap, Clemens Melzer, Lavie Raven
The concept for The Tokyo Show: Black & Brown Are Beautiful began in 2014 shortly after a Missouri grand jury declared "no indictment" in the shooting death of teenager Michael Brown. That same week, a Black American woman from the Midwestern United States traveled 6,000 miles to Japan, to the Tokyo
districts of Harajuku and Shibuya, to visit the popular women’s fashion boutiques that reference Black and Brown American hip-hop style. At one shop the clothes displayed a striking logo: Black is Beautiful. Love,
Protect, Respect. Today, The Tokyo Show exhibition positions Black and Brown artists at the center of global dialogues, as well as advocates for solidarity between people often kept apart due to geographic and political distance.
Strategies to defy borders and boundaries have long been used in contemporary art contexts, particularly as assertions for independence and de-centering. The early years of the Havana Biennial (since 1984) began as bold self-organization to strengthen regional alliances and eschew Eurocentric constructions of geographic periphery. Similarly, the late, prolific curator Okwui Enwezor’s documenta 11 (2002) organized independent platforms across five continents instead of favoring an expected Western center.
Now, for The Tokyo Show, “The First World Festival of Negro Arts” (1966), a black- and-white documentary film by the late, venerable artist William Greaves (NY), provides an anchor for the exhibition at Hyde Park Art Center, filling the gallery with the filmmaker’s intimate images of a historic, global convocation held in post-colonial Senegal.
At the center of the gallery, two large-scale paintings by artist Brandon Breaux (Chicago) float from the ceiling across from Greaves’ film; Breaux’s canvases portray reimagined scenes of popular Japanese anime stories, but with Black characters—Black women—as heroic protagonists of the popular Neon Genesis Evangelion and Akira. Recently, Breaux worked abroad as an artist in Tokyo (2018), as well as completing a residency at the Arts + Public Life program at University of Chicago Arts (2019), founded by artist Theaster Gates.
“There’s always a new encounter with other people’s perceptions of race,” states Diana Quiñones Rivera, referring to her own film in The Tokyo Show, but perhaps to the other artists’ as well. Quiñones Rivera is a lens-based artist and former fellow at Kartemquin Films. She contributes an autobiographical installation, D on the South Side (2019). Within The Tokyo Show, external perceptions take a backseat, although do not entirely vanish, in the self-definition presented by each project. The artists’ intentions stretch equally wide across borders and time.
Drawings of the four Moor pillars of the Doge Pesaro monument (1669 Venice) by Carris Adams (2019) remove Black bodies from an armature of historical fetish and subjugation. Adams’ contribution is an experimentation for the artist, though she is well known for exhibiting nationally at spaces such as The Studio Museum of Harlem (NY) and Tiger Strikes Asteroid (Chicago).
Contributing a cartographic component, Cog•nate Collective duo Amy Sanchez-Arteaga and Misael Diaz document the range of “border blaster” radio stations that connect the San Diego/Tijuana binational region. Diaz
and Sanchez-Arteaga possess a long history of working to imaginatively address issues of displacement and contested space; this includes a 2019 residency at the +LAB Artist Program in the Los Angeles Little Tokyo
Dynamic artists Sarita Garcia, Jose Resendiz, and Alex Bradley Cohen remix and unveil new works to complete The Tokyo Show’s core visual group of nine. The artists complicate notions of nationhood and home, borderlessness and community, as well as invisible spaces.
Joining the visual works are several audio contributions shared via WhatsApp and mobile technology, composed by artists Désirée Coral (Quito)(My name is...), Ishita Dharap (Chicago), Clemens Melzer (Berlin), Lavie Raven (Chicago)(Swing low sweet chariot...), and former Hyde Park Art Center visiting resident, the late curator, Bisi Silva (Lagos).
excerpt from D on the South Side, by Diana Quiñones Rivera 2017