[image-1] In August, 2016, I wrote about Atlanta-based artist, Fahamu Pecou, and his exhibit, Do or DIE: Affect, Ritual, Resistance, which was held at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. Pecou’s pop culture-inspired works address society’s representation of black males, while utilizing traditional themes of Yoruba and Ifa, West African religious practices. His paintings — raw and beautiful in their truth — felt necessary in 2016 Charleston, a year after a blood-stained Holy City saw the deaths of Walter Scott at the hands of a police officer, and of nine innocent Emanuel AME parishioners at the hands of a white supremacist.
The Halsey put together a catalogue after that exhibit (this is something they do often, in case you ever want to get your hands on a book full of art), titled Visible Man. On Sat. June 9 at 4 p.m., join Pecou and Dr. Anthony Greene for a discussion of the catalogue at CofC’s School of Sciences and Mathematics (202 Calhoun St.), followed by a reception at the Halsey. The event is free to attend and catalogues can be purchased for $34.95.
[image-4] Visible Man provides an in-depth look at Pecou’s work created over the past two decades. There’s the NEOPOP series, described as, “a host of visual responses to popular culture … Using the conventions of Pop Art, NEOPOP examines the current authority of popular culture, and challenges the notion of fine art’s position in its commodification.” Most of the images in this series are evocative of magazine covers, with titles like ‘Cream, The Arts Issue,’ ‘Flaunt,’ ‘metro.pop.’ The titles of the pieces read like a how-to guide on satirizing stereotypes of black culture: “Shut Yo Mouth,” “All This Without a Basketball,” “Immaculate Percep’shun,” “And I Ain’t Been Shot a Whole Buncha Times.”
In addition to looking comprehensively at his body of work, Visible Man also includes essays and commentary written by fellow artists and scholars. Assistant professor in the department of literature at Emory University (where Pecou earned his PhD), Sean Meighoo writes about “The Fahamenology of Performance.” Meighoo investigates the shift in Pecou’s work, from his early series, which featured an alter ego, Fahamu Pecou Is the Shit!, to his later works, which highlight “pointed criticism of consumer materialism within hip-hop culture.”
If that all sounds a little heady — maybe even a little too academic — then you’ve successfully immersed yourself in Pecou’s work, paintings and multimedia productions that force you to think, to unpack, to reflect on your pre-conceived notions, of how you see the world.
[image-2] Amanda H. Hellman, a curator of African Art, writes about Pecou’s Do or DIE exhibit and its Yoruba influences in her essay, “Die and Do: Egungun as a form of resistance and recovery.” She writes about Alagbada Egungun, a Yoruba masquerade from southwest Nigeria, produced by Egungun societies for dance ceremonies.
She says this of Pecou’s piece, “New World Egungun Masquerade:” “‘New World Egungun Masquerade’ demonstrates the natural course of the culture by retaining the vital components that activate the mask and make it an effective weapon of resistance, healing, and unity, while also deviating from typical Yoruba artistic expressions of the mask and introducing it to a new space and audience.”