Episode 8: DeShawn Dumas with Rhiannon Evans MacFadyen

Notes from MoAD

Episode 8: DeShawn Dumas with Rhiannon Evans MacFadyen

By Rhiannon Evans MacFadyen April 15, 2020

Notes from MoAD is dedicated to the Museum of the African Diaspora’s Emerging Artist Program, giving the exhibiting artists an opportunity to discuss their featured exhibition at MoAD and how their art practice is in dialogue with contemporary art as it considers themes of the African diaspora.


For episode 8 of the Notes from MoAD series, visual artist DeShawn Dumas and curator Rhiannon Evans MacFadyen discuss the fragility and resilience of glass, the terrifying and meditative properties of art and shooting guns, and the qualities and limits of the art institution as community space. In conversation about the creation of his works, Dumas describes how the “performance” of creating the works embodied the navigation required to survive in this landscape. By creating abstract works, the artist shifts from the narrative of race in America to the visceral experiences of those most affected by the oppressive systems and violent tools of Colonialism.

DeShawn Dumas’s solo exhibition, Against the End of History, presented painting, video, and the artist’s self-described ballistic monochromes in a multimedia installation that situates the sacred within the political. Dumas counters the assertion of liberal democracy as the final form of human government and defender of human dignity as established by American political scientist Francis Fukuyama in his 1989 essay “The End of History?”. Dumas deploys the visual languages of abstraction and minimalism to explore the psychic and historical afterlives of slavery, the increasing cultural predominance of militarized policing and the ecological catastrophe of climate change. Inhabiting the terrors of a past, not yet past, Against the End of History offered a space to contemplate the struggle for future(s) worth living. DeShawn Dumas: Against the End of History was presented at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco as part of the Emerging Artists Program September 4 through November 15, 2019.

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DeShawn Dumas is occupied by U.S. slavery’s unresolved unfolding. In painting, he turns the conventions of modern art and the aesthetics of telecommunication devices towards the socio-cultural experiences of Black lives lived in and above euro-ethnic inhumanity. Inhabiting the terror of a past not yet past, his Ballistic Testimonies mirror socialized death as a radical and salvific subjectivity. Dumas uses chromaticism and objecthood to index U.S. racecraft; the magical way that breathing Black children, women, and men magnetize bullets and weaponize sidewalks, cellphones, cigarettes, and toy guns. In video, his work pairs extrajudicial street executions and arbitrary captivity (afterlives of a U.S. caste system) with climate catastrophe. A global climate disaster (or ecocide) first initiated by the genocidal project of Western colonialism, then codified by industrial liberal democratic capitalism and its corollary: identification with white personhood—a biological, cultural and spiritualized superiority complex—that already and always foreclosed the possibility of the human race.

Rhiannon Evans MacFadyen is a curator, consultant, and project-based artist going on several decades in the performing and visual arts. Born and based in San Francisco, Rhiannon is moved by "productive discomfort." Her curatorial practice focuses on projects that push formal and contextual boundaries and poke at imperialist formats, and her cross-discipline art practice engages symbols, identity, communication, and the unseen. Founder of A Simple Collective and Black & White Projects and Director of Emerging Arts Professionals SFBA, she is passionate about equity, experimentation, and independence in the arts. She is currently serving on the board of SOMArts Cultural Center as Interim Co-Chair and sits on curatorial and advisory committees for Root Division, Sites Unseen, and Pro Arts.

Notes

  1. Cover image: DeShawn Dumas. The Death of Painting (Who's Afraid of Red, Yellow, Blue) (installation view), 2018.
  2. https://usdac.us/nativeland

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