G Fine Art Gallery Info Selected Archives Artists

Iona Rozeal Brown | A3 The Revolution: Televised, Terrorized, Sexualized

October 23 - December 4, 2004


press release:

Opening Reception: October 23, 6:30 - 8:30pm

What is a revolution? Would you recognize it if you saw it? Would you realize if you lived through it? 
How would you react if you were a part of it?

Gil Scott Heron’s “the revolution will not be televised” was the rallying cry of a generation and part of the modern foundations of Hip Hop culture. It’s his cry for revolution that still poetically haunts us today. But what if a revolution were at hand? And television was just the beginning.

Brown’s new work expands the dialogue and critique with her a3 - afro asiatic allegory, exploring the complex issues of identity, commodity, sex, and liberation and as seen through the global expression, presentation and reinterpretation of Hip Hop culture.

Brown’s afro asiatic allegory, begins with her critically acclaimed, a3 blackface series initially sparked by the actions of Ganguro, a group of Japanese youth, who through stance, clothing, and hair style seek to take on the identity of African American youth of the Hip Hop generation. These youth then complete their extreme transformation by darkening their skin. Through her work, Brown explores this intersection of culture by merging the flat style of the Ukiyo-e woodblock prints of Japan’s Edo period with the presentation and incorporation of hip hop signifiers. She creates a powerful visual world, where afros meet kimonos, geisha wear Sean Jean, and, poignantly, Edo period Japan and Hip Hop become one. Brown’s work, filled with unique insight and wit, engages the viewer in subtle debate over the ever expanding globalization of contemporary hip hop culture.

As an extension of the blackface series, a3 pimping and pandering, directly examines the commodification of Black sexuality in contemporary Hip Hop. Brown references 18th century Shunga, the erotic work of the Ukiyo-e. The visual center of this work is the pronounced male genitalia, which visually and metaphorically consumes and dominates the piece. pimping and pandering addresses the unceasing promotion of the pathologies of sex, vice, consumption and conquest in commercial Hip Hop expression. 

In explaining the origins of these Blackface characters, Brown offers an imaginative narrative. She introduces a series of blind, ravenous, materially-minded creatures that are at the heart of the Blackface images – aptly named W.O.I.M.S – Weapons of Incoherent Mass Spending. These creatures seduce the Ganguro into obsessive consumption of styles, designer clothing and jewelry, transforming them into their Blackface form. Brown’s work from this series gives the viewer an imaginative look into the misadventures of the W.O.I.M.S., who when left to their own devices attempt to consume these objects of their unabashed material desire.

Brown’s artistic vision further explores this path of material obsession in her bling propaganda works, as contemporary Hip Hop remains engulfed in an obsession over Bling- diamonds and jewels. Brown uses the visual language of Chairman Mao’s propaganda posters as a reference for this unyielding devotion. Brown’s work in a singular visual moment shows the connectivity of our worlds. Missing digits and clothing bearing Sierra Leone’s flag are intense reminders of the brutal atrocities that occur in this country and many other African nations to fuel this insatiable global desire for diamonds, a desire that has been reignited by the fashion of hip hop. In this body of work, shimmering beauty, material devotion, and unimaginable suffering are reflected within Brown’s multi-faceted visual critique.

Brown’s work continues to break down barriers, exploring new ground while embracing the revolutionary spirit of hip hop with her a3 liberated: b-girl repping the east series. Against the backdrop of traditional afghan war rugs, Brown’s burka adorned women express their liberated lives and spirit through defiant and celebratory B-Boy postures and poses. The women in Brown’s series exude an enthusiastic confidence, an external pride that connects the recognition of the past with the promise of the new future.

Today’s global view of Hip Hop is often not shaped by the people or the music itself, but by the commercial characters, images, icons, and products that dominate contemporary videos, advertisements, and magazines. With this, commercials become identity and identity becomes a commercial. An identity that emerges as a prepackaged kit that creates instant culture. Brown’s work explores this misunderstanding. Her work urges a greater cross-cultural dialogue and speaks to the possibility of Hip Hop as a true force and catalyst for positive revolution.

A graduate of the Yale School of Art, the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and the San Francisco Art Institute, Brown is a native of the Washington Area and currently resides and works in Chillum, Maryland. 
Brown was recently featured in solo exhibitions at the Wadsworth Atheneum, Spelman College Museum of Art, Caren Golden and Sandroni Rey Galleries in New York and Los Angeles respectively along with group exhibitions at the UCLA Hammer Museum and the Studio Museum in Harlem. Brown’s work was also included in last year’s emerging artist’s exhibitions at both the Corcoran Museum and the Smithsonian Anacostia Museum. Her work has been critically reviewed in the New York Times, Washington Post, Artnet, FlashArt, Black Book, the Boston Globe, and most recently Elle Magazine. Brown’s work is in numerous public and private collections including Yale University, the New Museum, Wadsworth Atheneum, the Norton Family Collection and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

“… the revolution will be live.” – Gil Scott Heron 

Essay by Bennie F. Johnson.


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(and by appointment)

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