Works Gallery
Artist Information

Opening Reception: Saturday, November 11th, 2017, 6:00pm – 9:00pm
Exhibition Dates: November 11th – December 9th, 2017

Umar Rashid

The Free Radicals: The Rise and Fall of the October 4th Movement or Every Hero Needs A Horn Section 1793-1795.

The Free Radicals: The Rise and Fall of the October 4th Movement or Every Hero Needs A Horn Section is the latest chapter in my ongoing History of Frengland.  Frengland is a fictional colonial empire based off the merger of France and England into an all powerful super state.  In this particular chapter I chronicle the highs and lows of the ultra left wing, anti-imperial, pro-worker organization, The October 4th Movement.  The October 4th Movement was founded by former slave, and rebel general Vercingetorix in Gonaives, Sainte Domingue (Haiti) in 1792.  After winning independence from Frengland in 1790, the victorious general Andre Lafayette was forced to pay Frengland an outrageous indemnity for the cost of the war.  Initially, he refused and unleashed his war- primed troops loose on the entire colonial enterprise of the Caribbean.  Though he was successful on many fronts, the other islanders were not willing to accept him as their sovereign and after a two-year campaign, he recalled his troops and set his sights on the eastern half of the island of Hispaniola.  To bolster his treasury, he made trade deals with Spain, The Batavian Republic (Netherlands), and Prussia.  However, after having fought such a long and brutal war, many of the farmer-soldiers did not want to return to the sugarcane fields.  Andre, unfazed by the protest of the people, instituted harsh agrarian reforms that essentially forced the citizens into toiling in the fields yet again.  This action angered many of his former generals and one in particular, Vercingetorix. On October 4th, 1792 Vercingetorix, and his half sister Anne-Laure rode into the sugarcane fields near the city of Gonaives and slaughtered the overseers, and proclaimed that the real power was in the hands of the people.  Branded traitors and sentenced to death, they fled with 100 loyal followers, first to Jamaica, and then to New Granada.  They recruited soldiers from the plantations they pillaged and used the revenue and goods to set up free cities in the jungles.  This action brought them into direct conflict with the old maroon societies, who sometimes worked with the planters to repatriate runaways in exchange for their own sovereignty.  Vercingetorix and Anne-Laure wanted to establish workers republics but had no taste for war against their own people and so they moved again, back to Jamaica, and then to Cuba, and Puerto Rico for a time. Yet, despite their military successes, they were forced to leave time and time again.  Eventually, they landed in Veracruz and worked their way up to Alta California, hoping to establish a workers paradise.  However, the colonial authorities of New Spain had enough trouble with their peasant revolt and decided to destroy the movement.  They sent spies to gather intel, sabotage their weapons, and destroy their food stores.  Vercingetorix responded by kidnapping Tania, the daughter of a high ranking colonial official.  Tania became radicalized and joined the movement wholeheartedly, forcing some members of the government to wonder if she had been kidnapped at all.  Eventually, they made it to a mission in Los Angeles, using local, Tonga intel, they planned to sack and burn the mission but it was a trap.  The spies within their organization got word to  a commander of the Company Cazador and they were waiting inside the mission with many soldiers and artillery. Vercingetorix attacked and was repulsed quickly, those who didn’t die, were captured, or summarily executed.  Many escaped however and would fight again in the violent years to come.  

 

Umar Rashid’s art stands as an ever-expanding series of primary documents for his fictionalized colonial narrative that parallels our own histories of pillage, dispossession and power.  The artist’s illustrated tales have been a work in progress over the past 12 years, unfolding piece by piece in episodic fashion, with the stories fluidly addressing issues of colonialism, identity, race, gender and politics. Generally taking place throughout the 18th century, Rashid invites culture clash and time travel throughout, interjecting elements of contemporary fashion, Hip Hop, street and gang culture–providing an immediacy and accessibility as well as reverberations through our modern day to day. As a self taught artist, Rashid borrows from a range of artistic traditions and modes of making, citing particular influences from Native American ledger drawings, Romantic era painting, African and Caribbean folk art, fetishes and map-making–with his latest body of work incorporating canvas, paper, elk hide, and wood amongst other materials.  Much like the reverberations of colonial histories both past and ongoing amidst our anxious present, Umar Rashid realizes that, “I will never run out of material within my lifetime.”

 

Tosha Stimage

These are not isolated events.

“The orange. It is held together by skin.

But hold it firm, drive your thumb into the flesh, pierce and peel.

It is a series of segmented containers.

Past the violent intrusion you’ll find,

that there is a relationship between segments.

Showing that each of us is several, is man, is a profusion of selves.”

 

This is a show of attraction, images supporting other images in a sometimes

seemingly contradictory manner.

 

Artist Tosha Stimage has become well known for her probing into the color, material and conceptual frameworks that surround the color orange, employing these vast and disparate ideas as analogies through which to unpack Blackness.  Seeing language as limiting and unfit to speak to these complexities, Stimage instead employs a rich lattice of symbols and historically laden images through which we can begin to understand and discuss elements and experiences that relate not only to Black experience but humanity at large. Her latest solo show, Death Valley in Flowers, presented at Oakland’s City Limits Gallery, organized the artist’s thoughts through varied images and objects, including a woven tapestry depicting an ornately braided scalp, flanked on the left by two oddly-resembling astroturf labyrinths, and divided by a wall-size mural depicting a numbered target utilized in the artist’s first experience firing a gun–realized in Stimage’s color of choice: orange.  The artist’s forthcoming exhibition, These are not isolated events., will act as a continuation of the visual, symbolic and spiritual explorations laid forth by Death Valley in Flowers.