“Of a New Cool” is a two-person exhibition with L. Kasimu Harris and Vitus Shell that explores the south’s, and beyond, relationship to blackness, and will open at Southside Gallery on October 8 and run until November 2, 2019.
Throughout the African diaspora and its black pool of genius, the people and their culture have been adored, admonished and appropriated. Visual artists Harris and Shell, who both grew up in Louisiana and attended graduate school in Mississippi, will examine their experiences as being black in America, as well as draw from past histories that inform the present. “Of a New Cool” is a reframing of the black narrative.
Harris, a writer and visual artist who primarily works with photography, will exhibit some images from his “Vanishing Black Bars and Lounges,” series that examine the growing number of watering holes in black neighborhoods that are turning white. That shift reminded Harris of Birney Imes’ photographs in “Juke Joint.” Published in 1989, when those gathering places in the Mississippi Delta were omnipresent. Now, juke joints languish in single digits.
“It made me think of the black neighborhood bars of New Orleans. And I wanted to capture them before they were unrecognizable,” Harris said.
Shell will show work from his Slim Crow series, large scale paintings that are geared toward the black experience, giving agency to people from this community through powerful images deconstructing, sampling, and remixing identity, civil rights, and contemporary black culture. Shell experiments with portraiture, acrylic paint, oversized photocopies of early 20th-century vintage advertisements and the incorporation of a foam-cut printing technique.
“My layered, mixed media painting examines parallels between present-day behaviors and attitudes that date back to African roots,“ Shell said, and added that his work exudes the hip-hop lifestyle with a southern vernacular.
“Of a New Cool” marks a homecoming for the artists, who met as graduate students at the University of Mississippi. The first time Harris ever exhibited was at Southside Gallery in 2007, and Shell’s thesis show “Bring That Beat Back: The Sound of the Drums, the Streets and the Heart,” was also at Southside Gallery in 2008.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
L. Kasimu Harris has shown in 20 group exhibitions across America, two abroad and four solo photography exhibitions. Last summer, Harris’ War on the Benighted series was a part ofChanging Course: Reflections on New Orleans Histories, a group exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art. He graduated with a B.B.A., in entrepreneurship from Middle Tennessee State University and earned an M.A., in Journalism from the University of Mississippi. Harris was a 2018 Artist-in-Residence at the Center for Photography at Woodstock and is on the Board of Trustees at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.
Vitus Shell is a mixed-media collage painter born in Monroe, LA, where he lives and works. His work is geared toward the black experience, giving agency to people from this community through powerful images deconstructing, sampling, and remixing identity, civil rights, and contemporary black culture. He received a B.F.A., from Memphis College of Art in 2000 and an M.F.A., from the University of Mississippi in 2008. Shell has been in residence at Mass MoCA, Joan Mitchell Center, Skowhegan School of Art, Tougaloo Art Colony, and Masur Museum of Art.