Wednesday, 18 December 2013

where cultures come to clash

'She', acrylic on linen, 2011
The collision of cultures shapes our world much faster
than continental drift and there's a gifted Afro-American
female artist who depicts their clashing through an Eastern
originality that always questions cultural and racial idiosyn-
crasies by exploring the influence of gender, sexuality and
popular culture on individual identity uniquely sampling,
juxtaposing and mixing traditional and voguing icono-
graphic elements as a versatile visual DJ.

'The Oobie Kids', 2010
'Sneak Attack (You aren't playing fairly at all)', 2010
artwork from the Blackface series
untitled 1 (female), 2003
Born in Washington D.C., Iona Rozeal Brown is a graduate
of San Francisco Art Institute and Yale University and truly
”one of the most 30 influential contemporary black artists”
as in the claim of present-day Frist Center exhibition in
Nashville, Tennessee, titled ”30 Americans”, a thought-pro-
voking showcase that's mostly drawn from renowned
Miami-based Rubell Family collection. Iona became
fascinated about the gung-ho Japanese youth emulating
American hip-hop culture by changing clothes, hairstyles,
and even darkening their skin to be in tune with it.

'Sacrifice #2: it has to last', 2007
'Don't cry... it's the rhythm, the Grace of the tsuru, 2013
'Live!' ink and gold leaf on wooden panel, 2013
She soon took possession of the old Japanese technique
of woodblock printing combining it with paint: many of her
artworks parody seventeeth and eighteenth century
Japanese prints with occasional hints to Shunga,
Japanese erotic art. Brown turned the traditional pale
complexion and makeup of Japanese typecast figures
like samurai, geishas and kabuki actors in blackface
seldom including collaged or overlaid hip-hop 
features such as fluffy fur, strands of pearls, 
garish jewelry and tattoos.

artwork from the Blackface series
'Blackface #62', 2005
'Off the dome: don't front, you know we got you open', 2006 
Her hibrid, cross-cultural, usually large-scale portraits 
with a peculiar Afro-Asiatic-American analogy have a inner
sense of proudness not exclusively evoking Japan but
also India, Korea and even Middle Eastern mores subtly
highlighting the voracity of consumerism chewing up
timeless traditions all around the world. Iona's exclusive
take on the concept of melting pot is quite astounding
and it's able to cast an edgy light on our understanding
of racial and cultural identity. The whole body of her
pictorial work aims at nullifying cultural divide by
untangling the roots of identity through a unique,
authoritative style I'm deeply in love with.

Iona Rozeal Brown, left, in a photo © by Jati Lindsay
all artworks © by Iona Rozeal Brown

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