Scalehouse Presents First Exhibition in New Space: Shabazz Larkin, Fragile Black Man

(Artwork | Courtesy of Scalehouse Collaborative for the Arts)

Exhibition Manifesto by Shabazz Larkin:

 “The image in this exhibition of the fashionable man holding a flower is a picture of vulnerability often unseen in the Black community. The original photograph of this fashionable man was taken by a West African Photographer named Saydou Keita.

“Keita liked to take photographs of rural African people dressed in the fashion of European imports from France and England. This is one of many from his archive to capture this gentrified version of West African culture.

“Most people think this is a self-portrait — it’s not — he just looks like me. I just loved seeing a Black man holding a flower. It brought me joy. So I drew it. I like to draw things that bring me joy.

“Finding joy grew increasingly important as 2020 took a turn for the worst; watching murders of Ahmad Arbury, George Floyd and Elijah Mclain, it felt like Black Men (and women, like Breonna Taylor and Michelle Cusseaux) were being picked off by a very fragile system that has no conscious or commitment toward our existence.

“COVID began to close the walls in around me. A book tour was canceled. And most other plans were too. Including my employment and this show.

“The stress had me by the throat — so I returned to what brought me joy. I found myself drawing this image over and over again. The images presented to you in this exhibition is me working out how I felt about the world, with a process that brought me some release of what I’ve been feeling — and I suppose what many of us have been feeling in 2020.

“More like the process of painting Mandalas, these drawings were more a meditation than a creative exercise. Inspired more by my mindfulness practice. But one day I stepped back from them all and I just saw this beautiful expression of the diaspora of Black Men.

“This collection of images is a peek into the vast ocean of possibilities of who we are and can be.

“But even with all the glory that comes from this diversity — a darker picture cannot be avoided. Every third of these portraits conveys this figure in an orange jumpsuit. An illustration of the uncomfortable and easily ignored and overly simplified-and-justified fact that every third Black man you meet will be inducted in the criminal justice system.

“These images are printed and stitched on cotton linen, often with live and frayed edges making unapologetic references to its source elements. If America was a startup, its first venture capitalists were the backs of Black people. A down payment on American dominance — paid in cotton and slavery.

“The flower in this exhibition, this picture of vulnerability seeks to subvert power in the same way 2020 has subverted everything we thought we knew.”

Our plan is to open the exhibition on December 4 at 4pm, and it will be on view through January 30, 2021. We will follow updated State guidelines and allow six people in the gallery at a time for the health and safety of our community, volunteers and gallerists. Please wear a mask and practice social distancing.

We’re located at 550 NW Franklin Avenue, Suite 138 (in the Franklin Crossing Building). Scalehouse Gallery is facing Tin Pan Alley with an entrance off the alley as well. 

Support Creativity, Art and Design 

Join us for end-of-year-giving through Central Oregon Gives, thanks to our friends The Source Weekly and What If We Could. Support new and bold ideas presented through contemporary art exhibitions, talks and workshops that might not otherwise be seen in Bend. Please donate today so artists can continue to share their work during a time when we all need it most.

Donate Here:

Creative Relief Fund

The unprecedented events of 2020 have created uncertainty and financial loss for artists and creative workers with cancelled events, closures and postponed work.

With small awards, the Scalehouse Creative Relief Fund supports creative workers and artists who have experienced financial loss and unexpected expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund is open to all creative workers and artists and will provide awards up to $500. Here’s how you can get involved.

Apply Here:

Donate Here:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *