Bullets to Hashtags

In the absence of words there are just images. Here are some of the more thought provoking photographs that have helped me think about, process and grieve the tragedies of this week.

Image Credit: Laini Madhubuti Bad News Women via Instagram
Image Credit: Artist Dread Scott via Instagram 
Image Credit: Yagazie Emezi, Nikisha Brunson via Instagram
Image: @KahlilTheIllah via Twitter


Image: Chuck D via Twitter


Image Credit: Antwaun Sargent via Twitter
Image of @urbanbushbabes by Modern Women @gottesss via Instagram 

Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile.

“There is no contradiction between supporting law enforcement…and also saying there are problems, biases to be rooted out.” ~ President Obama

SF MOMA in 3: Part 2

SFMOMA LG Crop.jpg

Now that we got the essentials out of the way in yesterday’s post, it’s time to see some art! As I previously warned, I don’t suggest you try to see everything in 1 day.  There are 7 floors of art, so I suggest that you pick 3 and spend some quality time with the collections.

With tongue firmly in cheek, I came up three tours depending on what you might like to see:
1.  The Traditionalist
2.  The Naturalist
3.  The Iconoclast
1 circle
For those of you who missed the permanent collection on the 2nd floor of the original SFMOMA (the Old SFMOMA), you are in luck because it remains in tact with selections from the permanent collection on view in the old Botta Building.

Mark Rothko, No.14, 1960

Floors 5 & 6 will give you a good overview of the Fisher Collection. The 5th floor features Pop, Minimal and Figurative art, while the 6th has a large collection of German artists.  This floor also has a  stunning 2001 Shirin Neshat video installation called Passage, scored by Philip Glass.

2 Circle

Sculpture and Photography are the focus of this tour.  I suggest you start off by taking the stairs from the 2nd floor Lobby entrance off Howard Street to the 3rd floor installation of “California and the West”.  This exhibition features photographic works obtained from the Campaign for Art.  My favorites were a series of prints by Jim Goldberg called “Rich and Poor”.  A precursor to the famed Humans of New York, this series cracks the artistic firewall between photographer and subject as Goldberg gave his subjects a voice to tell their own stories of poverty and wealth.  Their observations are raw, personal and surprising.  I was captivated by each photograph.

Living Wall
Living Wall

The Alexander Calder Motion Lab on the 3rd floor leads to an outdoor sculpture terrace featuring a tall, multi story living wall.  The terrace is a breezy, airy respite from the crowds and the art.

Oculus Bridge
View of Alexander Calder and the 5th Floor Oculus Bridge

Floors 4 and 5 will provide looks at more sculpture in addition to a robust collection of Ellsworth Kelly.  Be sure to check out the Oculus Bridge for an interesting vantage point of another Calder that hangs above the Botta lobby off 3rd St.

3 Circle

For those of you who want to start and stop with Contemporary art, head straight to the 7th Floor using the Silver elevators (for some reason there are 2 separate banks of elevators that lead to different floors).  Here you will find works by David Hammons, Glenn Ligon, Mark Bradford, Mark Grotjahn and Jeff Koons.  This was personally my favorite floor because I love David Hammons’ Basketball Drawings.  The Conservation wing tucked into the back of this floor is a large open space with incredible views.  From a curator’s viewpoint, the 7th floor appears to be the most versatile.  Windows can be covered with movable panels to display more art and the architects left the ceiling exposed in an attempt to make the space less formal.

Glenn Ligon’s “Double America”


Mark Bradford, Untitled (“Buoy”), 2014

After the 7th floor, head down to the 5th floor for sculptural works by Anish Kapoor and Richard Long.  This floor also features gallery space dedicated to Andy Warhol and Chuck Close. My 3rd tour ends on the 3rd floor for an immersive, interpretive experience at the Photography Interpretive Gallery which is part of the Pritzker Center for Photography.


After all of that you may need a cortado or an espresso from the Sightglass coffee bar located adjacent from the Interpretive Gallery.  The S.F. based coffee roaster has set up a new outpost here boasting the perfect cup of coffee.

No trip to SFMOMA would be complete without a visit to their museum store and I would highly recommend the newly expanded store on the 1st floor.  I’m kicking myself for not buying a Lumio Lamp!

Lest you think every inch of this museum is sheer perfection, I must admit there were some missed opportunities and some functional flaws in the space that will likely lead to some awkward moments in art…  My 3rd SFMOMA installment will provide you with some caveats and my final thoughts on the new space!

Why Are We Asking the Same Questions About Lemonade?

Photo: Slate

I promised myself I was not going to write about Lemonade, but here I am shaking my head.

Why is everyone asking the same questions about Lemonade? 

Who is Becky?
Did Jay really cheat?
Is Beyoncé paying homage to Pipilotti Rist?

Ok that 3rd one is pretty esoteric, but that’s what the art world is asking:

“Is Beyoncé’s Windshield-Destroying Stroll in Lemonade Based on This 90’s Art film?” 



I think it’s rather cute that their only contribution to Lemonade commentary was an observational link between Beyoncé’s bat wielding, Cavalli wearing cat walk and Pipilotti Rist’s fanciful iron flowered frolic down the street in Ever Is Over All, her 1997 dual screen video installation.  Both Beyoncé and Rist, playfully walk down the street clad in beautiful dresses in slow motion, then both proceed to smash the windows of cars parked in the street.  Window smashing is nothing new in video, but the juxtaposition between both artists as “delicate”, “feminine” beings that transform a riotous act into something beguiling was a brilliantly smart commentary on power & feminism. In Lemonade the scene gave Beyoncé’s character a visual arch in telling her story.

1.  Everyone who made that observation just parked the similarities there.  Let me re-park some more:

2.  Rist won a prestigious Golden Lion for that video.  Beyoncé is being called a domestic terrorist that’s calling for race wars.
3.  In Rist’s video a police officer looks on as Rist smashes the window; she gets a salute by the officer.  Beyoncé lies on a sinking NOLA cop car in Formation and she’s criticized for being anti-police.
4.  Commentary on Pipilotti Rist’s Ever Is Over All rests squarely on feminism, yet Beyoncé’s media criticism frequently takes a sharp right turn that veers the discourse far from a lucid artistic dialog.

After the 20th art world luminary in my Instagram feed pointed out the comparison to Pipilotti Rist, I looked at it for myself.  Has anyone thought to ask Kahlil Joseph, the video visionary director behind Lemonade?  If you are familiar with his work, his style is a distinct one, yet you can see his influences in his work.  Joseph’s dual screen presentation of “m.A.A.d”in Double Conscience at MOCA last summer is very similar to Ever Is Over All so it’s clear to me that the team of directors for Lemonade were influenced by many artistic sources.  For those willing to do a little more digging beyond flashy ledes & gossip, you will be rewarded with experiencing something new.  I was.  I’m sure that was the intent of so many that were hell-bent on isolating this one similar element of a visually stunning piece.

Maybe we should be asking ourselves why there’s such a disparity in our reactions to art?

Christian Louboutin and His Stylish Take on “the Gaze”


Loub Group Bazaar.jpgIf you walk up to any makeup counter or shoe salesperson wanting to create the perfect nude lip or find a classic nude pump you will likely get one shade.  What if that nude looks nothing like your skin tone?  Why is the universally accepted nude distilled to a single ivory hue? If you’ve never even thought of this before, welcome to a very subtle and admittedly superficial form of the gaze.

While the side effects of the gaze are far more pervasive and damaging in social and economic environments (education, housing, employment), for people of color the lessons of color preference and adaptation are learned at a very young age.  A simple foray into coloring with crayons once meant that children had a limited selection of hues to choose from when drawing pictures of ourselves, our family or our friends.

So when Christian Louboutin announced a multi-hued line of nude ballet flats called the “Solasofia”, I nodded with knowing approval and a slow clap.  It is about time!

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Christian Louboutin Solasofia Flat “Ada”



The beautiful milk chocolate shade in Safki is already sold out and the lovely deep cocoa brown in Toudou looks incredible against the iconic red sole, it is the best of the series (and looks amazing in the Pigalle Follies as well).  The Solasofia flat collection is an extension of the diverse nude line launched by Louboutin in 2015.  The color palate has been expanded by 2 shades.

Pigalle Follies



Artist a Day Challenge 2016-28: Shinique Smith

Shinique Smith, “Higher Ground”, 2013.  Photo Credit:  Shinique Smith

When I started Culture Shock Art in 2010, my goal was to explore street art and graffiti in Los Angeles, after I stumbled upon street artist JR’s work completely by accident.  The process of discovery through investigating the origins of one of his murals led me to his 2010 TED talk after which I purchased one of his lithographs.  That similar sense of curiosity in “finding the wonder in the every day” led me to Shinique Smith.  In January when I prepared a list of artists to feature during the February 2016 Artist a Day Challenge, I added Smith to my list after learning that Hauser Wirth & Schimmel will feature her work during their inaugural show “Revolution in the Making” opening in March.

I recently discovered an artists talk that Smith presented on her creative process which fuses graffiti, Japanese calligraphy, text, abstract expressionism and assemblage.  Her artistic influences are diverse and include dance, poetry, eastern religions, fashion and music, but what struck me most about Smith is her intention and how it guides her work and her process.

As children we have an innate curiosity and sense of wonder that lead us to magical, serendipitous discoveries.  When I think of “pure joy” I think of a laughing child taking delight in exploring the world around them.  Over time the light that leads to this delight fades and becomes harder to find, but is never lost.  The art of curiosity, of finding joy through learning and exploration allows us tap into that sense of wonder.  In Shinique Smith’s art, she transforms distinctly different art forms to create her work- her goal is to create a postive exchange that propels us forward.  Smith does not look toward the past, nor does she attempt to right the wrongs of the daily struggles of life in her work.  Rather, her art is a form of catharsis that is both transformative and carries universal appeal.  During an October, 2015 artist’s perspective talk Smith comments:

“I want to have a more positive ‘moving forward’, transformative exchange and that’s not easy to come by and I think that comes out of an empathy.  As much as I am horrified by us and sometimes disheartened and dissillusioned and angry, at the end of the day there is a beatuty in us as a human in the world.  Seeing life that way helps me move through it.”

This gave me a stronger appreciation for her work and I cannot think of a better artist to close out the 2016 Artist a Day Challenge.

The artists that I featured this month were varied.  Some express themselves through pain, joy, their experience, by observation, remembrance and others through the lens of the injustice they encounter.  By exploring black artists across the diaspora from diverse geographic backgrounds, different points in history and different points of view I am reminded that there is so much creativity to experience and explore; it is important to always be curious, ask questions and understand that like a butterfly, beauty comes from challenge.

As I wrap the 2016 installment of an Artist a Day challenge I want to thank everyone who have faithfully joined me in exploring these amazing artists.  I welcome you join me over on TONDI (a Culture Shock Art project hosted on Squarespace) in March as I debut my second Virtual Exhibition that explores the history of Disco and House music.  Yes, Disco!  Researching this exhibition has been an absolute blast and it opened my eyes to a side of Disco that is rarely discussed and is relatively unknown (by commercial standards).  The exhibition launches in March, and I will be sure to provide links to the virtual show right here on Culture Shock Art.  Until then, be curious, create joy and take delight in exploration!

The “Artist a Day Challenge” celebrates Black History Month by highlighting Black artists and diverse forms of cultural expression across the African diaspora.  

Artist a Day Challenge 2016- 23-25: Pas de Duke: Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison, Mikhail Baryshnikov & the Art of Movement


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Judith Jamison and Mikhail Baryshnikov during the press conference for Alvin Ailey’s Pas de Deux in 1976. Photo credit: Vintage Black Glamour

I somehow missed a post yesterday!  Thankfully I follow some incredible creatives on Instagram who inspire me daily, in fact so much so that I’m covering three inspirational artists and art forms in one post!

I’m convinced designer Duro Olowu uses his Instagram page as a mood board for his collections, because he finds the most beautiful shots to share.  Today he posted a picture of Judith Jamison & Mikhail Baryshnikov which naturally put me on the path of sourcing the shot in search of the story behind it.

Modern dance legend Alvin Ailey founded the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre in 1958 and since then the dance company has been dedicated to “preserving the uniqueness of the African-American cultural experience”.  The dance theatre also serves as a steadfast champion for arts education.  In 1976 Alvin Ailey hosted a benefit gala in support of the many cultural and educational programs sponsored by the theatre.  Ailey created a piece called the “Pas de Duke”, a play on the traditional pas de deux, which is a rigorous performance that consists of 5 solos and duets performed with flawless precision and execution and was performed to the music of Duke Ellington.  The original Pas de Duke featured Judith Jamison and Mikhail Baryshnikov, both legends in their own right.  This collaboration among Ailey, Jamison and Baryshnikov is simply stunning in photos, so I can only imagine what it was like to witness it live.  The piece has since been recreated numerous times.

Judith Jamison, Alvin Ailey and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Photo Credit:  Cal Performances, Tumblr

I loved hearing how Jamison and Baryshnikov described the rehearsal process for the Pas de Duke in this NY Times interview:

“Alvin moved deliciously, like a cat. He luxuriated in movement. He could move ever so slightly, and you would know how big or how small you should move. And when it wasn’t what he wanted, he would laugh. But, see, we’d all laugh.”

I have always enjoyed the fluid fusion between dance and photography.  Here are some additional shots of my favorite shots taken of a few of the greatest black dancers to ever grace the stage.

Judith Jamison photographed by Jack Mitchell, 1976. Photo Credit: Jack Mitchell
Carmen De Lavallade and Alvin Ailey, 1961. Photo Credit: NY Times c/o John Lindquist/Harvard Theatre Collection
Carmen De Lavallade Photographed by Jack Mitchell, 1961. Photo Credit: Jack Mitchell.


The “Artist a Day Challenge” celebrates Black History Month by highlighting Black artists and diverse forms of cultural expression across the African diaspora.  

Artist a Day Challenge 2016-11: Nick Cave

Nick Cave Soundsuit. Phtography James Prinz.  Photo Credit:  Jack Shainman Gallery via Atlanta Magazine

Nick Cave’s soundsuits are wondrously colorful, captivating, sculptural pieces that amplify the beauty of the human body in motion.  In 1992 Cave created his first soundsuit out of twigs and discarded items found in a park and conceived the suit in response to police brutality after the Rodney King beatings in Los Angeles. That first soundsuit was a commentary on the detachment between the human body, how it is perceived and how it is treated.

“I was thinking about, looking at, trying to find that element – as a black man, what does it feel like to feel discarded, viewed as less than, dismissed, devalued? That’s what inspires this work.” Nick Cave, Orlando Weekly

What happens when you eliminate the possibility to perceive, judge and devalue?  By repurposing discarded items into a new context, the viewer is ultimately forced to experience them in a new light.  The transformative power of repurposing and seeing everyday objects in a new context forces a shift in perception for the wearer and the viewer.  This characteristic of Cave’s art is present in his performance work today.   The soundsuits conceal race, gender, class, sexuality and transform the wearer and the experience of the viewer.

Nick Cave Soundsuit.  Photo Credit, Opening Ceremony

You simply have to see the soundsuit in motion. I completely get lost in my own imagination watching these performances.