‘Chuck D: ARTMAGGEDON’ At Subliminal Projects, Saturday January 12th 2019
Chuck D is a legend, as the leader and lyricist of the famous New York rap band Public Enemy, he put political awareness and social consciousness right in the middle of ‘80s hip hop and never stopped his activism since. His more recent musical project, Prophets of Rage, with members of Rage Against the Machine (Tim Commerford, Tom Morello, and Brad Wilk), DJ Lord and Cypress Hill’s B-Real, continues to rage against the system, in a world that makes less and less sense.
If people know about Chuck D the lyricist, Chuck D the rapper with the powerful voice, we know less about Chuck D the visual artist. I was actually happily surprised that he had a new exhibition at Shepard Fairey’s art gallery, Subliminal Projects, announced as ‘Chuck D: ARTMAGGEDON’. Knowing that there was a great probability Chuck D may be in the attendance, 2 long lines had formed outside on Saturday night.
I was one of these people waiting on line, during a cool L.A. night, for close to two hours, but it didn’t matter for any of us…. Shepard Fairey has managed to transform art exhibits into cool events like this one, and if it is still my best-kept secret, I realize that more and more people know about it each time!
If Fairey regards Chuck D as a hero, there is a sincere friendship and a mutual admiration between both men, perfectly reflected into these 2 statements that you can find on Subliminal Projects website:
‘Chuck D is a hero and a legend, not just to me but to many people who value the power of his music, his outspoken social and political voice, and his positive influence on culture. I’m very excited to announce that our gallery Subliminal Projects will be opening an exhibition of Chuck’s artwork this January. His artwork provides a unique and vital point of view, and I’m always happy to celebrate his dynamic impact on the world. Thanks for the inspiration, Chuck!’
‘Like hip hop, visual art has the power to deliver a message with an explosive force. Shepard has created a space to remind us all that visual art has a voice, a place, an impact on the world we are living in. It insists that you think and makes you feel. I’m humbled to have my work hang on the walls of Subliminal Projects’
And humble could be the right word to describe Chuck D’s visual work. If colorful graffiti or big and bold designs are often associated with hip hop, Chuck’s paintings are anything but big and bold. They are mixed media using watercolors and ink, often in black, grey or sepias tones, and all of them are of modest size, while they are either representing hip hop scenes or illustrating memorable moments of Chuck’s career with Public Enemy or collaborators such as Run DMC. However, there were few paintings which were departing from the main theme, like these church facades, basketball series, or even these rides in a Japan cab. Of course, these little border kids in cages were there, painted in a larger format than the rest, which showed that the political message was never lost in the media change. The lines of the drawings were blurry, the colors were watered but there was nothing in the message that wasn’t clear… there are many ways to fight the power.
At first, Chuck D was nowhere to be seen, and I was told that he was meeting the VIP crowd upstairs, but soon he came downstairs, meeting every single fan in the room, signing material, posing for pictures and hugging everyone. Chuck D acts what he preaches, he has never believed in celebrity status, and he surely made himself available for everybody.
Shepard’s large Chuck D prints (dedicated by Chuck himself) were on display, and DJ Lord was there to assure the music part. After the meet and greet, Chuck took the mic and treated us with an improvised number for the greatest joy of everyone in the small gallery. It was crowded, the temperature suddenly raised to a few sweaty degrees, but the mood was very high.
Chuck D, the Iconic artist who ignited the crowds with his words, has found another media to convey his powerful perspective on the world, and his visual artwork is part of the permanent collection at The Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum Of African American History And Culture.
You can see his work till January 26th at Subliminal Projects, at 1331 W. Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles.