Sunday, January 30, 2011






January 18, 2011, 1:29 pm

Fahamu Pecou, Close…And a Cigar, 2010
Acrylic on canvas, 66 x 54 inches. Courtesy the artist.

In 2008, I met Fahamu Pecou at an opening party for a group show at the Amistad Center in Hartford, CT. After viewing his hilarious video, Instant Celebrity: The Rise of an Urban Legend, I approached the artist to tell him how much I enjoyed it. After introducing myself, Mr. Pecou handed me his business card which read, rather matter-of-factly, “Fahamu Pecou is the Shit.” No phone number, no email, nothing (with the exception of an unforgettable moment).

Since then, the Atlanta-based artist, featured in NAP edition #82, has been exhibiting hip-hop self-portrait inspired work across the globe, including a current solo show at Dallas’s Conduit Gallery. I caught up with the artist last week to discuss his recent work. —Sam McKinniss, contributor

Baby Boi, 2010
Acrylic on canvas, 72 x 60 inches

SM: Could you briefly describe your new show, HARD 2 DEATH: Second Childhood, at Conduit?

Since 2009, I’ve been working on this concept called “HARD 2 DEATH,” which basically examines black male culture, particularly black male youth culture. It talks about some of the behaviors within the culture that are celebrated that, in some instances, began as a means of self-preservation, ultimately destructive behaviors. As a result I wrote an essay and I broke my ideas into about four suites of paintings. The first one which came out last year was called All Falls Down.

The second series, the one that’s on display right now in Dallas, is called “Second Childhood,” which takes its cues from looking at how older generations of black men often look at what the youth are doing and try to emulate that as opposed to setting the examples. So it’s kind of retroactive behavior that creates a really dizzying and sad state of manhood. It’s hard to tell who’s leading who. To comment on that, I exaggerated the idea by dressing up in children’s clothes and doing these poses—trying to maintain this look of toughness and a hard exterior, but dressed in kids’ pajamas.

Game Boi, 2010
Acrylic on canvas, 72 x 60 inches

The poses in these paintings remind me of Barkley Hendricks, and your use of text reminds me of Basquiat. I wonder if you get that a lot.

I actually credit Basquiat a lot in the way that I use text and language in my work. You know, in the beginning, I call that ‘style sampling.’ I kind of pull from sources of inspiration around me and I adapt them into a new vocabulary. Barkley Hendricks is definitely someone who really changed the way that I consider my paintings, or the way that I painted. I was doing this thing for a while when I first encountered Barkley Hendricks’s work, and just his painting style alone—it moved me to a completely different place. I am definitely influenced by those two, but also artists like David Hammons. Conceptually, his style and way of trickery is really poignant to me, and I like the idea of being able to play on people’s expectations and ideas in a similar kind of way that he does.

You seem to be constantly on a mission to expand your audience in and outside of the artworld. It’s almost like you operate like an evangelist or like a party promoter. It’s in your self-presentation when we see you in person or videos circulating online, and it’s in the painting itself. Is your studio a quiet working place, or is it literally like your offices? Like you’re the CEO and you have your corner office.

It varies. A lot of times I’m here by myself just painting, making, writing or whatever. But there are a lot of times when people just come and hangout. You know, I keep my studio open because I like the idea of community and collaboration in my process. If I finish a body of work, I’ll invite anywhere from 15 to 20 people over to my studio and critique it. It won’t just be artists, it’ll be artists and writers and the homeless guy off the street. It doesn’t really matter. I’m interested in how people receive the work. I’m always interested in how certain things will resonate with certain people and what that means in terms of the work. In terms of it being a headquarters, I don’t know if it’s necessarily that. It’s more of a hangout.

Men of Still, 2010
Acrylic on canvas, 66 x 54 inches

A lot of this kind of collaboration sounds specific to Atlanta’s creative community.

Atlanta definitely lends itself well to that. One of the things often criticized by the local art community here is that it exists in many ways without support or recognition from the higher institutions here. And so, as a result, the local community will rally in support of one another to try and get things happening.

What do you love about Atlanta?

The thing I love the most is that it is an affordable place to be. So, a financial struggle here is a very different struggle than say in New York or Chicago or something like that. And I also like the community here. I didn’t grow up here, but the person that I am today… I kind of grew up here. So, I feel really comfortable and I feel optimistic about what will happen here in the next 2 to 5 years in terms of the city’s growth, the artists who are here, and the kind of work that’s coming out of Atlanta.

Can you name some self-portraits from history that inspire you?

It’s funny you should ask that question. The body of work that I’m working on for a show coming up in New York is actually inspired by that. One of my very favorite self-portraits is Norman Rockwell’s triple self-portrait. I recently finished a homage piece to that portrait. Another one is Chuck Close’s self-portrait from 1967. It’s the huge black-and-white of him smoking a cigarette. That’s another favorite of mine. This series I’m working on is called “Art History Next” and basically I’m examining and appropriating famous self-portraits and reinterpreting them through my own prism. That show will be in New York in March at Lyons Wier Gallery.

WWSD&Y, 2010
Acrylic on canvas, 66 x 54 inches

I look forward to seeing that. Over the years of using yourself as a model, what have you been getting at, conceptually?

Essentially, even though they’re self-portraits, I always say they’re me but they’re not me. I use myself as an allegory to talk about an idea of the perception and perspectives on black masculinity. When people see these images, there are preconceived ideas about the rap guy or whatever it is they be. When they realize this is not a rap guy, this is actually the artist, and artists don’t normally present themselves like this—this guy doesn’t think or speak the way that somebody who looks like this would do—it kind of shakes people off of their foundations a little bit and it forces them to examine the work and examine the idea of black masculinity a little bit differently. That’s really what the whole thing is about.

That wasn’t something that I would say I consciously entered into the work doing, but as a result of doing the work over time and thinking about that question a lot, “why do you always paint yourself?” In the beginning, it was more about establishing myself or almost like throwing the middle finger up to the artworld. Just to say this is not what you would expect: it’s what I’m going to give you anyway.

And also a very strong sense of humor. There are obviously deeper underlying social questions going on, but what’s immediately appealing about your work is just the amount of fun you’re clearly having.

At the end of the day, you know, I’m a jokester.

Ambitions of a Rider, 2010
Acrylic on canvas, 84 x 66 inches

Fahamu Pecou was featured in edition #82 of New American Paintings. His solo show, HARD 2 DEATH: Second Childhood, is on view at Conduit Gallery in Dallas, TX through February 12. He will also be featured in a solo exhibition of his work in March at Lyons Wier Gallery, New York. Images courtesy the artist.

Sam McKinniss is an artist and writer based in Boston.

Saturday, January 29, 2011




Austin Parkhill’s paintings are gigantic. They are solitary moments of time. They are candid. They are photorealistic.

It was written that a negative contribution of the American frontier and its ideologies was the problem that “bigger” was being equated with “better”. Really, it was no wonder: what with all that wide-open land, the huge skies and the colossal, shining mountains and promise for an improved future. While we all know that “bigger” is not qualitatively akin to “better”, with Austin Parkhill’s work: Bigger is certainly better – certainly, it’s more profound.

A Colorado native now living in Boston, Parkhill’s works are humongous: sometimes 7 feet by 6 feet. Painting the kind of monstrous, breathtaking portraits that Parkhill does – at this scope: every pore, scar and zit are revealed. His work dwarfs your human size. His canvasses possess the kind of emotional momentum to magnify your own scars and humiliations; triumphs and losses. Standing in front of these kinds of canvases, I felt confused about smirking, grinning, or even chuckling. Things this big mean something else. Or do they?

His work hinges on the ethics of honesty in visual expression. Parkhill’s paintings begin as candid photographs. Snapshots. Real moments occupied by real people – 5 and a half or 6 foot people not primping or posing or in their best clothes and makeup. It’s the honesty of these sometimes-awkward moments, these real moments, that intrigues Parkhill.

How real can a painting get? Ask Parkhill’s girlfriend’s mother – she became the subject of one of his paintings. When she saw it – she wasn’t as fuzzy as you would think. It was too personal. Too real. She didn’t agree with her body’s lines – as Parkhill saw them to be.

But while his work is massive on the physical scale: there is a microscopic fantasy to it all that is best fleshed-out by the element of time.

Parkhill’s paintings can take him a hundred hours. Maybe even 150. With that much time spent looking at the same face(s), life sure must be bizarre. But no, he assured me: he’s not making eye contact with the photograph and painting as much as he is involved in small patches of the canvas. 8 inch squares. Small sections. Parts and pieces, not always the whole.

Austin Parkhill’s history is a bit atypical for most visual artists. For the bulk of his life he has been an athlete. He played hockey in the junior leagues out of high school. And you read it right: Parkhill isn’t a small kid. He’s a big boy. But don’t read it wrong: he isn’t some kind of dummy. On the converse, Parkhill is supremely articulate about his work, his process, his mediums – as well as other artist’s work. Our time together revealed one of the most eloquent, humble, knowledgeable and concerned artists that we have seen in the (p)ages of syntax.

Philosophically, Parkhill’s current body of work plays on the stodginess of the art world. But instead of playing into it, he retorts and creates a sense of humor. And you can see it, in the same way that you can see every pore of that pretty girl with the five foot face.

As for Parkhill’s future? Many would shrug. Say it’s bleak if portraiture is involved. Many would say Parkhill has found his legs in an antiquated form. Parkhill won’t completely disagree, citing the real possibility of painting the portraits of politicians, the wealthy – altogether stiff, staged people. But then, he will point toward the Smithsonian’s Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition – one he was a finalist in, in 2009 – where you will find progressive, provocative portraits. To this, Parkhill shrugs, ominously.

What’s left to do? Much. Many things. Maybe New York. He’s already represented by one of Denver’s best galleries: Plus. Maybe Miami? Whichever way, Parkhill knows that he will keep his eyes on 8” patches of canvas; and keep working. He wants to dive deeper into this current body of honesty. And honestly, he’s only getting better.

Moreover, Parkhill is committed. You can hear it in his voice. You can see it in his work. I assure you: One would have to possess a hockey man’s beating heart to be an Argonaut like this.

Keep your eyes on Parkhill’s mammoth work, here:

Thursday, January 20, 2011



It’s all about practice

Welcome to the final post in Howcast’s Modern 101 for Emerging Digital Filmmakers. On Friday, October 1, we kicked off our series with Embracing exploration: being a filmmaker today and today we’re wrapping up with a video co-produced with Tribeca Flashpoint Academy, How has the web changed film school? Over the course of our series, we shared breakfast with our Howcast Emerging Filmmakers and learned instant gratification is a huge benefit to being a web filmmaker; we offered up a digital roadmap for filmmakers; sat in onShooting People’s Ingrid Kopp’s Digital Bootcamp; talked with some producers about how the web is changing film festivals; and outlined one filmmaker’s plan of attack for distributing and promoting his short documentary. (Plus,lots more!) We felt it was fitting to end up at the beginning of a film career -- talking to current film students and professors about how the web complements a formal film education and how web filmmaking will fit into students’ careers after graduation. As the students at Tribeca Flashpoint Academy explain in their video, they watch hundreds of hours of web video each week and they upload regularly. The web is giving them a chance to learn how audiences respond to their ideas and their professors see it as a viable venue for quality work. This is exciting news for filmmakers everywhere. Whether you’re in school or not, the web’s vast network of videos, collaborators, and viewers is reachable within minutes. There has always been one thing about film school that can’t really be summed up in a course catalogue and a filmmaker can’t get working in a vacuum, and that’s the chance to fine tune your craft amongst other young creators and veteran professionals. Create, share, get feedback, create again. It’s all about practice. This chance to practice was really only previously available to a small few with the resources to access equipment and education. Thanks to technology, today a filmmaker anywhere -- in film school, in high school, or even a hobbyist -- can see an innovative video, be inspired to make their own, upload, and get insight from a worldwide community of filmmakers. To me, that’s been the most important lesson we shared in our blog series. Happy holidays and happy shooting!Heather Menicucci, Director, Howcast Filmmakers Program, recently watched “I Hope This Gets To You”.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Data Mining and Mapping: Eric Doversberger

Open Video: Ben Moskowitz

Collaborative Editing: Nonny de la Pena

Virtual Worlds: Rik Panganiban

Immersive Production: Peter Sung & Danfung Dennis

Gaming: Tony Walsh

Social Media; Jennifer Wilson

Mobile Tools: Mark Belinsky

Augmented Reality: Anselm Hook

Interactive Cinema: Kat Cizek

Friday, January 14, 2011


A University of Chicago scientist announced the discovery of a new dinosaur Thursday.

 Dr. Paul Sereno led a team of paleontologists who discovered the new species in Argentina. On Thursday, he showed off some of the real bones from the dinosaur, along with a model showing what it may have looked like.

The dinosaur has been named Eodromaeus, which means dawn runner because it comes from the earliest age of the dinosaurs, about 230 million years ago.

"We're not very far away, maybe three or four million years from that dinosaur eve that would look like eodromaeus, a two-legged animal, perhaps a carnivore, that would have been the first dinosaur to walk the planet," said Dr. Sereno.

The announcement was streamed live from Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy to two schools, including Haugen Elementary in Chicago. The students got to submit questions to Dr. Sereno.

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