Public Talk: February 20, 5:30 PM in Schermer Meeting Hall
Umar Rashid was born in 1976 in Chicago, Illinois, and currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He earned his BA at Southern Illinois University in 2000 Rashid has created a narrative focusing on the colonial history of the Frenglish Empire—a fictionalized empire of his creation that combines France and England. His portraits, drawings, flags, maps, battle scenes, and other artifacts continue the long history of Frengland—an ongoing project Rashid began working on in 2006. In Rashid’s history, the dates of the Frenglish Empire (1658-1880) roughly correspond to the actual English Civil War and the abolition of slavery in Brazil respectively. Ten years in the making and spanning almost 140 years of Frenglish time, Rashid’s global empire has developed a complex, global history, much like the trajectory of actual colonial enterprises. Similarly, his work references a panoply of cultures that collapses geography and time. Stylistically, Rashid alludes to Egyptian hieroglyphs, Native American hide paintings and ledger art, Persian miniature painting, and illustrated Spanish colonial manuscripts to name but a few.
Rashid’s compelling cast of characters are diverse and often of mixed race and ethnicity. His world is not guided by simplistic dichotomies of white and black, master and slave, captor and captive, but challenges viewers to consider the range of humanity involved in a global empire. Thus, his people of color are just as likely to be heroes as villains, revealing the duplicity and complicity of these individuals but also acknowledging their agency as historical actors. The lengthy, sometimes humorous, titles of Rashid’s works often reference hip-hop song lyrics, urban expressions, and current events. The artist intentionally strives to bridge the gap between contemporary popular culture and “official” history, which often seems like a distant, untouchable past especially for many young people today. By making history relatable, Rashid reminds us of the cyclical nature of history and universality of the human condition.
Los Angeles-based artist, storyteller, history buff, musician, and poet Umar Rashid (Frohawk Two Feathers) was born in 1976 in Chicago. He earned a BA at Southern Illinois University in 2000. Recent solo exhibitions include: New Image Art Gallery, West Hollywood, CA; Galerie Cokkie Snoei, Rotterdam, Netherlands; Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY; Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT; Morgan Lehman Gallery, New York, NY; Narwhal Projects, Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, NV; Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, Summit, NJ; Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College, Clinton, NY; Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, CO; Heiner Contemporary, Washington, DC; Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town, South Africa; Taylor De Cordoba Gallery, Los Angeles, CA. Recent group exhibitions include: Johannes Vogt Gallery, Southampton, NY; Subliminal Projects, Echo Park, CA; Avenue 50 Studio, Los Angeles, CA; The Armory Center for the Arts, Pasadena, CA; Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, OH; Kentucky Museum of Art and Craft, Louisville, KY; Torrance Art Museum; Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Santa Barbara, CA.
Rashid’s work is in the collections of the 21C Museum, Brooklyn Museum, Conseil Regional de la Guadeloupe, Hudson River Museum, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, Nevada Museum of Art, Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art at Hamilton College, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, among others. Rashid’s work has been reviewed in numerous publications including Art in America, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times.