Visual Arts Review
“Fahamu Pecou: Whirl Trade”
Through Jan. 9. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays. Get This! Gallery, 662 11th St. 678-596-4451, www.getthisgallery.com.
The bottom line: Fahamu Pecou has got the goods. An Atlanta artist to watch.
By Catherine Fox
A few years ago, Fahamu Pecou made a grand entrance posing as a preening hip-hop archetype in bravura performances.
The Atlanta artist featured his testosterone-oozing persona in his paintings of faux covers of real art magazines. The target: the stereotypes of black masculinity and the role of branding and media hype in fomenting them.
The distorted media characterizations and crippling self-image of the African-American male have engaged artists and thinkers for generations. Nevertheless, Pecou has found his own distinctive approach.
The paintings effectively commingle slick and street. Pecou offsets the technical skills evident in his portraiture and painterly touch with a graffiti-style scrawl. The phrases he letters over the image, taken from music lyrics, popular culture and his own writings, comment on or augment it.
His now-familiar face and asymmetrical pyramidal hairstyle is a stand-in for every(young)man who internalizes the tough-guy persona or projects it as self-preservation. The magazine-cover conceit – shorthand for “this is what popular culture and media thinks is important, and will sell” – continues to serve as a flexible platform for his ideas.
In “Whirl Trade,” his exhibition at Get This! Gallery, Pecou takes it global. When Pecou went to South Africa on a Fulton County Arts Council fellowship at the Caversham Centre in 2008, he discovered that his vision of the African people was a fantasy.
What a shock it was to turn on the TV and see Africans dressing and acting just like him. He also discovered that Africans had absorbed the hip-hop culture America had exported, and not always to the good. As he says, “We have the microphone; what are we choosing to say?”
The series represents the process of absorbing his mind-expanding experience in Africa and a sense of trans-Atlantic brotherhood as well as his concern about the distorted cultural messages on both sides.
In “Whirl Ni**a Laws/Lost,” his scowling alter ego lolls on a chair like an African king. Flanked by two statuesque women dressed in the American Afrocentric clothing that he didn’t find in Africa, he grabs his crotch and a microphone cord in his hand.
But Pecou deflates the bravado symbolically. The mike dangles limply on a loose cord. He repeats the move and makes the point more overtly in “Role Model Citizen.”
Unlike past work, these are painted in blacks, whites and grays. A nod to the photos of Malick Sidibé, who began chronicling Malian youth culture in the ’60s, the grisaille was also an artistic challenge he clearly relished. “Role Model” is particularly lush, with its dense patterns and gold and pink lettering.
Now five years into this journey and still growing artistically and conceptually, Pecou is an artist to watch.
Catherine Fox blogs about art and architecture at www.ArtsCriticAtl.com.