By Rosalind Bentley / firstname.lastname@example.org
From his early works until now, Atlanta artist Fahamu Pecou has always explored the intersection of hip-hop culture and fine art.
And as guest editor of the current “Art x Hip Hop” issue of Art Papers magazine, Pecou has brought together some of the nation’s up-and-coming artists, scholars and MCs to explore topics from appropriation of black style to a meditation on rapper Kendrick Lamar. On Feb. 24, Pecou expands the “Art Papers” project with “InterSessions: ArtxHip-Hop Dialogues,” a conversation between rapper T.I. (Clifford Harris, Jr.) and Michael Rooks, High Museum curator of modern and contemporary art. It’s the first of a series, moderated by Pecou, that will bring together some of Atlanta’s top hip-hop artists and notable arts figures. It is free, though tickets are limited.
The inaugural event, which was sold out, was postponed by Atlanta’s SnowJam a couple of weeks ago. It was to have happened just days after Macklemore and Ryan Lewis beat out favorite Kendrick Lamar in the rap category and took home four Grammys. It was a win that vexed Pecou. In it he saw a reward for a mainstream version of rap that seemed more a parody of the genre’s origins than a homage to its creators.
“Let’s be honest, hiphop was created by and was a tool for black and brown people who were socially and politically oppressed,” Pecou said. “It was a way not to be rendered voiceless. Now, if you’re not paying attention, you’d think they didn’t create hip hop. I just think it’s important to recognize the source.”
Whether that is actually the case, it is just the sort of argument Pecou plans to explore in the “Intersessions” series.
Since the birth of rap music and hip hop culture in the 1970s, the music and visual arts have always intersected, starting with graffiti and video. Pecou’s paintings, drawings and music, have long nestled in that intersection. Usually depicting his young, black, male alter ego, Pecou’s work critiques stereotypes of urban manhood while also seeming to embrace them. His work was shown in last year’s “Drawing Inside the Perimeter,” exhibition at the High.
But even as rap and hip hop moved to the mainstream and its visual representations moved into high-end galleries and museums, the demographic groups that created the genre did not typically follow into those fine art spaces.
Studies in the museum field have shown that African Americans and Latinos who have not reached the middle class often cite a perceived barrier to visiting museums, that they are places in which they don’t feel comfortable. Pecou is not the first black artist to try to bring non-traditional audiences into major museums. “InterSessions” is one of several such projects Pecou has initiated to make under-served audiences feel comfortable in fine art galleries and museums. And to see their lives represented on the walls of those institutions.
If we don’t own the conversation, somebody else will,” Pecou said.
“InterSessions: Art x Hip-Hop Dialogues,” a conversation between rapper T.I. and Michael Rooks, High Museum curator of modern and contemporary art, moderated by artist Fahamu Pecou
7 p.m., Feb. 24, free, Rich Theatre of the Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree St., Atlanta. Free. Tickets limited, reserve at www.woodruffcenter.org or 404-733-5000