At the Sargent Johnson Gallery in The African American Art and Cultural Complex, East Bay art collective Black Diamonds Shining presents The Black Futurists: Black Progressive Thought to Science Fiction, an exhibit that seeks to honor the icons and ideas that built a groundbreaking interpretation of a hybridization of cultural fixtures.
In 1995, a seminal essay called “Black to the Future,” introduced a formerly foreign phrase into our cultural lexicon with the term Afrofuturism. Employing science-fiction writers like Octavia Butler and Samuel R. Delany as a starting point, author Mark Dery illuminated a world where mythos and madness meet method, resulting in the powerful expression of past, progress and, at times, politics.
Today Afrofuturism or Black Futurism is no longer just a theoretical concept or a hypothetical construct. It is a movement marked by the emergence of forward-reaching artists of color reclaiming their heroes from the past and reconstructing their interpretations of the future, combining them with the advancements of science fiction and technology to create a visual narrative of the genius of black creatives.
Curated by Melanin Buford, the vibrant exhibit combines the kaleidoscopic of talents — including Ras Terms, Dead Eyes, Safety First, Ash Rose, Antjuan Jones, and Brooks Golden with their black futurist sensibilities — to create an explosion of color and stream of consciousness.
The themes within the show vary from self-knowledge to spiritual enlightenment, shown in Ras Term's stern-faced Lee “Scratch” Perry, to sensuous and funky with pieces like Ash Rose's gorgeous Betty Davis.
The walls shout directions, suggestions, secrets, answers, questions, riddles, and rhymes. An endless stream of groundbreaking icons like Bootsy Collins, Grace Jones, Rammellzee, Nina Simone, Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton, and Sun Ra (to name just a few) are strewn along the multicolored walls alongside cassettes, VHS tapes, and vinyl.
With quotes leaping off the wall, omniscient eyes and talks of arks, bottle caps and odes to Basquiat, Black Diamonds Shining links the past to the future with vivid imagery and respectful retrospection. This collection is a feast for the eyes, a smorgasbord of delight and striking depth, managing to be both cerebral and representational.