Tag Archives: ARTNOIR

AMBER ROBLES-GORDON in Ahlem Baccouche and ARTNOIR’s Larry Ossei-Mensah “From: Friends, To: Friends”

5 Feb

From: Friends, To: Friends Nov 27 Part 2: On The Journey

 in article

Ahlem Baccouche in conversation with Larry Ossei-Mensah on his journey into the art world, his stance on diversity, and much more. 

IMG_0223.jpg

Leveraging the power of art as an agent for social change and cultural transformation is the mission of ARTNOIR’s co-founder, art critic and international curator Larry Ossei-Mensah, whose latest initiative invites people to become agents of change in the art industry.  

In the first part of this interview, Larry expanded on his partnership with Artsy for the ARTNOIR From: Friends To: Friends Benefit Auction, which aimed to raise funds for the newly launched ARTNOIR Jar of Love Funda microgrant initiative intended to provide relief for artists, curators, and cultural workers of colour.  

In this second part, we discuss Larry’s journey into the art world, his views on diversity, his upcoming projects and advice on leading an authentic life.  

Ahlem Baccouche: I’m always curious about the journey that led people to their current position, as life is never a linear path. What was your journey like?  

Larry Ossei-Mensah: My starting point in terms of art and business was in high school, where I did internships at record labels like Epic and Columba Records from my junior year all the way through university. I wanted to be a record man, I wanted to be Diddy. That experience gave me my first exposure to the intersection of art and business. The art being music as a form of expression, but also music as a commodity: how it can be packaged, marketed, distributed and consumed.  

That foundationally informs my thinking. When I think about an exhibition that I’m doing, I see it like an album release. How do I build content around a show that will be different than just a press release and an email blast? A good example of that would be the Phillips Auction conversation with Tremaine Emory, we used it not only as a space to talk about art, but also social justice and other issues currently impacting society.  

I eventually realized that the music industry wasn’t for me, and worked a bit in marketing and advertising before going to Switzerland to complete a Masters at Les Roches. My mother worked in the hospitality industry for about thirty – thirty five years at the Waldorf Astoria, so there was always a romance of opening a hotel or something similar one day, as it’s an industry that I grew up in. That is something I still want to do in the long term.  

Studying at Les Roches and being exposed to a truly international student body shifted my thinking about humanity and how we engage with each other. It taught me how to really value people, relationships, and perspectives that were different from mine. Just because you have two people from the same city, like New York, doesn’t mean they’ll get on. We can have very different experiences. My time at Les Roches also afforded me an opportunity to travel and explore Europe. As a graduate student, I didn’t have a lot of discretionary income, so I found things that were free and, a lot of the time, that would be museums.  

The American education system makes you believe that there wasn’t a presence of Black people in Europe throughout history. However, by going to these museums in Europe, to a place like Florence’s Uffizi Galleries, and discovering paintings of Black people, even if they’re mixed, was mind blowing. That afro, is undeniable.  

That exposure started an inquiry into who’s telling the narrative of the Black diaspora experience? Who’s controlling the story? So much is hidden from us or recontextualized. For example, one of Sicily’s patron saint is of African descent, Saint Benedict the Black, there are murals of this guy all over Palermo. It’s not a hidden secret, but it’s not openly discussed. I began this inquiry and started taking photographs as a way to document these experiences and began to exhibit these images when I moved back to the states. I exhibited a little, but quickly realized that being a photographer wasn’t my journey. After that epiphany,  I started writing about art and that’s when I noticed that there weren’t enough platforms for artists of colour to have their work be seen, discussed and purchased.  

This was over ten years ago, before it became in vogue. The ability to recognize that and be invested in it fully has allowed me to build a lot of relationships, which was the backstory behind the foundation of ARTNOIR. Knowing artists at the beginning of their career and having a decade-long relationship with them, whether I’ve shown their art or not, provided a spark plug for rich dialogue and collaboration with these artists. Moreover, building those relationships over time helped me shift and expand my thinking about contemporary art.  

Click here to read the entire article:

https://www.madeinbed.co.uk/agents-of-change/from-friends-to-friends-part-2-on-the-journey

Screen Shot 2020-12-03 at 10.18.35 PM.png

Temples of My Familiars R Squared Triangular Fractals, The Yin and Yang Over Color Theory by Amber Robles-Gordon. Image credit: Amber Robles-Gordon website.

 AB: What projects are you currently working on?  

LOM: I will be co-curating the 7th Athens Biennale with OMSK Social Club, which has been rescheduled for Spring 2021.  

I’m doing a show in Rome in November as part of a series of exhibitions called Parallels and Peripheries. The show in Miami included only women artists. In Detroit, we looked at the intersection of Art, Technology, and Nature. In Maryland, the theme was about migration and immigration, and it included first generation immigrant artists. The show in Rome is called Fragments and Fractals and is held at Galleria Anna Marra (a 3D viewing is available). 

We’ll be thinking about fractals as a mathematical concept, the potential to repeat infinitely, and exploring the idea of fragmentation when thinking about layered identities. As an example, I’m Black; I’m African American; I’m also Ghanaian; I’m a New Yorker; I come from a working class background; I’m a male. We try to look at the different layers that compose a person, not just from an identity standpoint, but also from a practice standpoint. 

The show includes six Black artists: Kim DacresKenturah DavisBasil KincaidNate LewisDavid Shrobe and Kennedy Yanko. They all work with different mediums such as sculpture, photography, drawing and painting. It will be the first show in Italy for some of them. Just think about the social climate in Italy, particularly for Black folks. How do we use the exhibition as a platform to key in on those things? I also highlight that the fact that we’re Black does not mean that we’re a monolith. We’re very vast and very diverse in our experiences, our thinking and our creative approach.    

Next, I have a show at the American University in 2021 with Amber Robles Gordon, an Afro Puerto Rican artist based in DC. It will be a solo show of just abstract work, which is exciting for me, because I don’t think I’ve done a solo presentation of just abstraction. So I seize this opportunity to educate myself on movements like the Washington Color School and look at artists like Alma Thomas more closely.  

It’s also interesting to mine this layer of the diasporas: so thinking about the African diaspora experience from a Latin perspective, but then also from an American perspective, because the artist grew up in the United States as well. 

Lastly, I’m toying around with the idea of writing a pocket book on my experience in the art world. I gave a lecture with Oolite Art at Anderson Ranch called “Lead with the Hustle.” I describe my journey, but also talk about things that I’ve recognized that I believe not only artists, but all people should be aware of.  

From storytelling, to relationship management, professionalism, likeability and how to operate on a professional level consistently. It’s about how to work within the art world from a business standpoint and think about storytelling through your work. What is your story? If I was doing an article on you, what would that story look like? Why do you do what you do? 

AB: Are there any artists, curators, businesses, colleagues, or organizations whose work you admire and would like to highlight?  

LOM: In terms of curators, Okwui Enwezor of course. I’m following many curators who are doing a lot of incredible work internally and externally. Among them are Meg Olni from ICA Philadelphia, Erin Christoval from the Hammer Museum and Osei Bonsu at Tate Modern.  

I like what SAVVY Contemporary is doing in Berlin. In terms of fashion, I love what Pyer Moss is doing. They just released a sneaker of which the proceeds will go towards The Innocence Projects.  

AB: Any favourite advice, resources or tips you’d like to share?  

LOM: It goes back to the pillars: really understand why it is you’ve chosen to work within the arts. I think that understanding the why, for me, informs everything else. It’s going to inform where you’ll choose to work; it’s going to inform your values. I recommend this book called Start with Why.  

Cultivate meaningful relationships. The art world in particular, is about human connection. You’ll know a lot of people, but how many of those people are meaningful relationships where you can pick up the phone and call if you have a question, or an issue. How many of those people would you invite over to your home for dinner?  

Branch out. Build a support system. This is going to be a journey and you need people from different spectrums. When we think about mentorship, it’s always kind of thinking of an old wise person, and that’s antiquated. We need to change the way we think about mentorship, as it doesn’t necessarily have to be with an older, wiser person. I think peer mentorship is just as valuable.  

In terms of books, Never Eat Alone is a great book about relationship building. Some people will call it networking, I prefer “relationships” as “networking” feels more transactional. Who Moved My Cheese is a good one to adapt to change. Collecting Contemporary by Adam Lindemann, particularly for artists who want to get a snapshot of the industry. The Hard Things About Hard Things is a business book coming from an honest perspective. Usually, when you hear about a business, you only hear about the success. You don’t hear about the pitfalls, running out of money, being broke and the resilience that it takes. Being an artist is not easy, so you need to make sure to have the tools and the support to navigate the ebbs and flows of this journey. 

And my final tip: Stay true to yourself.

Source: https://www.madeinbed.co.uk/agents-of-change/from-friends-to-friends-part-2-on-the-journey Tags: Larry Ossei-MensahARTNOIRAmber Robles GordonAhlem BaccoucheMadeinbedmagazinePeter Williams ExhibitionOkwui EnwezorMeg OlniErin ChristovalOsei BonsuOolite ArtAnderson RanchWashington Color SchoolAlma ThomasSotheby’s Institute of Art

Available artwork by AMBER ROBLES-GORDON

Morton Fine Art, 52 O St NW #302, Washington, DC 20001

http://www.mortonfineart.com