Artist Lamar Robillard’s ‘Afrospirituality’ Show Centers Healing

Harmony Cardenas

At the root of conceptual artist Lamar Robillard’s interdisciplinary apply lies a essential ethos: resistance. Whether or not the Brooklyn indigenous is resisting oppressive modes of thinking, establishments within just the artwork earth, or individuals institutions in bigger modern society, Robillard utilizes his do the job as a way to obstacle mainstream notions of visibility, nonconformity, and spirituality—so considerably so, in truth, that the artist sees his work as a way to link with divinity. In his parts, Robillard engages generally with sculpture and assemblage, operating in the custom of artists like Betye Saar and David Hammons, to look at Black substance culture. He’s also focused on building reliable representations of Blackness in the absence of the Black entire body imbued with a spirit of resistance, his creative follow presents sort to the formless.

All of these principles are explored in Robillard’s debut solo exhibition, “Afrospirituality: Something Like a Phenomena,” on view through Might 27th at Hausen gallery in Bushwick, Brooklyn. In “Afrospirituality,” Robillard enacts an personal self-excavation grounded in his id as a Haitian-American artist. Curated by the gallery’s founder, Usen Esiet, the exhibition draws closely on West and Central African customs and traditions—most notably Kongo and Yoruba, which are the two recognized for their sturdy ties to Haitian culture. “Afrospirituality” also builds on strains of inquiry posed in Robillard’s 2021 MFA thesis show, “Soliloquy: Concealed Acts of Resistance in the Plight of Black Visibility,” and his residency at Jank Museum, arranged by the Centre for Afrofuturist Studies.

If Solar Ra Gave Me The Keys To His Spaceship, 2022. Incense, wood, enamel house paint, pantyhose, staples, cowrie shells. 37 x 37.5 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

On moving into the house in Brooklyn, I’m achieved with an set up referred to as From Slave Ships to Spaceships, which attributes a poem published by the artist himself named My Myths, and a stunning mixed-media assemblage titled If Sunlight Ra Gave Me The Keys To His Spaceship. I sit on a lower picket stool to browse the rhythmic textual content, at some point shifting my gaze upward toward the sculpture that appears to be like a hybrid of a spaceship and a dreamcatcher.

Placement Portray V: Soul(Ed) Across the Black Atlantic (With My Hues), 2022. Enamel home paint, African night time cleaning soap, U.S. currency and stocking on canvas, 48 x 72 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Placement Painting V: Soul(Ed) Throughout the Black Atlantic (With My Hues), Robillard’s major painting to date, prominently capabilities a complex community of layered sneaker marks from the sole of Nike Air Pressure Kinds in symbolic hues of blue, black, and brown. Robillard explains that the shades of brown characterize the variety of complexions on slave ships journeying across the Atlantic—while the blending of blues and blacks refers to the Black psyche, as described in Louis Armstrong’s song “(What Did I Do To Be So) Black & Blue?” The title of the portray also references W.E.B. Du Bois’s seminal function, “The Souls of Black People.” Sections of the painting are etched with thick coats of African evening cleaning soap, developing a heavily textured finish and nodding to Robillard’s exploration into healing and purifying.

A Prayer’s Shadow, 2022. Window, incense, nails, Holy Bible, charcoal and oil adhere on drawing paper. 30 x 38 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Throughout from the significant-scale portray lives a highly effective operate titled A Prayer’s Shadow, which Robillard states is his preferred in the present. Within just the frame of a white wooden window, an abstracted figure drawn from incense, charcoal, and oil stick features prominently a copy of the Bible rests ominously in the bottom ideal corner. The ghostly figure seems to be clinging to the Bible, calling to mind the sophisticated partnership in between African diasporic communities and Christianity.

The remaining centerpiece is a black and white monochrome print titled, The Bull’s Horns (Papa Legba), which exhibits a self-portrait of the artist. In the operate, Robillard frames himself as Papa Legba, a spirit in Haitian and West African faith who is explained as a trickster, as very well as the gatekeeper involving pure and supernatural realms. The artist states his embodiment of the character is a reflection of his resistance to the artwork technique.

The photograph also exists in a greater sequence titled, “Shadow Boxing” in which Robillard mulls sparring with his shadow self. Possessing an almost sculptural top quality in its composition, the function stands out as the only picture in the exhibition, marking a change for an artist who is ordinarily identified for his pictures.

The Bull’s Horns (Papa Legba), 2022. Monochrome print. 35.5 x 47 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Potentially most importantly, the photograph exists as a resounding expression of self-assertion from Robillard. “I believe about [this photo] as a illustration of a power determine,” curator Esiet says. “Lamar is chatting about African spirituality, reclaiming our own feeling of self, recognizing and celebrating our indigenous identification. This is element of stepping into that electric power.”

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