Ramis Barquet Gallery in Chelsea currently has on view Standards, the first solo exhibition of New Orleans-born artist, Rashaad Newsome. The exhibit features collage, sculpture, and a video work by Newsome that examine "the visual language of power and status, juxtaposing high and low references to challenge received notions of social protocol and hierarchy" (from the show's press release).
The first thing you notice when stepping into the gallery is Ice Grill (2009), tall,ornate, shiny, aluminum/chrome gates similar to those found at the entrance of posh estates and/or mansions. Hanging on the walls are Newsome's vibrant, colorful collages created with imagery culled from "discarded music magazines and auction catalogues." By combining images of gaudy, over-the-top jewelry, luxury cars, fashion brands/logos, bikini-clad women, the artist "fashions the coats-of-arms of a bling-centric culture, elevating 'ghetto' imagery to the highest status level." In a back room The Conductor (Fortuna Imperatrix Mundi) and The Conductor (Primo Vere, Omnia Sol Temperat) (2005-2009) are screened. These are the "first and second parts of an ambitious 6 part video installation that sets Carl Orff's Carmina Burana against a video montage of expressive hand gestures, extracted from popular rap videos, and a musical background of hip-hop beats," making it appear that the array of hip-hop stars and rappers are conducting the musical piece.
While the video is amusing and the collages are bold, lively, and packed with detail, I felt that it all just regurgitates stereotypes of blinged-out hip-hop culture and doesn't challenge, dispel, or transcend these notions or add any insight. Standards felt a bit like watching an episode of MTV's Cribs - an entertaining yet superficial and meaningless peek into a status and wealth-obsessed world. Learn more about Rashaad Newsome: Standards at Ramisbarquet.com. Check out the artist's website at Rashaadnewsome.com. Through November 25th.