On June 7th, a group of us had the pleasure of hearing Rahmaan Statik speak about his artistry and his current exhibition, "Coltan". The talk went on well past our scheduled time as the questions kept flowing while Statik passionately addressed his feelings on what it means to be an artist.
Statik's inspiration behind "Coltan" goes back to the Black Exploitation film, "Coffy", and Pam Grier's portrayal of the female vigilante. Statik is frustrated with media's frequent exploitation and objectification of the African American woman. As main characters within "Coltan", he presents these women from a liberating point of view, as they possess the strength and power frequently demonstrated by the female stars of Black Exploitation films. He understands that art is subjective and that some viewers may choose to view his portrayal of women as further objectification as they become painted representations of our need to acquire wealth, power and status. However, Statik is clear about his intention and leaves it up to the viewer to draw their own opinions.
Through this female character, Statik creates a consistency throughout the work that addresses global free trade, technology, consumerism and the tragic beauty of the modern African American cultural identity in relation to the mining of the black gold, Coltan*. His passionate drive to portray women in this way comes from the inspirational females in his life whom he respects: mother, sister, wife, aunts, artists. He feels it's important to capture their spirit through his work as opposed to their pure physicality.
In a world where "...there's constant inflation, work wages are low and conspiracies are now protocol...", says Statik, an exhibition such as this is relevant and necessary. "There's no conspiracy to greed as our means to an end is not just," says Statik. We continue to use cell phones as companies continue to market the next best one to get, when, in the end, the phones die and end up in a landfill. It is important to look at where they started and where they end up. Statik is calling us to address this issue and create awareness of the lives that are lost to put these devices into our hands.
Statik's drive to create what's in his well-known murals and in the galleries, is to have a message behind the work. His intention is to make the world a better place. He wants us to see the work and have the work speak for itself. Statik vows to not be predictable and for each new body of work to be better than the last.
When asked what's next, Statik said that the next edition of this body of work will be based on the plot of "Coltan"; this current exhibition is just the introduction.
"Coltan" is on exhibition through June 28th at Elephant Room in the South Loop neighborhood of Chicago. A closing reception will be held on the 28th from 7 to 10pm.
*Mined in the Eastern Congo, coltan is a vital component in cell phone electronic circuits and therefore is an essential yet overlooked part of our everyday lives. The brutality of the coltan trade has been documented through various media sources as the abuse of the people of the Congo continues.
-Kimberly L. Atwood
Director of Elephant Room, Inc.