“Functionality and style,” is how artist L. Kasimu Harris would describe his joint exhibit, “A New Cool,” at Southside Gallery. The reception for this exhibit is tonight from 5-8 p.m. The gallery is showcasing this art until Nov. 2.
Both artists will attend the reception, and it is open to the public.
Harris is accompanied by his friend and colleague Vitus Shell for this joint exhibit. Both are visual artists from Louisiana and use the South in their art to convey their experiences as African Americans. The two met in graduate school at Ole Miss in 2005 and have been collaborating since.
Harris and Shell both use their art to address problems within their community and depict non-stereotypical members within their community as what they perceive as “A New Cool.”
“We have all of these stereotypes that exist,” Shell said. “And black folks can only be so many people, we can only be these three things. You know, and I think that’s a problem that exists and with my work I tried to expand that narrative.”
Harris and Shell’s art differ in the media they use. Harris uses photography, while Shell creates mixed media pieces through paints and collages.
The exhibit name, “A New Cool,” is inspired by Christian Scott’s jazz piece. Harris and Shell took inspiration from this song for the collection because of the music’s nature. The “New Cool” being demonstrated through the art and music are what the duo described as pushing narratives and ideas of their community.
“That’s our kind of goal and what we’re doing without work,” Shell said. “Still dealing with the black experience, dealing with issues in the black community, but kind of like dealing with them in a new way.”
Harris and Shell hope that their exhibit will draw college students as well as locals to encourage them to challenge their narratives and read between the lines. Shell said that his art’s goal is to play with things people often don’t realize, but are a part of everyone’s lives. Harris wants the art to challenge the audience’s comfort zones.
“Some of it may be subtle, some of it may be indirect in my challenging of that narrative,” Harris said. “So it may look like a pretty picture. I believe, particularly within my artistic practice, that sometimes things that are communicated with a shout is sometimes with a whisper. It’s really about challenging that whole narrative. That dichotomous relationship that America has to blackness.”
Despite this not being the artists first return back to Oxford, it is their first time showing an exhibit at Southside together. Both artists have shown at the gallery during graduate school and frequently together outside of Mississippi. Harris commented that he occasionally revisits his alma mater for work or for events.
Shell described showing members of the black community as being elegant and unbothered, which the duo is stressing through their art.
This exhibit will be shown again next year in New Orleans.