You obviously take the practice of creating art seriously, and on one level, critique is really important to keep art relevant. But at the same time, your critiques, especially Art Thoughtz, touch upon exactly what seems silly or irrelevant about Modern and Contemporary art. How do you maintain this balance?
Making art/stuff is the only thing I know how to do. So even if I ridicule it, that ridicule comes from a place of deep love and engagement. I think people should understand that if someone spends time engaging in a critical battle with a thing, they are tethered to that thing. What is Batman without Joker? What is Seinfeld without Newman?
What is the role of language in your work, especially the relationship between slang and jargon?
Language is a massive part of my work. Too Black for BET and Black Like Me are bodies of writing. Even my paintings Barack Obama Battles the Pink Robots and other visual works begin with phrases that dictate what the paintings will end up being. The works of Halcyon Days began as a joke I made in a Tumblr post about Coogis that I decided to carry over into the creation of my first fiber work. Everything begins with words for me. Words, phrases, and narratives come before picture and form for me.
What about slang vs. jargon in Hennessy Youngman videos specifically? One thing that strikes me about them is how part of the humor in the videos, unfortunately, is hearing someone decked out in chains and Coogi sweaters explaining Relational Aesthetics.
In terms of the vacillation between slang and jargon, I mean, this isn’t something new to blacks. Black people and other people of color exist within multiple worlds; they’re hybrid cultural citizens who develop methods of speech in order to traverse the white man’s world while still maintaining the voice of their own culture. It’s a survival tactic that precedes me by a vast amount of years.
I only recently realized that it’s been about a year since the last Art Thoughtz was recorded. Was it a conscious choice to stop filming? Do you think Hennessy will be back?
Yes, it was a conscious choice to stop. I honestly get bored pretty quickly, so the Hennessy project became personally unfulfilling after doing it for [two] years. The joy in that project was not knowing what I was doing; once I figured it out I knew I’d stop. And besides, I enjoy making art, not being an art pundit. I’m not cut out for that shit. It would just be pure hell to me to be an art critic. Jerry, Roberta, how the fuck do you do guys do it? Not that one can’t be a critic and an artist, but that split lifestyle isn’t for me. I much prefer the sloppy, dumb, pig-headed, Wile E. Coyote-running-out-over-the-cliff’s-edge, path of being an artist.