Combining urban culture with art historical references, Rashaad Newsome’s ICON uses the motif of a Cuban link chain to re-create the architecture of the choir vault at Lincoln’s Cathedral in London as a digital space where dancers interact. Newsome’s video practice is a continuation of his research on and long-standing engagement with African American and Latino LGBTQ communities, in particular vogue performance, a vernacular, underground dance form inspired by the angular fashion poses in Vogue magazine that originated in the Harlem ballroom scene of the 1960s. In these balls, participants belonging to different houses “walk” to compete for prizes and are judged for their “realness”—their ability to pass as a certain gender or social class. As a choreographer, participant, and member of the voguing community, Newsome takes a particular interest in vogue femme, exploring its five movements—catwalk, duckwalk, hands, floorwork, and spins and dips—as a form of cultural production. An ever-evolving dance form that has now acquired global status through social media, voguing is an affirmation of difference and resistance, and a celebration of life by LGBTQ communities against oppression, violence, and marginalization.
Rashaad Newsome is a multidisciplinary artist whose work blends collage, sculpture, video, music, computer programming, and performance. Best known for his visually stunning collages housed in custom frames, Newsome is deeply invested in how images used in media and popular culture communicate distorted notions of power. Using the equalizing force of sampling, he crafts compositions that surprise in their associative potential and walk a tightrope between intersectionality, social practice, and abstraction.
Newsome lives and works in New York. He was born in 1979 in New Orleans, where he received a BFA in art history at Tulane University in 2001. In 2004 he received a certificate of study in digital postproduction from Film/Video Arts Inc., New York. In 2005 he studied MAX/MSP programming at Harvestworks Digital Media Arts Center, New York. He has exhibited and performed in galleries, museums, institutions, and festivals throughout the world, including the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Washington, DC; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Brooklyn Museum; MoMA PS1, Long Island City, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the New Orleans Museum of Art; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Garage Center for Contemporary Culture, Moscow; and MUSA, Vienna. Newsome’s work is in numerous public collections, including the Studio Museum in Harlem; the Whitney Museum of American Art; the Brooklyn Museum of Art; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the New Britain Museum of American Art, Connecticut. In 2010 he participated in the Whitney Biennial, and in 2011 Greater New York at MoMA PS1. His many honors and awards for his work include the 2017 Rush Arts Gold Rush Award, the 2014 Headlands Center for the Arts Visiting Artist Residency, a 2011 Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award, a 2010 Urban Artist Initiative Individual Artist Grant, and a 2009 Rema Hort Mann Foundation Visual Arts Grant.
In a time of embedded lives and networked culture, where the screen acts as a mediator between the self and perceived reality, technology has ostensibly become an extension of the body, changing our relationship to space, ourselves, and others. Digital Bodies is a one-year program that features videos by artists who use and manipulate digital technologies—mainly computer-generated images, signs, and systems sourced from digital platforms—to reflect on how these technologies have impacted our everyday lives and changed the ways we relate to the world. Given our current state of constant digital expansion and acceleration, these works express the pervasiveness and indispensability of digital culture in shaping our daily interactions.
Digital Bodies is organized by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and curated by Carla Acevedo-Yates and Steven L. Bridges, Assistant Curators. Support for this exhibition is provided by the Alan and Rebecca Ross Endowed Exhibition Fund and the MSU Broad’s general exhibitions fund.