Magic, Mystery & Legerdemain: Derek Fordjour Explores Black Herman and the Power of the Mystical
In order to get a context for the immersive, performative and historical exhibition that Derek Fordjour just opened at David Kordansky in Los Angeles, this quote from our Spring 2022 cover story with the artist stands out: "Consider an analogy. Painting is the heartbeat of my creative body. My interest in other media: sculpture, performance, film, are limbs that share a lifeline directly to painting. In addition, I have also consumed lots of theater and literature. I enjoy travel a great deal also, and all these things feed into one another. Building an exhibition affords me the opportunity to engineer an experience that percolates with the same dynamic vitality that inspires me. It’s how my mind and creative body work together and when you’re in my show, hopefully you can feel my process as well."
I thought this was important as to what you will see in Magic, Mystery & Legerdemain, Fordjour's brilliant new show of paintings, sculpture and full-on conceptual magic show. Fordjour is taking our hand and walking us through history, and in the same breath, he's creating a future. That the show starts with magician Black Herman, and the same of the show comes from the1938 autobiographical book Black Herman’s Secrets of Magic, Mystery and Legerdemain, and then ends with Magic Johnson and the birth of what we call the era of "Showtime," Fordjour isn't just talking about "magic" but a history of performance, escapism, folklore, entertainment and the price of freedom. It's a stunning mixture of an installation space, at times raw and DIY and others a sense of deep historical research and emotional outputs.
The standout piece, the 35-foot long Meu Povo depicting a Carnival parade touches on all of the concepts that Fordjour is exploring. That you have to wander past the piece as if you are there, a procession like experience in the gallery, shows just how immersive the artist intended your experience to be. Through May 7, the show will also be accompanied by magic performances by Kenrick “ICE” McDonald occurring daily at 2 PM Tuesdays through Saturdays, again showcasing a sense of immersion and concept that Fordjour is creating: you are enveloped in a particular vision and that vision allows for an escapist dream and distance. You are also beholden to question what is real and what is fantasy, what your beliefs are as a performance and art is being played out in front of you. Fordjour is playing on a different level now, and like a magician or even the heights of Showtime, it's something new that we have never seen before. —Evan Pricco