Umar Rashid "On God" @ Blum and Poe, Los Angeles
You can't say that Umar Rashid just makes paintings. In his name, there is something deeper and more encompassing of theater. He came into the art world as we knew him, Frohawk Two Feathers, creating historical paintings with slight nods to pop and contemporary culture. His essays and writings on his works felt like history books, with a sort of fantastical sci-fi element to them as well. Even in his podcast with us on Radio Juxtapoz earlier this summer (listen below), he was transforming history into a reality we hadn't quite heard before, all the while making characters come alive that his paintings would then depict.
Now, he is having his big LA debut, even though he has been in LA for years and shown around the megacity. But no, he is Umar Rashid cleary now, and En Garde/On God at Blum and Poe feels like an artist at the height of his creative powers. For this show, Rashid goes deeper into his fictitious history of the Frenglish Empire (1648-1880), a series he has spent almost 15 years creating and perfecting and crumbling and building and nurturing. There is a map in his mind about where our history comes from, and an even more elaborate and special way of letting us all know where it takes us. It's not so much a re-imagining of history but a new of reading it, of being able to convey how we are still in the midst of our past mistakes.
Gregory Pierrot, Associate Professor of English at the University of Connecticut at Stamford, wrote of the show, "You will hear familiar accents in its tales of heroism and petty opportunism; in its portraits of heroes and villains—bloodthirsty, gold-hungry colonizers and the religious officials who absolve them; former imperial soldiers finding in alliances with indigenous rebels the true meaning of freedom; peasant women forced into lives of vengeance and violence; hapless rulers killed in their sleep and the nameless masses who cheer the deed. The artifacts, the battle-worn flags, the ancient maps: the remains of days that, though they never were, will make you wonder how much you actually know about those that have been. And why."
This is a pivotal moment in history in so much that we are aware of time eating itself and repeating. Rashid is authoring the meal. —Evan Pricco