Solange Knowles and Toyin Ojih Odutola Cover Cultured Mag’s Debut Art & Music Issue

Solange Cultured Mag

Solange Knowles and artist Toyin Ojih Odutola were just revealed as the cover stars for Cultured Magazine‘s inaugural Art & Music issue. With gorgeous images of the two creative powerhouses captured by Awol Erizku, the fellow activists/peers discussed sound, architecture and creating a visual language at The Noguchi Museum in New York. The conversation (which was more an invaluable exchange of thoughts from two brilliant minds than a standard interview) explains how both Solange and Toyin both aim to produce art that not only moves, not only inspires – but speaks. Below are some of the article’s highlights but you can read the full dialogue here.

Solange on the visual language of architecture in her own performances:

Well, I think being in the space to create a specific work provides the best environment for me because I’m approaching it architecturally, I’m approaching it mathematically, I’m getting the floor plans, I’m getting the layout and then I’m creating the experience. The Guggenheim was really phenomenal because there were all of these different ways that I could activate that space and one of my favorite moments was playing with the rotunda and working with its roundedness.

Toyin on the visual language of her color use decisions:

I started from a place of universality, and that is still a kind of erasure. I had to venture more into color because of that; I had to get at the core and expand blackness as a definition visually. And part of what helped in that was engaging with the space the work is presented in—I had to incorporate more colors, I couldn’t rely solely on the monochromatic palette anymore. When you visit a museum for instance, there’s a specificity to how artifacts are shown, because the narrative extends to how they are presented. And we both know there’s a very specific way in which African artifacts are shown that sometimes can be problematic. So, I took a cue from that: to explore and have more control of the narrative in the work and in the presentation.

On the Black woman archetype image tied to art with a political message:

Solange:On shoots that I’ve been on in the past, there was this idea that the strongest way to convey black women who make political work was to put them in the 70’s and to create a sort of caricature of the movement and the work that’s been done. Something that really stands out for me as a pivotal moment in my life and my career, was on a magazine shoot where the art director had really strong ideas about the direction. I walked up and I saw all of these mood boards with women who I have the utmost admiration for—women who have taught me everything I know about liberation and women who I have held up in the highest regard—who were reduced to an aesthetic. This creative director was making their hard work and their legacy a prop and I said, ‘sir, I don’t feel comfortable with this, I do not relate to this set design, that’s not what we discussed.’ And I distinctly remember him, in front of a room full of people huddling around, looking at me and saying, ‘minimalism does not look good on you.’

Toyin: “...it’s also indicative of how black womanhood is seen as inherently political. It’s not just limiting black womanhood to an aesthetic, it’s how projections usurp the truth of black womanhood overall. It’s not seen as multifarious, that it can include so many things. I was reminded of this growing up: how I would listen to a certain record or song from something that was deemed ‘not black enough,’ and I remember feeling really uncomfortable about that judgment because my mother liked that same music. I remember telling her one day, ‘Mom, everyone says so-and-so is white, and I can’t listen to it,’ and she would respond with something like, ‘It’s really strange how people would limit blackness to not include this. Why can’t your liking this be a part of our culture? Why don’t we have access to that?’ And that just hit me like a ton of bricks. There’s a one-drop rule when it comes to genetics, but that one-drop rule doesn’t extend to culture. You can’t access minimalism—WHY? That’s such a part of humanity, why should it only be relegated to one specific demographic? It makes no sense.

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