xST / Shawn Theodore Artist
Photo credit: Emanja Allanye
Ursula Rucker performance at 7pm
For the closing of Shawn Theodore’s exhibition “The Avenues” we proudly present a night of poetry, music and soul. Acclaimed poet Ursula Rucker will perform with Shawn Theodore’s band ‘The A/V/E’ lead by composer and trumpeter Jamal Jones. Rucker will perform a unique body of work inspired by the photographic works in the gallery, a specific mosaic, a composite portrait of African American Philadelphia.
Theodore’s work examines life in an ever-changing and vanishing landscape for African Americans beyond the era of The Great Migration and the Civil Rights movements of the 60’s and 70’s who are impacted by external socio-economic forces.
Moving across a stylistic continuum—reportage, editorial, portraiture street, Theodore’s work is defiant and not simply in regards to labels, but the regime of images that deny blackness its nuance and depth.
His photography underscores the notion of ‘being invisible’ to society at large by using the silhouette to express this collective state of being. His subjects are often in solitary, introspective moments — sojourning within their vanishing environments, they are often depicted in shadow and silhouette not only as a means to shield their identity or protect their privacy, but to symbolize their growing sense of invisibility, isolation and displacement when facing with these larger, transformative forces. The Philadelphia native trains his eye predominantly on his city, however he travels often to show that what he is witness to is not an isolated occurrence.
Rucker is best known for her poignant, deeply introspective, and often biographical, wordplay. When coupled with her style of delivery, a mix of song and whisper — deftly punctuated profanity decorating artistically articulated angst, her listener imbibes the entire depth of her feeling and is left, spent — and rewarded, with the emotional hangover of being let in on a deep, personal secret. She speaks from the heart, one that is not just her own, one that beats for individuals far and wide, but pulsating heavily for her hometown of Philadelphia and the experiences from there that she brings into bloom.
The duo has found a harmony within their works, and in that harmony they have found a new voice. One that puts their respective bodies of work side by side, not in a comparative fashion, but as a complement to one another and criticism of their shared environment, the city of Philadelphia. Rucker gives a voice to the floating silhouettes against brash color, and Theodore paints the visions alluded to in the spoken word. Their idioms and images find an easy kinship and balance, and this will be their first public collaboration.
This event is part of Re-PLACE-ing Philadelphia, the Painted Bride’s project focusing on building an expanded archive of cultural memory that includes multiple histories, re-place-ing the established with new narratives and understandings of Philadelphia. Visit www.re-place-ing.org for more information on the project.