Solange Knowles’ art knows no bounds. Known mononymously by her first name, her albums incorporate elements of pop, funk, hip-hop, electronic, and soul, and her music videos draw on completely different art forms. Her video for “Beltway,” for example, uses geometric light patterns on a black screen to amplify the track’s meaning, while that of “Cranes in the Sky” relies on still posed portrait shots. Solange often extends this interdisciplinary approach to her performance art, which in recent years has consisted of multimedia Gesamtkunstwerk–German for “total work of art”–style projects. A Gesamtkunstwerk is a type of performance art in which an artist does not interact with the world as much as make one of their own. Cementing her legacy as an auteur, Solange has created powerful, immersive pieces that combine sound, image, sculpture, movement, and more. The resulting effect is an all-encompassing artistic universe. Solange’s multi-sensory pieces completely transform her audience’s experience to communicate both sharp social critique and complex human emotion.
Fittingly, much of her work is connected to her music. In 2017, she traveled to the Guggenheim museum for “An Ode To,” a performance accompaniment to her critically-acclaimed album A Seat at the Table, which was lauded for its commentary on the Black experience. For the performance, a mostly Black crowd clad in white (thanks to a Fluxus-inspired dress code), watched Solange, herself in a brown Telfar outfit, sing, scream, and dance. Critics noted that her choreography paid homage to Black avant-garde art collective African Commune of Bad and Relevant Artists. The piece also included her own sculpture work and transformed the museum into a space that, for a moment in time, existed solely for her and her audience.
That same year, Solange debuted video work “Seventy States” at London’s Tate Modern and performed “Scales” at the Chinati Foundation in Marfa, Texas. “Seventy States,” her artist’s statement explains, explored the work of Black female artist Betye Sarr and her own identity as a Black woman. “Black womanhood has been at the root of my entire existence since birth,” Solange wrote. “I decided to [explore Black womanhood] through a visual language…to create a meditation and mediation using movement, repetition, symmetry, color theory, landscape, and scenography, as my own individualized protest.”
“Scales,” on the other hand, was a site-specific work open to the public. The piece amplified A Seat at the Table, and brought the album back to Solange’s home state. In the expanses of Marfa’s desert, Solange led a procession of magenta-wearing musicians and dancers while she sang tracks from her album. As the sun finally set, and dusk appeared she began her hit “Don’t Touch My Hair”: Don’t touch my hair / When it’s the feelings I wear / Don’t touch my soul / When it’s the rhythm I know.
In 2018, Solange premiered the dance piece “Metratronia (Metratron’s Cube)” on the Hammer Museum’s website. Dancers performed inside a white cube sculpture. The project explored the process and mapping of creating, Solange’s artist statement explained. Different camera placements revealed how positioning greatly changed the audience’s perception of the dancers’ relationships with their environment. Sometimes performers seemed to pop in and out of a picture frame, and other times they marched solemnly down stairs.
More recently, Solange programmed “Bridge-s,” an interdisciplinary two-day long experiential art piece at the Getty Museum which included philosophy lectures, film screenings, and artist talks. Dancers clad in orange silks moved like human sculptures, swaying to music scored by Solange. “Bridge-s,” centered around the theme of “transitions through time,” debuted in November 2019, but parts of it were repeated at this year’s prestigious Venice Biennale.
Solange’s immersive pieces show that she is not just a performer, but an artistic mastermind producing innovative art about herself and her own identities, and about the very nature of art and our universe. Solange’s art, and her actions in her daily life, encourage viewers to consider the Black experience. She tends to prefer Black-owned brands, and makes powerful sartorial statements in her work and on red carpets. She frequently advocates for social justice issues on her Twitter and Instagram accounts, and lately has been vocally calling for the arrest of Breonna Taylor’s murderers. Solange is an artist, but also an activist. Her total art pieces are not fantastical escapes, but rather avenues through which she forces her audience to consider the world that we all inhabit.END
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createdAt:Fri, 19 Jun 2020 14:26:53 +0000