Beyond Bling: New Ringling exhibit embraces hip-hop culture

By Abby Weingarten, Herald-Tribune Thursday, May 19, 2011

Maurice and Nicki Lynch, a Sarasota husband-and-wife couple that runs the family-friendly production company Righteous Entertainment, are thrilled to participate in “Beyond Bling.”

The Lynch’s are heavily involved in the local hip-hop culture, whether by mentoring youths through nonprofit organizations, making short movies like “Crushed” that premiered at this year’s Sarasota Film Festival, or hosting the RETV program that screens positive music videos and related area events.

“Hip-hop is starting to get more attention now in Sarasota, and it’s so desperately needed, especially when we’re seeing in the news these young kids killing people,” Nicki Lynch said. “ ‘Beyond Bling,’ I think, will bring in a mature appreciation of hip-hop to people that don’t really understand the full culture behind it.”

Maurice Lynch remembers being in fourth grade in 1987 when his grandmother bought him his first hip-hop compilation cassette tape.

“Back when I got into hip-hop, it was about unity and it didn’t matter if you were black, white, Mexican. Hip-hop broke the ice between ethnic groups,” Maurice Lynch said. “We’re now seeing our community embrace the art form. When somebody opens the door and says, ‘Let’s present Sarasota with this art form and see what happens,’ once the youth catches on, who knows where it will go from there.”

 

 

Hip-hop is more than thumping beats, sampled melodies and hardcore slang. Its roots are deeper than today’s music videos convey, and its influence transcends black and white. It’s a crucial culture, a mass movement. It’s … beyond.

That’s the point of the Ringling Museum of Art’s new exhibit, “Beyond Bling: Voices of Hip-Hop in Art” — to introduce Sarasota to one of America’s misunderstood art forms, and to emphasize the sparkle instead of the dark side.
“We’re in the hip-hop age; it surrounds us. And in a time and place in our country where we’re so polarized and we’re so quick to think, ‘This is something I’m not interested in,’ you see this and you realize, ‘This is very much me,’ ” said Dwight Currie, interim deputy director for collections, exhibitions and programs at the Ringling.

From Saturday (5/21) to Aug. 14, edgy works geared toward patrons ages 21 and older will be on display in the Ulla R. and Arthur F. Searing Wing as part of Ringling’s inaugural “Art of Our Time” initiative to support all things modern. A slew of events — from dance performances to theatre — will accompany the showcase.

The concept for “Beyond Bling” was born back in 2007, when the Ringling’s associate curator of modern and contemporary art, Matthew McLendon, became enamored of a Mickalene Thomas painting at a Miami art show.

“I was confronted by this enormous painting of a recumbent African-American woman that had this disco fabulous feel,” McLendon said. “On top of being so beautifully painted and patterned and sumptuous, it was studded with thousands of colored rhinestones. It literally took my breath away.”

McLendon learned that Thomas drew inspiration from blaxploitation films, disco and hip-hop, as well as the techniques of Western masters like Edouard Manet and Paul Gauguin.

“I started seeing the influence of hip-hop culture in certain artists’ practices,” McLendon said. “I realized that hip-hop is now ubiquitous and informs all aspects of our contemporary life.”

Nowadays, hip-hop is integrated into fashion, art, theatre, dance and every creative outlet in-between. It’s an influence that dates back to October 1979, when the explosive single, “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang, helped spread hip-hop from the neighborhoods of the South Bronx to the world.

“Beyond Bling” is the first exhibit to examine the work of 10 artists (African-American, Latino, Japanese-American, British, Caucasian, gay, male and female) that are greatly inspired by that pervasive hip-hop culture. They are: Michael Anderson, iona rozeal brown, Vince Fraser, Gajin Fujita, Luis Gispert, Sofia Maldonado, Nadine Robinson, Mickalene Thomas, Hank Willis Thomas and Kehinde Wiley.

One of the exhibit’s pieces is a painting by Wiley, a portraitist, which depicts an African-American male as the new art historical icon. Another is a sequined, baroque image of the African-American woman by Mickalene Thomas. Fujita’s Asian-style graffiti art is another highlight.

“When Matthew first started talking about hip-hop art, I was fairly convinced, out of ignorance, that it wasn’t anything I wanted or needed to know anything about. But Matthew opened my eyes,” Currie said. “If you believe it’s important to be alive in your own time and to be engaged in your own time, this exhibit is very important. It’s an amazing event for Sarasota and the state, and it marks a dramatic realization of potential for the Ringling.”

For a full-spectrum experience, spectators can head to the Historic Asolo Theater for a hip-hop dance show by Rennie Harris Puremovement, a comic/dramatic play entitled “The Word Begins,” and a lecture by James Prigoff. There will also be walk-and-talk with McLendon followed by a screening of the “Exit Through the Gift Shop” documentary.

Concrete Jungle Divas by Sofia Maldonado

And on Friday (5/20) from 9 p.m. to midnight, the eve before the exhibit opens to the public, the Ringling courtyard will transform into a hip-hop lounge with a dance by Urban Spiral, a cash bar with “Blingtinis,” DJ Imminent spinning, a green screen experience, virtual graffiti art and fashion models.

Maurice and Nicki Lynch, a Sarasota husband-and-wife couple that runs the family-friendly production company Righteous Entertainment, are thrilled to participate in “Beyond Bling.”

The Lynches are heavily involved in the local hip-hop culture, whether by mentoring youths through nonprofit organizations, making short movies like “Crushed” that premiered at this year’s Sarasota Film Festival, or hosting the RETV program that screens positive music videos and related area events.

“Hip-hop is starting to get more attention now in Sarasota, and it’s so desperately needed, especially when we’re seeing in the news these young kids killing people,” Nicki Lynch said. “ ‘Beyond Bling,’ I think, will bring in a mature appreciation of hip-hop to people that don’t really understand the full culture behind it.”

Maurice Lynch remembers being in fourth grade in 1987 when his grandmother bought him his first hip-hop compilation cassette tape.

“Back when I got into hip-hop, it was about unity and it didn’t matter if you were black, white, Mexican. Hip-hop broke the ice between ethnic groups,” Maurice Lynch said. “We’re now seeing our community embrace the art form. When somebody opens the door and says, ‘Let’s present Sarasota with this art form and see what happens,’ once the youth catches on, who knows where it will go from there.”

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