The College of the Canyons Art Gallery is delighted to bring you The Amazing Black-Man and Other American Stories, a virtual presentation of recent works by artist Kumasi J. Barnett, highlighting the artist’s ongoing exploration of race, class, gender, sexuality, politics and other contemporary issues in the United States. I first encountered Barnett’s artwork on social media a few years ago, but had not seen it in person until last summer at Lowell Ryan Projects in Los Angeles. The pandemic was in full force, but art galleries had started to reopen, and this was my first, careful venture out of my home -- in search of inspiration and contemporary art for possible future exhibitions. Encountering Barnett’s work was electric. And although I had seen some of his images previously, seeing them again, in the context of the summer of 2020, just a few weeks after the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police, was both devastating and galvanizing.
Barnett’s paintings -- powerful, poignant, humorous, and sincere -- are made from actual comic books. A comic book collector himself, Barnett’s deep engagement with both comic book culture and contemporary painting results in vibrant objects that manage to embrace and critique both traditions simultaneously. Using paint and markers, he alters the books covers, concisely changing the familiar narratives into incisive commentary on contemporary culture. Beloved superheroes like The Hulk and The Amazing Spider-Man are transformed into The Media’s Thug and The Amazing Black-Man! Spider-man’s iconic blue and red suit is painted out and replaced with an equally iconic gray hoodie. These superheroes battle with present-day evils such as systemic racism, police brutality, and political corruption.
We’re thrilled to be able to share Kumasi J. Barnett: The Amazing Black-Man and Other American Stories with our community, here in a virtual format. We are grateful to the artist, Kumasi J. Barnett, and to Lowell Ryan Projects for generously providing these images and making this presentation possible. I also want to thank The Multicultural Center at College of the Canyons, Vivian Lainfiesta, DEI Assistant Brandon Ashford, and the Black Student Alliance for their support.
-- Pamela Bailey Lewis, Director
Kumasi J. Barnett received his MFA from The Ohio State University, and now lives and works in Baltimore, MD. His works have been exhibited both in the United States and abroad, including exhibitions at Lowell Ryan Projects, Los Angeles, CA; BravinLee programs, New York, NY; the SPRING/BREAK Art Show, New York, NY; City Lore, New York, NY; Con-Artist Collective, New York, NY; The Arsenal Gallery, New York, NY; Sulphur Bath Studio, Brooklyn, NY; and The Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn, NY. His museum exhibitions include the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, South Africa; The Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FL; and most recently, the Verge Center for the Arts, Sacramento, CA. Barnett presented a solo booth with Lowell Ryan Projects at The Armory Show 2020, in the Focus section curated by Jamillah James. Barnett currently teaches at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and his work has been featured in Artforum, Ammo, Vibe, Hyperallergic, Huffington Post, Autre, Artnet News, and The Guardian, among others.
All images courtesy of the artist Kumasi J. Barnett, and Lowell Ryan Projects.
All works are acrylic, marker, pen, and oil marker on comic book with dimensions of 9 ¾” x 6 ¼.”