EXHIBITION VISIT – ALPHA MASSAQUOI

Exhibition Visit – Black Noise  at Current Space

Alpha Massaquoi 

October, 2020 

Image courtesy of Current Space

YOUR CURRENT EXHIBITION BLACK NOISE RUNS THROUGH OCTOBER 10 AT CURRENT SPACE IN THE WINDOWS, DID YOU MAKE THIS WORK WITH THE WINDOWS IN MIND OR DID THE SHOW COME TO BE AFTER THE WORK WAS COMPLETE?

I produced a lot of big works and was trying to figure out how to display it during Covid. I saw a show at Current Space, so I DMed them and suggested my work would be good for their windows. They said they’d like to check out my studio and the rest is history.

DO EACH OF THE SUBJECTS IN YOUR PIECES SHOWN AT CURRENT HAVE SIGNIFICANCE, PERSONAL OR CULTURAL?

They’re all friends except for one–the big guy with the red bees. They all have some kind of African heritage. I’m from West Africa. All of us were born in Africa and moved here at an early age–trying to figure out the identity of “Am I African or am I American?” because I was brought up American. 

I use a combination of reference work and studying people in person. If I’m hanging out with friends and I find someone’s face really interesting, I will study their face and be weird for a second. I take photos from different angles so I know the basic shape. 

HOW HAS THE EXPERIENCE BEEN OF HAVING YOUR WORK UP IN THE WINDOWS AT CURRENT WHILE EXPERIENCING A  PANDEMIC?

It’s been amazing. There’s been a lot of good reception. If people weren’t going to receive the work the way I wanted them to, I probably would’ve stopped making work. But it’s been amazing because there’s been a lot of emotion; especially during covid. Current is one of the top five contemporary galleries in Baltimore in my opinion. 

Image courtesy of Current Space

I KNOW YOU AND I BOTH TEACH – YOU ARE CURRENTLY TEACHING IN BALTIMORE CITY, WHAT ROLE DO YOU THINK EDUCATION CAN PLAY FOR AN ARTIST? 

From a K-12 perspective, the expectation from the school system is like, let’s make some fun stuff today! But as a working artist, I know there’s more to it than just making smiley faces and rainbows. It’s understanding things around you and the relationship between you and the people around you. The kids I teach are young, but they are very smart. We do interesting things, like I’ll teach something I learned in college and scale it down and teach it to them in bits. We still do the “fun stuff” like Kahoot. For my high school kids, they do a lot of research. I think education can be a very important tool because it’s a way to get to know and research things. If you’re not using your mind, you’re just stale and we don’t want that for anyone.

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR ART COLLECTIVE?

It’s very new–Hot Sauce. We met at Towson, there’s four of us. The group came together because we graduated and I wanted us all to stay in touch and  a good way to do that is to form a collective. We have a responsibility to stay in touch with each other. We talked about creating an online gallery, a blog, etc, but when Covid happened, we saw everyone started doing that stuff. So one day I had a dream that we’d make an outdoor gallery and we put that all together in two weeks. We paid for everything except for the space.

Image courtesy of Current Space

DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING ELSE COMING UP THAT YOU’D LIKE TO PROMOTE? EXHIBITIONS ETC.

We created an outdoor gallery in West Baltimore and it starts Oct. 10. It’s going to be every Saturday. Hot Sauce is creating that. We want to keep the whole idea of pop-up shows going because of Covid. We just want people to come out and enjoy themselves and enjoy the art.

I’m thinking about ways to explore other mediums like sculpture and installation. I have an installation idea I wanted to do for my first solo show, but I don’t think that’s going to happen because of Covid. I still think I want to make it happen in 2021. It’s inspired by palava huts along the Atlantic ocean in Liberia. So when two or three people have arguments, they go in to discuss their issues. So I wanted to create a space like that–it doesn’t have to be a hut, but just a place for people to have a conversation. It would be nice to bring a piece of my culture here.

Image courtesy of Current Space

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE PATTERNS AND BACKGROUND VISUAL DECISIONS YOU ARE MAKING IN THIS WORK?

Before the pattern, I was doing a plain black background. I was very inspired by the style of tenebroso and I really liked how the work was painted. It felt like a figure was stepping out of the darkness. I drew my figures stepping out of the darkness, but then I got bored of that. So I wondered how else I could illuminate the figures without forcing them into this dark space. So I thought about backgrounds–flower patterns, abstract patterns…I grew up in a home surrounded with plants because my dad was a florist. We had a Japanese Cherry Blossom tree in Africa which is amazing because it’s hard to grow. So because I grew up around interesting plants, I always try to incorporate flowers because it reminds me of home.

DO YOU HAVE ANY BOOK, MUSIC, TV, RECOMMENDATIONS TO GET US THROUGH SELF ISOLATION THIS YEAR?

Anything on Netflix or Hulu that doesn’t have a bad review, I’m gonna watch it. A lot of stuff on Netflix is so bad, I can’t recommend it, but there’s nothing else to do so…

I watch a show on Youtube called Portrait Artist of the Year, so they paint famous people in the UK and the winner gets to paint someone famous and gets prize money. It’s very interesting seeing other people work to make beautiful, massive paintings in under two hours. It blows my mind.

For music, I like sad music. It activates my creativity. So I look for a lot of indie music–I really like sad music, but I don’t think I’m a sad person.

Music Picks:

Artist : Isla vista worship 

Album: Carried

Song: catch you

Artist: The weekend 

Album: Trilogy

Song: Valerie