By Nii B. Andrews.
Paintings and a sculpture by Brooklyn born Atlanta based multi disciplinary artist and scholar – Fahamu Pecou, caused a buzz at the Montresso Art Foundation on the final day of the just ended 1-54 CAA fair in Marrakech.
In February 2023, he completed an artist residency at Montresso and to his credit, under his patronage, then brought together nine other African-American artists to participate in the latest edition of IN – DISCIPLINE, currently showing at the foundation.
Pecou has consistently explored and framed the body as a site of beauty and power by subverting stereotypes that have arisen from uninformed conflations of pop culture, hip hop and fine art.
In his latest series, Pecou focuses on James Baldwin’s strident demand that we resist the mythologies of history, shed our self-protective innocence, in order to confront the truth of our history and present condition.
“An artist is a sort of emotional or spiritual historian,” Baldwin told Life magazine. “His role is to make you realize the doom and glory of knowing who you are and what you are. He has to tell, because nobody else can tell, what it is like to be alive.”
Pecou takes his cue from Baldwin and conducts a ferocious assessment of his inner life, the life of others like him, the life of his country and beyond.
The result is a dynamic set of figurative paintings that involve people emphatically shedding and or ripping/ tearing off veils.
Taut torsos with tight, rippling, abdominal muscles; well defined muscular arms and legs; these are all engaged in a synchronized wrenching off of the shards of tissue and or skin or masks that have enveloped them and turned them into what they are not.
The monochrome backgrounds- often in pastel colors, serve to accentuate the movement and presence of the figures.
This visual language reaches a crescendo with the life size sculpture executed in black resin.
The result is a captivating 3D figure mounted on a black pedestal; it cannot be ignored; it simply draws you in.
That its face is covered provides for further speculation.
But the resin like detritus which is laid at the figure’s feet and extends upwards to his head is a powerful statement on the need to discard the mythologies and canned statements that restrict, distort and imprison us all.
If the detritus reminds us of an oil spill and the destructive effects of fossil fuels in places like the Niger delta and others, then of course this enhances the versatility of the work.
We need to confront the truth of our present condition; Baldwin prophesied this and Pecou has actualized the urgency in his paintings and sculpture.
At the exhibition, the pedestal that held the sculpture turned into an impromptu gathering place for a sweeping demographic cohort of patrons and visitors to speak, testify, question and converse about and also seek to understand the reality that confronts each of us as individuals.
It attracted diverse people from multicultural backgrounds and across generations, prompting them to connect with the vibrant artistic expression being showcased, and also even more importantly, with each other.
It is a testament to the vision, relevance and energy of Pecou’s art that many who saw his work that afternoon spontaneously confessed that they “felt something”.
Hopefully what they felt ties in with what Pecou stated in a 2021 interview, “Black visibility is a subtle, but profound affirmation. It gives one permission to be comfortable with who they are and to explore who you can become.”
He was the recipient of a 2016 Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant, and his work is in the collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Seattle Art Museum.