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Black Spectrum: A Closer Look at Black Joy and Expression

Nathan Mansakahn

January 24 - May 11, 2018 / AACC Gallery

This exhibit focuses on black millennials and how they choose to express themselves despite current social obstacles that might prevent them from becoming fully accomplished. As a black millennial, I also explore the different places that we frequent and our hobbies, which might contradict what the general public would assume about black people.

"Black Spectrum" connects very closely to the ideals of the All Black Lives Matter Movement. It's very easy for movements laboring for black liberation to get hijacked by a black heteronormative and patriarchal agenda, leaving the rest of the spectrum behind. But the beautiful thing about ABLM is that its entire vision is to uplift and fight for the rights of every kind of black person, from black women, to black members of the LGBTQ community and black practitioners of different faiths that aren't only monotheistic. My work is meant to document the existence and expression of a broader spectrum of Blackness.


Nathan Mansakahn Artist Statement Heading link

Black Spectrum: A Closer Look at Black Joy and Expressionism

The photographic project paints a more accurate picture of who we are, not just to the world but also to ourselves: glowing beautifully, taking up spaces and creating communities in places most people would not expect. I focus on how the Black millennial puts their appearance together- their hairstyle, their clothes, their shoes and their accessories- in ways that resist the status quo and conformative ideas of blackness. I also take photographs of millennials in community-driven gatherings like New York’s Afropunk, Chicago’s Pitchfork, and FUBU/ Queens Progressing. I show how these communities foster free expression among black creatives in America. Millennials do a lot of things right; we are very welcoming of all types of people, and we do our best to encourage and inspire creativity among ourselves- especially in cities like Chicago- in an era where public media is determined to represent and depict us negatively.

Exploring these ideas in visual form is important to black communities because the exhibit shows their inclusive spectrum. More accurately the exhibit sheds light on the full range of black communities, which in turn would help to give us a more intimate knowledge of who we are as a people and what we all need to thrive in a country designed to oppress us.

Nathan Mansakahn Biography Heading link

Black Spectrum

Nathan Mansakahn is entirely self-taught and has pursued photography professionally since 2013. This is his first exhibit. Learning more and more as he explores his artistic vision, Nathan’s photography documents protests art and music events. Daily life and the people he meets everyday inspire him. He believes those interactions interactions are a great source of education. He admires work by visual artists that incorporate colors, shapes and dramatic settings. Helio Oitica, Chuck Stewart, Vivianne Sassen, and Mati Klarwein are a few of the many artist from whom he gleans inspiration. He has done photographic collaborations with fashion designer Compton Quashie, photographer Alexandra Ofori-atta, singer Brandon Ross, and the nomadic rap artist Nymbus. They are among creatives in whom he believes and who embody the many different facets of black communities.

I remember growing up, thinking that as a black boy I had to adhere to certain codes of conduct. Failure to perform as such was seen as a transgression of my blackness. I was considered suspect. Therefore, I would basically box myself into this sort of prescribed stereotypical role that I wouldn’t step out of, because of fear of disapproval from every black person I knew and didn’t. A black child shouldn’t grow up this way, limiting themselves and their interests. And I think my work makes visible diverse and valid ways of being black in order to combat the harms that emerge from being boxed in.

Nathan Mansakahn