Levitt AMP Music Brings Blues to One West State Street

Underneath the painted fixtures and the mid-century lighting, three Jazz groups performed for the Levitt AMP Trenton Concert Series at One West State Street.

The first was Big Mike Blues Band, performing old blues with quick rhythm and a raspy sound. “It’s got guitar, bass, drums, harmonica, it’s blues. You gotta look it up. I can’t describe it. Other than it’s blues,” said Richard McPherson, the guitarist in the band.  

The Big Mike Blues Band rocked out as the crowd enjoyed the air conditioning in the old bank building on W. State Street. Douglas Dowell-Jefferies, is the manager of booking services DLJ Communications Group, who helped book the musicians for a concert on Saturday and the funk concerts the previous week. 

“We played last week over here outdoors in the heat,” Dowell-Jefferies said. “We’re all about promoting the arts. We primarily focus on straight ahead classic jazz as opposed to the contemporary smooth jazz.”

“The Andy Lackow Band is an outstanding blues band; they are locally based, and they do a lot of festivals in the area,” Dowell-Jefferies added.

Based out of Northern New Jersey, The Andy Lackow Band is mainly blues. However, they also play an eclectic mix that includes blues-rock, roots-rock, soul, funk, New Orleans R&B, and a little country. 

“Pretty much what we perform tonight besides blues, was soul, funk, and roots rock and roll, like Chuck Berry or Little Richard. So we put our best foot forward when it comes to a diverse kind of African American music, which I thought was appropriate for this event.” 

The band is comprised of bassist Curtis Fowlkes, keyboardist Steve Skinner, and drummer Paul Levinsky.

Andy Lackow said that he feels different emotions as he performs. “The emotion is a combination of joy, excitement, and some angst that comes out in the blues and also trepidations that I’m going to screw up and forget lyrics and what key I am playing in,” Lackow said. 

The main act was Newarks’ Pride and Joy Madame Pat Tandy. She was introduced to the crowd after her band warmed up: “Sweeter then candy and more intoxicating than any top shelf Brandy.” Widely known as the “First Lady of New Jersey Jazz,” Madame Pat Tandy has been singing professionally since the 1970s. She has performed in Trenton clubs for more than 50 years. 

 “I used to perform over here all the time, and a lot of the clubs that we did perform are close down now,” Tandy said. However, she noted concerts and venues like the Candlelight Lounge keep jazz in Trenton. “It’s the roots. It’s been here all along because we really jam over here with the jazz and blues. So to keep it going, that’s what we got to try to do.”

Overall, Trenton residents had a fun time at Levitt AMP over the weekend. Diane Turner, Trenton Resident, has made every single concert. “I have tried to make all of them. I do this every summer when they have it… This is a good lineup. The bands are excellent. The music is nice; it’s upbeat; I like the blues,” Turner said.  

Next on the list is Malidelphia, a folkloric performance-art ensemble of African and African American artists, singers, dancers, and folklorists. To learn more, head over to https://www.trenton-downtown.com/levitt/malidelphia.  

The Levitt AMP Trenton Music Series is supported in part by the Mortimer & Mimi Levitt Foundation, which partners with towns and cities across America to activate underused public spaces through the power of free live music, creating welcoming, inclusive destinations. Local presenting sponsors include NJM Insurance Company, along with the support of the City of Trenton, the Mercer County Park Commission. Greater Trenton and TrentonDaily.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Theatre News: Working Girl musical, Jane Lynch, Ain’t No Mo’, Hamilton and Marvin Gaye,

Theatre News: Working Girl musical, Jane Lynch, Ain’t No Mo’, Hamilton and Marvin Gaye,

Theresa Rebeck joins Broadway aimed Working Girl musical as new book writer. Rebeck has more plays produced on Broadway than any female playwright of our time, Working Girl would mark Rebeck’s Broadway debut as a book writer for a musical. She joins Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award winner Cyndi Lauper, who will provide music and lyrics, and Tony Award winner Christopher Ashley (Come From Away), who will direct.
Jane Lynch

Jane Lynch

Five-time Emmy Award winner and 2022 Emmy Award nominee Jane Lynch will end her run as “Mrs. Brice” on Sunday, August 14, 2022. Jane Lynch had a long-scheduled vacation set to begin on Monday, August 15 and was set to return to the show on Tuesday, August 23, before departing for the Creative Arts Emmys on Thursday, September 1. Rather than return for one week of performances, the producers have agreed to adjust her final performance to Sunday, August 14. “Mrs. Brice” standby Liz McCartney is scheduled to play the role of “Mrs. Brice” from Tuesday, August 16 – Sunday, September 4, 2022 at Broadway’s August Wilson Theatre (245 West 52nd Street).

Jane Lynch said, “With my long-planned vacation on the books and then the Creative Arts Emmy Awards ceremony in LA on Thursday, September 1, I will take my final curtain call on August 14.  As I embark upon my last week in FUNNY GIRL, my heart is filled with gratitude for this wildly talented company led by Beanie Feldstein and our wonderful audiences for keeping theater alive! I offer a special thanks to my current scene partner Julie Benko and will be back to see my friend Lea Michele light up the lights.”

Emmy Award nominee Lea Michele (Spring Awakening, “Glee”) will star as “Fanny Brice” and four-time Tony Award nominee Tovah Feldshuh (Yentl, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”) will star as “Mrs. Brice” beginning Tuesday, September 6, 2022.

Ain’t No Mo’ producers, Academy Award® nominee Lee Daniels and Brian Anthony Moreland, announced today that tickets are now on sale to the general public. Written by and starring Jordan E. Cooper, Ain’t No Mo’ will begin performances on Broadway at the Belasco Theatre (111 W. 44th St) on Thursday, November 3 ahead of an official opening on Thursday, December 1. Tickets are available via www.aintnomobway.com, www.telecharge.com or by calling 212-239-6200.

Having premiered to overwhelming acclaim at The Public Theater, Ain’t No Mo’ dares to ask the incendiary question, “What if the U.S. government attempted to solve racism … by offering Black Americans one-way plane tickets to Africa?” The answer comes in the form of an outrageous and high-octane comedy about being Black in today’s America. From the mischievous mind of the youngest American playwright in Broadway history, Jordan E. Cooper (“The Ms. Pat Show”), Ain’t No Mo’ seamlessly blends sketch comedy, satire and avant garde theater to leave audiences crying with laughter—and thinking through the tears.

Hamilton and Lin-Manuel Miranda, in partnership with Prizeo, part of the Charitybuzz Impact Marketplace, announced the launch of Ham4Choice to raise much-needed funds for organizations providing abortion access and reproductive health services.

Ham4Choice, part of the Ham4Progress community, is a philanthropic effort created in response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that affirmed the constitutional right to abortion in the United States. Initial partnering beneficiary organizations for Ham4Choice include: Abortion Support Network, ARC Southeast, Ciocia BasiaDeeds Not Words, Planned Parenthood, Profamilias Puerto Rico, The Brigid Alliance, The National Network of Abortion Fund, and The Tuscan Abortion Support Collective.

“We are devastated by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling eliminating the right to abortion which has been a right since 1973. In response, we are teaming up with organizations providing support, access, and travel expenses to those seeking these services. 

“We’re stronger when we work together. We can stand up for every person’s right to make decisions about their own body and their own lives. Join HAMILTON & Friends in the fight for reproductive access and reproductive choice today.”

By donating as little as $10 between August 9 and September 22 HERE, participants will be automatically entered for a chance to win a once-in-a-lifetime HAMILTON experience in three great cities around the world, including show tickets, flights, and hotels in New York, London, and Hamburg, Germany. 

The grand prize winner and a guest will be flown to attend HAMILTON’s Opening Night in Hamburg, Germany (performed in German in the first non-English translation) on October 6, where they’ll meet Lin-Manuel Miranda at an exclusive pre-show reception and attend the post-show celebration. Then, they’ll travel to London and New York to see HAMILTON (performed in English) and meet some of the remarkable cast members at each location. Lastly, they’ll go home with signed memorabilia to commemorate the experience.

The more one donates, the more entries one will receive, and the more support will go toward funding abortion access and care.

Abortion Support Network helps people who need to access safe abortions. They provide information on clinics, travel and accommodation, and provide financial assistance to help with costs for those who need it.  They do this for women and pregnant people resident in Ireland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, Malta, Gibraltar, Poland, Romania, Hungary, France, Spain, the Czech Republic and the other EU countries on a case-by-case basis.

ARC Southeast provide funding and logistical support to ensure Southerners receive safe and compassionate reproductive care including abortion services. Through education and leadership development, they build power in communities of color to abolish stigma and restore dignity and justice.

Ciocia Basia is an activist group in Berlin, Germany that can help organize safe abortion for people from countries where it is illegal. They support everyone who needs an abortion, including trans, non-binary and queer people.

Deeds Not Words is an intersectional community that stands for women’s social and economic opportunity, access to reproductive health, freedom from sexual assault, and equal representation in every aspect and at every level.

Planned Parenthood ensures all people have access to the care and resources they need to make informed decisions about their bodies, their lives, and their futures. Founded in 1916, Planned Parenthood is a trusted health care provider, educator, and passionate advocate here in the U.S. as well as a strong partner to health and rights organizations around the world. Each year, Planned Parenthood delivers vital sexual and reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of people. 

Profamilias Puerto Rico provides health services in sustainable manner, especially in sexual and reproductive health, with an emphasis on populations in disadvantaged conditions in Puerto Rico. They provide educational services and advocate for the sexual and reproductive rights of diverse individuals, families, and communities.

The Bridget Alliance supports people who must travel long distances for abortion care. Working across the United States, they arrange and fund confidential travel, lodging, childcare, and logistical assistance, closing the gap between the need for an abortion and the ability to access one.

The National Network of Abortion Funds builds power with members to remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access by centering people who have abortions and organizing at the intersections of racial, economic, and reproductive justice.

The Tucson Abortion Support Collective is a grass-roots practical support group and abortion fund doing work in southern Arizona. TASC provides logistical, emotional, and financial support to people seeking abortion care. In addition to abortion support, TASC provides free pregnancy tests and emergency contraception throughout their region. 

For more information and to donate for a chance to win, please visit: Ham4Choice.com.

Music Icon Marvin Gaye and his son, Marvin Gaye III 
(Photo Courtesy of Marvin Gaye III)

He was known to the world as the “Prince of Soul.” He was the musical genius with a social conscience whose crooning of classic hits such as “I Want You,” “Sexual Healing,” “What’s Going On?” and of course “Let’s Get It On” left an indelible mark on the soundtrack of American life everywhere and even the world.
 Award-winning playwright and producer, Je’Caryous Johnson and the eldest son of the legendary music figure, Marvin Gaye III, are proud to announce that work has begun on the development of an all-new musical celebrating the life and times of Marvin Pentz Gaye, Jr. Through an unprecedented production partnership between Johnson and Gaye, audiences will get to know another side of the musical legend never seen before. With oversight and collaboration from Marvin Gaye III, audiences can expect an authentic and transparent behind-the-scenes accounting of Gaye’s life against the backdrop of Gaye’s incomparable song catalogue, which will be featured in the musical when it debuts in 2023.
The upcoming musical will be written and produced by both Johnson and Gaye III and will trace the iconic singer’s trials, triumphs and tragedies as he ascends from a preacher’s kid turned local pop singing sensation to an international superstar whose music, still today, stirs the soul as well as the conscience. Gaye’s musical imprint not only helped shaped and revolutionize the sound of Motown, but it also extended well beyond his lifespan and influenced the music of modern-day artists such as Chris Brown, Usher and the late Michael Jackson. Like his music, the themes of Gaye’s life— love, struggle, triumph and redemption prove transcendent and marks the making of an impeccable storyline and theatrical musical masterpiece. The musical will be created alongside the lines of the hit shows that preceded it, most notably Motown The Musical and Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations that chronicled the legacy of Berry Gordy and some of Motown Record’s most iconic figures.
A legacy as luminous and significant as Marvin’s also demands proper stewarding and masterful storytelling— a skill set that Johnson has mastered. Whether through his love ballads or his transformative sign of the times signature songs and anthems, Marvin Gaye’s music must be immortalized on stage with the merit it so justly deserves and Marvin Gaye III and Johnson’s collaboration marks the moment in time that a musical of this magnitude will finally manifest on stage in honor of Gaye. No other music figure of the time and since has been able to, as eloquently like Gaye, weave the deeds and dealings of a nation with the desire people have to love and create.
“I have the beautiful privilege of collaborating with Marvin Gaye III to celebrate and pay homage to the incredible legacy of Mr. Marvin Gaye,” stated Johnson. “His music has provided a soundtrack for Black America, putting to music our collective experience as a people. I am delighted and excited to show the true makings of the man and uncover the lesser-known side of this legend through this musical. I am grateful to MGIII Global Licensing International, LLC for entrusting me to partner on this project and tell this epic story.” A theater industry veteran, Johnson is one of the most prolific, commercial producers working today. Tallying nearly a quarter of a billion dollars in box office receipts, he has written, directed and produced more than 37 plays seen by millions of theatergoers. To date, Johnson has also toured over 21 stage play productions to sold-out crowds. His most recent stage productions included Redemption of a Dogg, an original bio-musical loosely based on the life and music of rap superstar Snoop Dogg, and Set It Off: Live, a dynamic stage adaptation of the1996 Warner Brothers cult film that starred Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett-Smith, Kimberly Elise and Vivica A. Fox.

According to Marvin Gaye III, “MGIII Global Licensing International, LLC is ecstatic to celebrate Mr. Gaye and his life’s work. He is one of the greatest artists, if not the best, who stands with the likes of Elvis and Elton John. Our vision is to have complete transparency. Marvin Gaye was a musical genius and a great humanitarian who cared about people and about what’s going on in the world. We are pleased to bring this project to the world.” “Marvin Gaye is one of my favorite artists of all time,” added Johnson. “His music has inspired me as an artist and helped me to endure during some of the toughest times of my own life. I’m excited to be able to dig into the depths of his genius and celebrate the legacy of a man so deserving.” For more details on casting news, musical  information and more, stay tuned to www.jecaryous.com.

Living Rooms

click to enlarge Baba/Father, 2022. Stoneware with dried rose petals by Ghazal Ghazi. - BERLIN GREEN

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  • Baba/Father, 2022. Stoneware with dried rose petals by Ghazal Ghazi.

Oklahoma Contemporary – Destination Oklahoma

As America’s crossroads as well as originally being considered “Indian Territory” until 1907, Oklahoma is a unique cross-section situated inside the nation’s larger melting pot, which results in some fantastic cultural juxtapositions. Black artist Skip Hill returned from traversing the globe to call the state — specifically Tulsa — home once again and has reimagined Dust Bowl-era imagery through his own prism. Indigenous artist America Merideth combines her heritage with pop culture. Ghazal Ghazi mixes traditional Persian styles with modern portraits and September Dawn Bottoms presents her own generational trauma through photography that is both evocative and eerie after calling the West Coast home for many years while Đan Lynh Phạm combines her experience of being born in Vietnam and its traditional folk art with her own assimilation into the country that she now calls home. Destination Oklahoma provides a glimpse into the diverse meaning of what it means to be both an American and, more specifically, an Oklahoman, whether by birth or adoption.

Also, John Newsom’s Nature’s Course closes Aug. 15 in the Eleanor Kirkpatrick Main Gallery.

click to enlarge Sports Illustrated cover by Walter Iooss Jr. - BERLIN GREEN

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  • Sports Illustrated cover by Walter Iooss Jr.

Oklahoma City Museum of Art – The Perfect Shot: Walter Iooss Jr. and the Art of Sports Photography

Even if you don’t recognize Walter Iooss Jr. by name, you’ve almost certainly encountered at least one of his sports portraits over the years unless you’ve been living under a rock (Iooss’ work is so iconic that you’re likely to recognize at least one image from this curated gallery even if you’ve never witnessed a sporting event live even once in your life). In addition to his well-documented relationship with basketball legend Michael Jordan and the resulting book of photographs Rare Air, Iooss (pronounced “YŌS”) has documented Muhammad Ali, LeBron James, Joe Namath and Arnold Palmer among many other icons over his more than half a century shooting for Sports Illustrated. This exhibit closes Sept. 4, so these are your last few weeks to experience it before it’s gone.

Also, One Hundred Years of Revolution: French Art from 1850 to 1950 opens Aug. 20 and will be on display until Feb. 19. From the Golden Age to the Moving Image will also be on display until the end of the year.

click to enlarge BERLIN GREEN

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If you must go outside…

Downtown Edmond now has 31 new murals thanks to the Sunny Dayz Mural Festival held earlier this month. Stop by and take in an eyeful of 42 freshly-painted works from female and non-binary artists from Oklahoma and beyond.

Oklahoma Contemporary recently installed Breve historia del tiempo (2020), or Brief History of Time in the Campbell Art Park facing Broadway Avenue. On loan from La Colección Jumex in Mexico City, the piece is a suspended Plymouth Duster that appears to be on the verge of breaking the surface of the water’s surface immediately beneath it. The first of a Guadalajara art exhibit arriving late September in the Eleanor Kirkpatrick Main Gallery, it has to be seen in person to be experienced fully.

click to enlarge Breve historia del tiempo (2020) - BERLIN GREEN

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  • Breve historia del tiempo (2020)

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

7 things to do in Milwaukee this weekend (besides going to the Wisconsin State Fair), including the Milwaukee Black Theater Festival

The Morning Glory Art Fair returns to the Deer District outside Fiserv Forum Aug. 13-14.

1. Milwaukee Black Theater Festival  

The third annual Milwaukee Black Theater Festival, the biggest ever, takes place on five stages around the city Aug. 10 through Aug. 14. Programming includes the world premiere of “Milwaukee Voices of Gun Violence” by the Bronzeville Arts Ensemble at 1 and 7:30 p.m. Aug. 12 at Wilson Theater in Vogel Hall at the Marcus Performing Arts Center. Admission is free to nearly all events in the festival, which is presented by Black Arts MKE. Info (including a full schedule of events): blackartsmke.org/festival. 

RELATED:What you need to know about the mostly free Milwaukee Black Theater Festival, Aug. 10-14

The Milwaukee Black Theater Festival is staging events in five venues around the city Aug. 10-14.

2. Center Street Daze Festival

The 25th Center Street Daze Festival brings eight (yes, eight) eclectic stages of live music, a classic car show, carnival games and “art cart” races to the Riverwest neighborhood from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 13. The doings take place along Center Street from Humboldt Boulevard to Holton Street. Admission is free. Info: Center Street Daze Festival Facebook page.  

3. Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival 

The Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival returns to Lakeshore State Park Aug. 13.

The Milwaukee Dragon Boat Festival, showcasing dance, folk music, martial arts, dragon boat races and other Chinese cultural traditions, returns to town at Lakeshore State Park Aug. 13. At least 40 teams have signed up to take part in the races, which start at 8 a.m. Info: milwaukeedragonboatfest.org.   

4. Morning Glory Art Fair 

The Morning Glory Art Fair brings more than 130 juried artists and their creations to the Deer District in front of Fiserv Forum from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 13-14. The 47th annual art fair boasts artwork in 15 categories, from sculpture and jewelry to digital art. Admission is free. Info: morninggloryartfair.com

5. Bronzeville Week’s final days 

Bronzeville Week activities continue through Aug. 13 in Milwaukee’s historic Bronzeville neighborhood. Among the weekend’s highlights is the Bronzeville ArtWalk and Afro Caribbean Cultural Celebration, with live performances, art demonstrations, traditional cuisine and more from noon to 5:30 p.m. Aug. 13 on North King Drive from Garfield to Meinecke avenues. Info: Bronzeville Week Facebook Page. 

RELATED:What to know about Milwaukee’s Bronzeville Week, from entertainment and art to culture and commerce

6. Luxembourg Fest 

Luxembourgish band Zero Point Five is performing at Luxembourg Fest Aug. 13 in Community Park in Belgium in Ozaukee County.

A diverse array of programming is on tap for this year’s Luxembourg Fest from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Aug. 13 in Community Park in Belgium in Ozaukee County. The festival, part of four days of activities sponsored by the Luxembourg American Cultural Society, starts with a Main Street Parade at 11 a.m., followed by a performance by popular Luxembourgish band Zero Point Five before and after what’s billed as “the World’s Largest Treipen-Eating Contest” (treipen is a Luxembourgish blood sausage) at 1 p.m. Info: lacs.lu/luxembourg-fest-week/luxembourg-fest.  

7. Waukesha Rotary BluesFest 

Duke Robillard is one of the headliners at this year's Waukesha Rotary BluesFest.

Naga-Waukee Park in Delafield is again home to the Waukesha Rotary BluesFest, bringing 12 blues acts Aug. 12-13. Headliners include the Duke Robillard Band and Sue Foley. Tickets at the gate are $30 for a single day and $55 for a two-day pass. Info: waukeshabluesfest.com.  

Contact Chris Foran at chris.foran@jrn.com. Follow him on Twitter at @cforan12.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

The ‘post-pop’ artist stars are rushing to collect

Written by Natalie Kainz, CNN

In Dennis Osadebe’s “Nigerian Dream,” two figures clad in fuscia and mustard yellow stare out of the painting. Their facial features are obscured by a traditional tribal mask and a futuristic space helmet. The piece parodies the 1930 Grant Wood painting “American Gothic,” but exchanges a rural farmhouse for a modern home, and a pitchfork for an electric fan — a staple for beating the heat in Nigeria.

The 31-year-old Lagos-based artist wants to challenge assumptions about African art, visualizing the continent’s future by reaching into the past.

“I always want to use my art to educate people about Nigeria by making them understand that we’re already future-thinking,” said Osadebe, whose work fits into the movement known as Afrofuturist art combining African heritage with technology. “We are … sophisticated and complicated. [We] can participate in art at any level.”

“Nigerian Dream” is an example of “Neo African” art, a term Osadebe said he coined to describe work that rebels against stereotypes around African art. His style has captivated audiences around the world, and even won the approval of tennis champion Naomi Osaka.

Osadebe poses in front of "Knowledge Seeker" (2022), part of his series of self-portraits.

Osadebe poses in front of “Knowledge Seeker” (2022), part of his series of self-portraits. Credit: Yusuf “Buch” Sanni

Using surrealism and “post-pop” to transcend expectations

Instead of focusing on Nigeria’s shortcomings, Osadebe said, including inconsistent access to electricity and poor health care, his work celebrates the future by showcasing Africa’s potential.

Osadebe describes his art as “postmodern surrealism,” and “post-pop.” His everyday scenes, anonymous faces, and imagery of common household objects are designed to help people visualize their lives in his art.

“When people look at this piece, I want them to reflect and ask themselves: ‘do I see myself in this piece and why?'” said Osadebe. “I want to convey the feeling of us as human beings … having shared experiences [by celebrating] the most mundane, simple things.”

Research is key to his artistic process. He starts by identifying features of existing images that excite him. He has borrowed horses from Renaissance paintings, David Hockney’s reverse perspective, and René Magritte’s playful obstruction of faces. “It’s similar to collage in that sense,” he added.
In "Dismantle" (2021), a figure takes apart an electric fan — a common object in Nigerian homes.

In “Dismantle” (2021), a figure takes apart an electric fan — a common object in Nigerian homes. Credit: Dennis Osadebe

Next, Osadebe starts to build a digital image around that feature. When the digital rendering is complete, he prints it on canvas and paints it using acrylic. For him, combining digital and traditional mediums gives him creative freedom.

Capturing a global audience

Osadebe said art is about developing a visual language that transcends geographic boundaries — a “universal language that everybody can connect to.” His work has captivated viewers in galleries all over the world, including Berlin, New York, Tokyo, Miami, London and Hong Kong.

He said learning about people’s perspectives on his art fuels his confidence to create. During his first exhibition in Lagos — 2017’s “Remember the Future,” inspired by the Nigerian space program — he was nervous about his work. “I was like, what have I done? These are all cartoon characters,” recalled Osadebe.

That anxiety went away when he had a discussion with the first person who walked into the gallery. “He [said] ‘as a Nigerian, this is something I felt like I needed to see — this was a perspective, a way of representation, that made me feel and see my potential.'” Osadebe said it was validating to hear that his art started a dialogue that he himself had struggled to put into words.

"Exercise Indoors" (2020) is part of a series of paintings Osadebe made of figures playing tennis indoors during the pandemic. He was inspired by his father, a tennis fan, trying to exercise at home.

“Exercise Indoors” (2020) is part of a series of paintings Osadebe made of figures playing tennis indoors during the pandemic. He was inspired by his father, a tennis fan, trying to exercise at home. Credit: Dennis Osadebe

More validation came from Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka. The four-time Grand Slam champion purchased several of Osadebe’s pieces after coming across them in 2020. Her management team reached out to Osadebe, he said, and told him Osaka was drawn to a painting of a woman sitting on a horse in a living room.

“She was like ‘this evokes the energy I feel when I get into a room,'” he said. While he never spoke to Osaka directly, he speculates that she liked the piece’s message about controlling one’s own narrative.

Last year, he painted a cover for a Racquet Magazine feature about Osaka at her request. It features a figure standing in a living room clutching tennis equipment.

Turning heritage into inspiration

Osadebe’s references to his Nigerian heritage infuse his art with nostalgia. The tribal mask that often appears in his paintings was inspired by the official emblem of the Second World Festival of Black Arts and Culture — a replica of the royal ivory mask of Benin.

Osadebe grew up in Festac Town, the federal housing estate in Lagos that was designed in 1977 to house the festival’s participants. Despite living in a place associated with the arts, he said there wasn’t enough representation of young and relatable artists in Nigeria when he was growing up. “I never knew that [a career in art] was a possibility,” he added.

He is the first artist in his family. His father’s career as an entrepreneur inspired Osadebe to study business management at Queen Mary University of London. He completed a master’s degree in innovation and entrepreneurship, before returning to Lagos to work for a boutique finance firm. He started painting as a way to vent his frustrations — then realized he could turn his passion into a career.

"Composure" (2022) was part of Osadebe's most recent exhibition "MODERN MAGIC" at König London. It's part of a series of self-portraits that Osadebe said he painted in response to a growth in demand for his work, and the expectations that came with it.

“Composure” (2022) was part of Osadebe’s most recent exhibition “MODERN MAGIC” at König London. It’s part of a series of self-portraits that Osadebe said he painted in response to a growth in demand for his work, and the expectations that came with it. Credit: Dennis Osadebe

His personal journey as an artist was part of the inspiration behind his recent series of self-portraits. In “Composure” (2022), furniture, plants, and paper swirl through the air in a living room. A figure stands motionlessly before the objects — calm amid chaos.

“I really wanted to reflect myself as an artist today [and] speak on my findings, my struggles, my frustrations,” said Osadebe. Under immense pressure, there is an expectation to retain composure, he added.

For Osadebe, “optimism is critical.” It’s the phrase he lives by when addressing serious themes in his art — like Nigeria’s long history of military rule from the 1960s into the 1990s in “General (Shoots a fake gun),” or police brutality in the video game he designed called “Playful Rebellion.” He said his art uses “optimism as a source of protest.”
Osadebe painted "General (shoots a fake gun)" in 2019. He said the tiny Nigerian flag emerging from the barrel of the gun reflects military leaders' lack of progress on taking the country to new heights. "For the leaders, the priority has never been to empower the people," he said, adding that the book beneath the figure's foot symbolizes education taking the last priority.

Osadebe painted “General (shoots a fake gun)” in 2019. He said the tiny Nigerian flag emerging from the barrel of the gun reflects military leaders’ lack of progress on taking the country to new heights. “For the leaders, the priority has never been to empower the people,” he said, adding that the book beneath the figure’s foot symbolizes education taking the last priority. Credit: Dennis Osadebe

That mentality fuels his continued experimentation with new mediums. He has already made 3D sculptures and interactive graphic interfaces. While he can’t give away any spoilers just yet, he said his next series will celebrate Nigerian identity.

“With optimism, there’s hope,” he explained. “It’s what drives me to want to create, [to] try out new mediums, because it makes me feel like there’s more possibilities.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment