Marking time. That’s how interdisciplinary artist Faheem Majeed describes his latest tribute to the South Side Community Art Center. He’s using graphite to mark the past, present and future of the oldest African American art center in the country.
“It highlights the gallery in a way that … I just want to show what I see when I come into that space,” Majeed said.
For the past eight decades, the Bronzeville art center has worked to serve Black creatives working in all mediums, molding the likes of prominent artists such as Charles White and Gordon Parks. Its impact is one of the many reasons Majeed is honoring the center in his latest project: a graphite rubbing of the entire building.
“I don’t see old wooden walls, I see the ancestors kind of moving through this space,” Majeed said. “So really the graphite rubbing exterior is one of many explorations of the history of this space.”
For six days, Majeed and his team laid sheets across the building and used graphite to catch the moments in time.
“I had some former students work with me. I had to explain to them kind of how it works,” Majeed said. “It’s going to move on you. It’s incredibly heavy, we had to do it in strips. The wind is going to blow and it’s going to get in your face. You’re going to want to move left to right, and by the time you’ve come back, it’s moved a lot but that’s the point. It’s kind of like trying to mark a second. Trying to do a rubbing of a moment, before the moment’s gone. When you see the piece, it doesn’t look like one for one. It’s marking time. I think of it almost as like photographs — but it’s moving.”
Majeed used the drawing material to document the inside of the center as well, creating a collection of interior rubbings ranging from the floors and walls to a piano. The entire tribute is on display at the Hyde Park Art Center, to bridge the gap between the two institutions, and ideally propel the South Side Community Art Center to the level at which Majeed believes it should be recognized.
“They (Hyde Park and South Side art centers) both worked with the WPA (Work Progress Administration) and got government funding and are neighboring communities. A lot of the artists that have shown here have shown at the Hyde Park Art Center. But there haven’t been many formal exchanges,” he said.
In the long term, Majeed hopes this multi-layered exhibition helps people understand the role physical institutions play in not only shaping artists but shaping communities.
“It doesn’t look like a building because it unravels and you’re like, ‘How do you wrap a column and do a rubbing?’ It’s an explosive kind of thing, and it moves,” Majeed said. “So one column will turn into three. Like a doorknob will kind of break off. I think that’s a really great analogy for working in a cultural space like this — in that it’s always moving and changing.”
Follow Angel Idowu on Twitter: @angelidowu3
Angel Idowu is the JCS Fund of the DuPage Foundation Arts Correspondent.