In ‘Hyperblack Show’, Johnny Floyd asks us to reconsider our view of blacks

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“Hyperblack Spectacle,” a solo exhibition by Detroit artist Johnny Floyd at the Conduit Gallery, accomplishes what only the greatest art does: it takes something familiar – something we think we already know – and inspires us to reconsider our way of seeing the world. In this case, Floyd wants us to reconsider our way of seeing black people – and not just metaphorically. He wants us to see a black person as more than a melanistic-skinned human. “What if you could get a pair of glasses that would allow you to see a black person extradimensionally?” Floyd asks.

In the titular paint Hypernoir show, Floyd presents a figurative image of the head of a black man with golden face and neon orange and yellow hair, with a large bluish hand and salmon-peach fingernails that cover half of the face, fingers splayed to reveal an eye lined with red which looks directly at the viewer.

Johnny Floyd, Hyperblack Show, 2021, oil, acrylic and gold leaf on canvas at Hyperblack Show, the first solo exhibition of paintings by Detroit-based artist Johnny Floyd at the Conduit Gallery until November 13, 2021.

Seeing this painting you know that you are no longer in Kansas and you wonder if you are even on this planet, maybe not even in this galaxy. It’s as if Floyd has shed the literal idea of ​​darkness as a dark complexion and replaced it with a person’s aura. He sucked the internal energy out of his perception of blacks and made it external. It’s surprising and alchemical. The character appears more timid than confrontational – as if he’s not sure it’s okay to allow the viewer to see his true form. This perhaps reflects Floyd’s own personality right now, as the self-taught painter navigates what it means to have sold-out shows and work in the prestigious Two x Two art auction this month at The Rachofsky House.

Detroit-based artist Johnny Floyd, pictured in Dallas on October 9, 2021 for his exhibition Hyperblack Show at the Conduit Gallery through November 13, 2021.
Detroit artist Johnny Floyd was pictured in Dallas on October 9, 2021 for his Hyperblack Show exhibit at the Conduit Gallery through November 13, 2021.

There is an Afro-futuristic quality to this exhibit, and although Floyd loves both Octavia Butler and Blade runner, it would not necessarily fit into this formal tradition. However, the spirit and beauty of the idea that black people exist in the future permeates the show.

“We have to go to something outside [of our normal existence], imagine a space within a fantastic space, just to imagine ourselves existing, ”says Floyd. The reason why black artists often create alternate worlds can be seen in what happens when they tap into the past. In work Denmark’s scandalous fortune Vesey, we see a black Vesey, afroed on a peach background, with a dark purple face, a lighter purple nose, a red beard and light blue shoulders, with an arrow in the head.

Vesey was a slave black man in South Carolina who managed to win the lottery, and he used the lottery money to buy his freedom. He became a successful carpenter. Vesey was eventually hanged for allegedly leading an attempted slave rebellion. Floyd says the play was inspired by Shakespeare as well. Hamlet – in particular the famous speech “To be or not to be” – “if it is nobler in the spirit to undergo the slings and the arrows of a scandalous fortune.

Johnny Floyd, The Young Bol is an alchemy, 2021, oil, acrylic and gold leaf on canvas - will be in the Two x Two art auction at The Rachofsky House.
Johnny Floyd, The Young Bol is an alchemy, 2021, oil, acrylic and gold leaf on canvas – will be in the Two x Two art auction at The Rachofsky House.

This is not the only Shakespearean reference in the exhibition, with the play Talk about me as i am featuring a nude black male figure with pink features on a multi-colored curtain stage reminiscent of Othello’s last words. Examining the performativity of black male sexuality, the piece also references great conceptual artist Fred Wilson – and recalls how the over-sexualization of darkness and the performative insecurity that can accompany it can lead to self-death.

The first painting that we see when entering the living room is If they look like a portal, wear it like a necklace, which features the side profile of a bald black man with milk chocolate skin wrapped in an aluminum halo that doubles as an extravagant collar of his black sweatshirt against a golden ocher background. The collar / halo / hood looks like a mylar survival blanket – suggesting that the viewer’s gaze is something the subject must reflect and survive.

Johnny Floyd, The Light Within Me Recognizes the Light Within You, 2021, oil on canvas at Hyperblack Spectacle, the first solo exhibition of paintings by Detroit-based artist Johnny Floyd at the Conduit Gallery until November 13, 2021.
Johnny Floyd, The Light Within Me Recognizes the Light Within You, 2021, oil on canvas at Hyperblack Spectacle, the first solo exhibition of paintings by Detroit-based artist Johnny Floyd at the Conduit Gallery until November 13, 2021.

“The white male gaze can cost black men and children their lives, so I tried to paint it as a portal that allows us to escape that gaze,” says Floyd.

And he succeeded in “Hyperblack Spectacle” by creating paintings that can allow blacks to escape a singular and reductive gaze and cross into a colorful, transcendent and multidimensional world.

Details

Artist Johnny Floyd’s “Hyperblack Show” runs through November 13 at the Conduit Gallery, 1626 Hi Line Drive, Dallas. Tuesday to Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. conduitgallery.com.

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Henry Ossawa Tanner "The grateful poor," from 1894, shows a young boy and his grandfather with their heads bowed in prayer over a humble meal.  The exhibition of two paintings by Tanner continues through January 2 at the Dallas Museum of Art.  (Dallas Museum of Art)


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