Wrist Game Bridges the Gap Between Visual Art and Music to Create an Immersive, Audiovisual Experience
Music is an intrinsic part of our lives. Everyday we might hear it, whether in passing when we’re walking down the street, when we’re at a block party drinking Hennessy, or when we’re randomly rifling through SoundCloud on a Wednesday night. This show is about that. Music: The soundtrack to our best days and the antidote to our worst.
The visual artists in the show — which include Tae Ham, Nia Wallace, Emily Manwaring, Jahniah Kum, and many more — help us to visualize songs by musicians — like Alicia Drayton, Black Haüs, Neon June, donSMITH, Joel Ross, and others — through their respective mediums. Together, this dynamic blend of multimedia artists and musicians makes for a show that is an immersive, audiovisual experience.
Each artwork tells a song’s story. Ahmari Benton’s ’Til Dawn is saturated with deep reds and potent purples, which vibrate on her canvas with an energetic intensity. The artwork, which is a depiction of the singer and songwriter Alicia Drayton, shows a wistful-looking woman staring off into the distance as she rests her cheek against her hand. “Siren” — a song included on ’Til Dawn, Drayton’s 2019 EP that inspired Benton’s portrayal — conveys a sense of longing similar to the one that Benton depicts. We can hear this clearly when Drayton croons that she is “Always in need of your affection” after which she proclaims that “[She] Think[s] [she] want[s] more” and after a pause, sings confidently, “Oh yeah I need more.”
Other artworks in this exhibition continue to compliment their source material distinctively. Sunset by Alanis Forde is an abstract depiction of a woman with glitter-red lips and spotted skin bedecked with white, blue and green dots. When creating the artwork, Forde drew inspiration from Maiya Blaney’s debut album “3,” a soulful collection of songs about life, interpersonal relationships, and family. The figure in Sunset crouches in front of a leaf encrusted with multicolored sparkles that glimmer with the light. Even though we can only see this multimedia collage through a screen, somehow we can still get a sense of its textured materiality, which is heightened with contrast by the picture’s melon-orange background. In “Blacker the Berry,” a song on Blaney’s new album, the vocalist sings:
Wish I didn’t listen to the songs you recommended
Wish I didn’t like the taste of it so much your taste so much still
Wish you hadn’t left me as open-ended
Wish I didn’t still want your silhouette on my window sill
When Blaney delivers these lines — which she does in a percussive way that punctuates each word — it is as pointed and striking as the visuals that accompany the music.
Alexandria Couch’s artwork also uses a variety of materials. She visualizes Lyric Fox’s music with crimson paint and sepia-toned photographs . In Fox’s recent EP, Ouch! Life is Beautiful, she sings about love and everyday moments. fox gives voice to her emotions in the song “Foolproof,” in which she says that her “mind is filled up with all things less than holy” as she reflects on what it’s like to spend time alone. Couch portrays the experience of such introspection with fluid lines, red lace, and photographs that place soft textures next to rigid ones. Speaking about her artwork, Couch says that she, “[juxtaposed] […] soft, smooth and hard sounds from […] music to arrive at a visual that suited manifestation of the dark sides of our psyche that speak through us — sometimes at will and other times without our permission.”
Florida-based artist Tae Ham also plays with line and texture in his work. His contribution to Wrist Game is an arresting portrait of two figures that face in opposite directions. Though the figures look connected — they’re positioned on top of one another, with no space in between them— they feel disjointed, like they don’t belong together. Ham chose to portray this conflicted feeling of being simultaneously separate and conjoined after being inspired by the same theme that undercuts the song One4Me by Black Haus.
“The production itself is very sultry and moody but what truly captured me was the lyrics,” Ham says. “I think anyone who has been in love would understand. You believe an individual is yours for eternity but when the smoke finally fades you are only left with the reality of who a person is.”
Jewel’s Wrist Game exhibition gives Black people the community they need and allows them to control their own narrative, particularly in a world where too many black musicians die too young E.g. The Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, Pop Smoke, Nipsey Hussle, and DMX. This exhibition allows Black people the opportunity to redefine narratives about black musicians, to tell their own stories, and to see black music as a celebration of life.
Isis Davis-Marks is a freelance writer and artist from New York City. Her work has also appeared in Artsy, Smithsonian Magazine (online), the Yale School of Art, La Loma Projects Gallery, the Columbia Journal, and elsewhere. She enjoys exploring the intersection between art, text and philosophy in her work.