NeoHooDoo’d

Osorio_Lonely_SoulOver the holidays I visited P.S.1 with no real intentions of seeing any specific exhibition but walked away wanting to know more about the ideas behind the show, NeoHooDoo, and will now force my learned knowledge upon the readers of this blog.
NeoHooDoo was co-organized by The Menil Collection and P.S.1. It was installed previously at the Menil in Houston–check out this link. Also there is a full-blown catalog for the show that can found on Amazon or at P.S.1.

The official P.S.1 blurb says:

NeoHooDoo asserts that the drive towards a spiritual practice is as relevant today in our burgeoning global society as it has ever been. Artists have long engaged with ritualism to enrich their work, drawing on the traditions of shamans, griots, and oral historians. NeoHooDoo “grew out of a desire to explore the multiple meanings of spirituality in contemporary art…”

I am not sure I always get the type of ritual and overall vibe the statement is talking about from the work in the show. Especially in works such as Jimmie Durham’s Street Level Treatise on Money and Work that include a large number of framed store receipts. It is not that I disapprove of his unmonumental aesthetic but more that it seems to me neither ritualistic nor spiritual.

On the other hand Nari Ward’s Liquorsoul, an old-school sign from the side of a building, has been inverted except for the letters s,o,u, and l which have been left right-side up and illuminated. He then added plastic flowers and shoes that have had their heels cut away to create a exquisite shrine: the high-art equivalent for the roadside genre that includes crosses and teddy bears. Likewise Pepon Osorio’s Lonely Soul is a masterful use of symbolism. Bringing a million little ideas and visuals into one finely tuned heap of an artwork. The many crutches holding up a house by themselves are so telling of  the narratives Osorio is able to bring to fruition with simple symbols.

Ok, lastly I thought I should mention that the term NeoHooDoo was originally used by the poet  Ishmael Reed in his 1972 manifesto.

Again from the 0ffical blurb:

In the late 1960s poet Ishmael Reed adopted the 19th-century term “HooDoo,” referring to forms of religion and their practice in the New World to explore the idea of spiritual practice outside easily definable faiths or creeds and ritualism on contemporary works of literature and art. “Neo-HooDoo,” he writes in his 1972 collection of poetry, Conjure, “believes that every man is an artist and every artist a priest.” His seminal poems, “The Neo-HooDoo Manifesto” and “The Neo-HooDoo Aesthetic,” delve even deeper into this artistic practice to demonstrate its vitality as an international, multicultural aesthetic that embraces spiritual creativity and innovation.

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