I’ve been told plenty of times that in order to understand the present, I’ve got to know the history. I find that funny as a Black person born and raised in America. It’s not that I disagree, it’s just that I know that my history on this land—Black history—has been distorted and fucked-up to perpetuate the racist repercussions of European colonialism and white privilege in this godforsaken country.
Anti-Blackness at the hands of racist America seems inescapable no matter what context I place it into; literature, science, government, health, art… look into any “field” and see for yourself. My people have had to cry, scream, and fight for respect throughout all these fields of study for centuries, and we still haven’t gained the respect we deserve. Even in the visual arts, the field I’ve chosen to dedicate my life to, the history of racism against Black people runs rampant. To move on from this shit, we must acknowledge the many ways that this country has implemented a racial hierarchy since these lands were first colonized and stripped from indigenous peoples, and Black people were stolen from their native land and brought here.
BLACK SNAFU (Situation Niggas: All Fucked Up), gets its name from “Private Snafu”, a series of cartoon shorts made in the 1940s by Warner Bros. in the hopes of educating American WWII soldiers about military and warfare tactics. In BLACK SNAFU, I appropriate various depictions of Black people that I find throughout the history of American cartooning and beyond—from the 20th century racist characters in Don Raye’s “Scrub Me Mama with a Boogie Beat” to more contemporary, uplifting, and pro-Black characters like Huey and Riley Freeman from Aaron McGruder’s “The Boondocks”—and juxtapose them with photographs that line up more authentically with a (my) Black experience. These photographs are made by my hand and come from my camera, allowing me to fight back against the historical racist tropes I reference with my own authentic Blackness. By combining these ambivalent visual languages, I intend to expose to viewers America’s deplorable connection to anti-Black tropes through pop-culture while simultaneously celebrating the reality of what it means to be Black.
Raised in the Southern states of Tennessee and Texas, André Ramos-Woodard (they/ them/ he/ him) is a contemporary artist who uses their work to emphasize the experiences of the underrepresented: celebrating the experience of marginalized peoples while accenting the repercussions of contemporary and historical discrimination. Working in a variety of media—including photography, text, and illustration—Ramos-Woodard creates collages that convey ideas of communal and personal identity centralized within internal conflicts. They are influenced by their direct experience with life as being queer and African American, both of which are obvious targets for discrimination. Focusing on Black liberation, queer justice, and the reality of mental health, Ramos-Woodard works to amplify repressed voices and bring power to the people. Ramos-Woodard received their BFA from Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, and their MFA at The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
You can read a review of the exhibition by Emily Owens here
Exhibition photos courtesy of Amanda Tipton Photography