Art as resistance: Black artist makes Utah debut with new Weber State exhibit

Art as resistance: Black artist makes Utah debut with new Weber State exhibit
Internationally renowned artist Fahamu Pecou is pictured with his art supplies. His art is featured in a solo exhibition going on display Friday at Weber State University. (Photo supplied/FAHAMU PECOU)

OGDEN — An internationally renowned artist has brought his work combining West African spirituality with concerns about violence and killings of black men to Utah for the first time with a free exhibit at Weber State University.

Do or Die: Affect, Ritual and Resistance” combines observations on hip-hop, fine art and popular culture through a unique blown paint display by Fahamu Pecou.

The art exhibition opens Friday at the Mary Elizabeth Dee Shaw Gallery in the Kimball Visual Arts Center and continues through April 7.

Story continues below video.

“The work is itself a ritual, alive, animated with energy and meaning,” Pecou says.

The show opens with a panel discussion, called an “Intersession,” between Pecou, hip-hop artist Prynce Hamilton and a Brigham Young University art historian, Kenneth Hartvigsen, at 6 p.m. Friday. Following the discussion, Pecou will welcome gallery visitors at 7 p.m.

Pecou told the Standard-Examiner he hopes to inspire conversations about a subject that otherwise might not arise.

“I hope to jump-start some meaningful dialogue that impacts us all ultimately,” Pecou said. “When you begin to have these types of dialogues, solidarity and change are inevitable.”

Gallery director Lydia Gravis encouraged the community to view and be inspired by Pecou’s work.

“It’s important that we bring in an art exhibit that addresses the time in which we live,” Gravis said. “This exhibit leaves the viewer with a lot of hope. It really uses art as an empowering tool for hope.”

Gravis said she believes the exhibition will attract many who may never before have been to an art gallery.

Story continues below photo.

The blown paint technique used by artist Fahamu Pecou is shown here as he demonstrates the creation of one of the pieces in his latest exhibition. The exhibition goes on display Friday at Weber State University. (Photo supplied/Fahamu Pecou)

Pecou is an artist immersed in the exploration of what he calls the tenuous nature of black existence. His work names men who died as victims of violence against their race and invites open discussion.

“That’s the thing about art,” Pecou said. “It allows us a point of entry. Art opens it up for everybody to be on a level playing field.”

“Through the shameful legacies of slavery and Jim Crow to today’s #BlackLivesMatter, black bodies are disproportionately affected by violence,” says information distributed about his exhibition.

Pecou says his exhibition is about the delicate balance between life and death.

“Under looming threat of death, how might we inspire life?” Pecou asks in his press materials. “Through what mechanisms could we resist the psychological violence and despair inspired by the threat of violence and usher in hope? Or how might art serve as a space of resistance?”

Christie Denniston, director of marketing and public relations for the Lindquist College of Arts and Humanities, said Weber State University is thrilled to host an artist of Pecou’s caliber.

“One of the things that our college is committed to is to bring contemporary arts and artists to Weber State University and the greater Ogden area,” Denniston said. “We are the state’s only contemporary art gallery related to an institution of higher learning.”

Pecou chose to debut at WSU because of the university’s diverse student population, Denniston said.

“It is really interesting the kind of art he is doing,” Denniston said. “It’s very timely.”

The Kimball Visual Arts Center is located south of the Ada Lindquist Plaza on the Weber State University campus, 3848 Harrison Blvd. in Ogden.

You may reach reporter JaNae Francis at jfrancis@standard.net or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or on Facebook at Facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis.