PARIS — Wifredo Lam’s hot, hybrid style is essentially spiky.
In The Prophecy, a striking series by Dakar-based photographer Fabrice Monteiro, majestic alien creatures wear hoop skirts and headdresses made from soda cans, garbage bags, fishing nets, tortoise shells, and the odd baby doll.
Imaginative, aesthetic, historically fixated, and cosmically liberated, afrofuturism could be subject to low budgets, racism, sexism, and indifference, and still count itself a master of radiant ideas.
“You know, Sun Ra is a formative figure for many young artists,” Georg Schöllhammer, Vienna director of the curatorial collective Tranzit, avowed to me recently on the fifth floor of the New Museum.
One part a literary subgenre of sci-fi, pioneered by the likes of Samuel R. Delany and Octavia E. Butler, and one part cross-cultural, interdisciplinary aesthetic movement, Afrofuturism — a term coined by cultural critic Mark Dery in his 1994 essay “Black to the Future”— can be tricky to describe.
When you walk into the main gallery of the Studio Museum in Harlem’s current exhibition The Shadows Took Shape, which explores contemporary art through the lens of Afrofuturist aesthetics, one of the first pieces to catch the eye is a glittering procession of black astronauts fanned across a faded landscape.
One of the figures behind Space Slave Trade, Seychelle Allah discusses his brand of afrofuturism that layers the visual culture around him into a world in which the aggregate plays an important role.
Allah’s relationship with social media has been complex. Space Slave Trade, named after a friend’s band, started after he was kicked off Facebook for sharing images deemed inappropriate by the service. The resulting blog is NSFW and careens from porn-like images with young Asian girls to absurd representations of starving Africans. The aesthetic is young, fresh, and aggressive without being violent.