BLK & BLUE
A Solo Exhibition by MALIK ROBERTS
“For this show, I wanted to focus on the topic of mental illness in communities of color. It’s an ongoing conversation that started a few years ago and has been getting a bit more notoriety lately. But I find the conversation that’s being had is often about the stigma associated with the topic rather than the sources. I’m more interested in looking at the sources.
The environmental factors that cause and perpetuate mental illness effect black and brown communities at a disproportionate rate to white communities. Every day, black people in America face conditions like food deserts, banking deserts, limited access to health care….the results of redlining, the criminalization of certain drugs, and the racism embedded in the criminal justice system. Environments that cause illnesses like anxiety, depression, PTSD, and bipolar disorder – these are our landscapes.
In my last show at ABXY [Stolen] I used more celebrities and icons as subjects because I felt that it made the subject matter more relatable. With Blk & Blue I chose to explore another topical conversation; but the subjects in this show are not the subjects you see in the news…They aren’t specific individuals or incidents either. They are ideas of people and situations that I’ve seen over and over throughout my life.
There’s a scene of a kid stealing food from a market because he can’t eat. Another of someone getting jumped in front of a corner store. A worried mother. A young fellow who’s seen some things Another young man, a bit older, who’s seen a little bit more, he’s more hardened. I wanted to memorialize these archetypes you might see in a black neighborhood. That’s why I made the portraits so statuesque. At the same time, I want my subjects to tell their stories through their eyes and faces.
With the landscapes, I want to convey the regularity of these scenes in black life and spotlight the trauma they inflict. That’s why, in many of these pieces, there’s only one light source and a lot of darkness. I spent time looking at Caravaggio’s work. I also studied Picasso, of course. Plus Goya, Van Dyke, and Bacon for this show. And a lot of Moorish paintings. Renaissance and Baroque art don’t include many black people. But Moorish art gives some perspective on what a black person might look like around the same time.
I believe in art as a mechanism for political change. It’s always been a driving force. I think about Obama’s campaign poster, Picasso’s Guernica, or Rosie the Riveter. Art has forged political revolution and cultural evolution all over the world for hundreds, if not thousands of years. That’s inspiring to me. My work often touches on social issues that have affected me or the people in my community. This show is no different. What I see is the point of me painting.”
- Malik Roberts, 2018
MALIK ROBERTS (b. 1990, Brooklyn, NY) is a Brooklyn based painter and multimedia artist creating deconstructed portraits of newsworthy contemporary subjects, which explore the relationship between visual culture and reality today. In 2015 his work made waves at a Gucci Mane themed exhibition sponsored by Tumblr, which was extensively covered by local media. In 2016 Roberts’ politically charged mural on display at First Street Green Graffiti Park in downtown Manhattan caught the attention of Scholastic’s National Programs team. The artist was subsequently selected to serve as a juror for Scholastic’s distinguished “Art and Writing Awards.” In November 2017, Roberts had his first solo show at ABXY Gallery in Manhattan. Entitled, “Stolen,” works in the show focussed on the misappropriation of black culture throughout history. Celebrity collectors include: Adrien Brody (actor), Paige Reifler (model), and Ryn Weaver (musician). His work has been featured in Brooklyn Magazine. Spoiled NYC, Whitewall Magazine, Young Jefe, The Burrprint blog, and Pigeons and Planes and many many more.