BLACK MAGIC at PPAC and New York Live Arts

New York Live Arts, in partnership with Philadelphia Photo Arts Center and De Buck Gallery, presents an exhibition, an installation, and performances of FIVE and The Champion Ball.

September 12 – November 30, 2019

New York, NY (August 9, 2019) —New York Live Arts, in partnership with Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, presents Rashaad Newsome’s multifaceted BLACK MAGIC at New York Live Arts (Live Arts), Philadelphia Photo Arts Center (PPAC), and Icebox Project Space (Icebox), September 12 – November 30, 2019. The project includes an exhibition at PPAC, installation at New York Live Arts, and performances at Live Arts and Icebox. BLACK MAGIC is a holistic reflection on agency, Blackness, and the futurity of intersectional identities and oppression.

BLACK MAGIC’s inaugural presentation begins with an exhibition of all new work in collage and sculpture, To Be Real, at PPAC September 12 – November 30, 2019. At the conceptual center of To Be Real, which takes its name from Cheryl Lynn’s 1977 queer anthem, is Newsome’s ‘child’ so to speak, a cloud-based, A.I. humanoid named Being (2019). Being is the first generation of Newsome’s LACMA Art + Technology Lab Grant project. The being’s mind has been populated with the works of radical authors, revolutionaries, and theorists such as Paulo Freire, Michel Foucault, and bell hooks. Being acts as a critical guide to the exhibition, exploring ideas of agency and hegemony within artificial intelligence. Being’s body is represented in the exhibition by a 3D avatar of a humanoid robot. Its torso and face plates are all African mahogany inspired by the female Pho mask from the Chokwe peoples of the Congo.

Also on view is Ansista, a 3D creation of the neo-cubist figures seen in the more 2D collages suspended in the Vogue dip dance move. Though formally it uses assemblage, the piece is analogous to cubism, which is heavily investigated in many of the exhibition’s works. As a way of queering the subject, the lower body, which is comprised of a lifelike sex doll, is outfitted in drag padding, a custom wig, acrylic nails, high heel boots, and a costume that fuses traditional African and drag ballroom aesthetics. Ansista embodies the very culture that inspired it —an affirmation for femme, womanist, non-binary POC empowerment, which is simultaneously reflected in the surrounding collage work.

As a means of extending the conversation of agency explored within the exhibition, Rashaad Newsome is collaborating with Snap Inc. and creating custom augmented reality lenses. Visitors of the show will be invited to download an App that will allow them to hold their phone up to static works in the exhibition to reveal hidden aspects. The works will confront the viewer head-on, looking back at them, engaging in their own sort of Oppositional gaze. They will speak to the viewer about what they are meant to represent and what they can represent, as well as recite excerpts from Michel Foucault’s Relations of Power. On the occasion of Newsome’s Champion Vogue Ball, he will premiere the ‘Get Your 10’s’ lens, a personal lens that allows everyone at the event to feel like a winner.

Newsome will be in conversation with exhibition curator Jasmine Wahi at the Rhoden Arts Center/PAFA on October 17, 2019, discussing the entire Black Magic project in two cities and three parts that reflect on Blackness, gender, and futurity. To Be Real will be traveling to Fort Mason in San Francisco in January 2020.

Newsome’s installation for Live Arts’ Ford Foundation Live Gallery lobby wall, opening September 19, 2019, features a video and unique lithographs generated from the performance process of the artist’s acclaimed FIVE. An expansion of the digital data captured during his 2016 FIVE SFMOMA, Newsome uses 3D data obtained during the live performance and translates the fierce, spiraling movements of five vogue dancers to the two-dimensional surface of the prints. In collaboration with Tamarind Institute, ten plates were created and printed using traditional lithographic methods. In keeping with his expansive, interdisciplinary method of working, Newsome incorporates three-dimensional printed forms and collaged images of the dancers’ bodies into each print. The suite includes five distinct prints representing each of the five dancers and incorporates a complex layering of performance, ephemeral and recorded movement, and traditional printing and digital technology.

Newsome’s electric performance piece FIVE will make its Live Arts and Philadelphia debuts at New York Live Arts November 8-9, 2019 and at Icebox November 23, 2019. Featuring local artists in each cast, FIVE is a multimedia performance that abstracts the art of Vogue Femme, a dance form originating from the African-American and Latinx LGBTQ+ community of 1970s Harlem. In the performance, five dancers represent the five elements of Vogue Femme—hands, catwalk, floor performance, spin dips, and duck-walking. As each dancer takes the floor, an M.C., an operatic vocalist, a black gospel choir, and five musicians improvise an interactive soundtrack, building to a carefully structured crescendo of sound and movement. Using custom made motion-tracking technology, created from a combination of creative coding and video game hardware, Newsome maps the movement patterns of dancers during the live performances and transforms the collected data into digital neoactionist drawings in real-time on a screen above the performance.

Since 2013, Rashaad Newsome has staged his annual King of Arms Art Ball, a live performance event that brings together renowned figures from the LGBTQ+ ballroom community with luminaries from the worlds of art, fashion, music, literary, and activism. For The Champion Ball at Icebox on November 16, 2019, Newsome will continue the tradition of a ball, a historic Harlem-originating competition featuring visual effects and performance. For this event, all categories will be based exclusively on the work and legacy of Black LQBTQ+ artists. The Champion Ball will create a platform to celebrate queer artists of color, explore contemporary social justice issues, and provide space for emerging artists to showcase their work. Judges for the event include David Hartt, Bill T. Jones, Erica-Kane-Lanvin, Dawn Ebony, and more to be announced.
BLACK MAGIC is generously supported by the William Penn Foundation with additional support from New Music USA and the MAP Fund, supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This presentation is part of Live Arts’ Live Feed creative residency program, a laboratory for the development of new commissioned work directed toward the Live Arts theater. The Live Feed program is supported in part by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund National Endowment for the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and Partners for New Performance.

For more information about available works and to receive a digital catalog of Rashaad Newsome, please contact us at


Philadelphia Photo Arts Center Philadelphia, PA


September 12, 2019 - November 30, 2019


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