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The Neo Negro: An Artist Talk with James Britt and Romi Crawford

Image courtesy of the artist.

Currently at Blanc Gallery in Bronzeville, The Neo Negro features new work by James Britt that utilizes humor and absurdity to pose questions about our relationship to popular culture and the icons that play a part within it. Just as we often attempt to insert ourselves into these scenes, Britt as his alter ego S’emaj L’rea has made his smiling image consistently present throughout the work, therefore suggesting that “we are all producers and actors in this performance.” At first, the playful nature of the work disarms the viewer–we get a laugh at the sight of S’emaj hugging a sobbing Oprah while President Obama looms in the background or the sounds from the autobiographical remake of Erykah Badu’s song “Tyrone“, but after a while it becomes apparent that this quality plays dual roles–to make the work approachable and recognizable to a wide range of people but also to allow for a deeper, unsettling conversation about what lies beyond the surface of our culture.

During the artist talk between James Britt and curator Romi Crawford a dialogue was sparked that questioned the audience of the work, how Britt’s role as an arts administrator has affected the approachability of the work and exactly what it means in this day and age to be a Neo Negro.

This artist talk was recorded on September 7, 2013.  The Neo Negro runs through September 27, 2013 at Blanc Gallery, 4445 South King Drive, Chicago, IL 60653. For more information visit

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