LYRICS TO GO: Curated by VisArts’ 2023 Mentoring Curator Dr. Fahamu Pecou

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Kaplan Gallery

Curated by VisArts’ 2023 Mentoring Curator Dr. Fahamu Pecou

September 8-October 29, 2023
Kaplan Gallery

Curator’s Statement
In acknowledgment of the 50th Anniversary of Hip-Hop, I’m thrilled to present LYRICS TO GO. This two-person exhibit locates the influence of hip hop poetics, writing, and literature in contemporary art practices as both conceptual and literal points of departure.

Artists Ebon Heath and Tahir Hemphill both incorporate and build from writing in their respective works. Rather than merely speaking or hearing words, they use sculpture and technology to transform words into objects that expand our experience of rap music. Their works can be viewed as an evolution of the hip hop discipline of graffiti and as an original perspective of the impact of hip hop on the art world. The conversation that emerges between these two artists, and subsequently between the works and its audience, is a powerful one that speaks to the ongoing relevance and impact of hip hop culture. Through their use of different mediums, Heath and Hemphill demonstrate the versatility and complexity of hip hop poetics, showcasing how it can be translated and reimagined in new and innovative ways.

The exhibit is a celebration of hip hop’s past, present, and future, highlighting its enduring influence on contemporary art and culture. It invites viewers to engage with hip hop on a deeper level, to explore its rich history, and to consider its ongoing significance in our world today. Overall, the exhibit serves as a testament to the power and enduring relevance of hip hop and its impact on the world of art.

About the Artist: Ebon Heath
Ebon Heath’s monumental installations render text as three-dimensional spatial experience. Viewers move through the text while also being invited to reinterpret the meaning of the words in a new context. This creates a dynamic and immersive experience that challenges the viewer to engage with the text in a deeper way. By transforming language into a physical and tangible form, Heath’s installations highlight the power of words to shape our experiences and perceptions of the world around us. They also demonstrate how language can be used as a tool for artistic expression, pushing the boundaries of what we traditionally consider to be art. Overall, Heath’s work invites viewers to reconsider the role of language in our lives and to engage with it in a more creative and expansive way.

About the Artist: Tahir Hemphill
Tahir Hemphill’s engagement with mapping rap’s coded language introduces new and exciting ways to consider technology and the archive. Based on Hemphill’s digital archive, The Hip-Hop Word Count is a project that uses data visualization to map the frequency and usage of words in rap lyrics. By analyzing the language and themes present in rap songs, Hemphill is able to explore the social, cultural, and political contexts in which they were created.

Through this project, Hemphill challenges traditional notions of what an archive can be, using technology to create an interactive and dynamic archive that allows users to explore and engage with rap lyrics in new ways. By mapping the language of rap, he is able to reveal patterns and trends that might not be immediately visible, highlighting the unique contributions of different artists and sub-genres within the world of hip hop.

Overall, Hemphill’s work shows how technology can be used to create new forms of knowledge and understanding, and how data visualization can be used to uncover insights and connections that might otherwise be overlooked. By engaging with rap’s coded language in this way, he is able to shed light on the complex and multifaceted nature of this art form, and to explore the social and cultural contexts that have shaped it over time.

About the Curator: Dr. Fahamu Pecou
Dr. Fahamu Pecou is an interdisciplinary artist and scholar whose works combine observations on hip-hop, fine art, and popular culture to address concerns around contemporary representations of Black men. Through paintings, performance art, and academic work, Dr. Pecou confronts the performance of Black masculinity and Black identity, challenging and expanding the reading, performance, and expressions of Blackness.

Dr. Fahamu Pecou received his BFA at the Atlanta College of Art in 1997 and a Ph.D. from Emory University in 2018. Dr. Pecou exhibits his art worldwide in addition to lectures and speaking engagements at colleges and universities.

As an educator, Dr. Pecou has developed (ad)Vantage Point, a narrative-based arts curriculum focused on Black male youth. Dr. Pecou is also the founding Director of the African Diaspora Art Museum of Atlanta (ADAMA).

Pecou’s work is featured in noted private and public national and international collections including; Smithsonian National Museum of African American Art and Culture, Societe Generale (Paris), Nasher Museum at Duke University, The High Museum of Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Seattle Art Museum, Paul R. Jones Collection, ROC Nation, Clark Atlanta University Art Collection and Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia.

Dr. Pecou was recently announced as one of the recipients of the 2022 Louis Comfort Tiffany Award.  In 2020, Pecou was one of 6 artists selected for Emory University’s groundbreaking Arts & Social Justice Fellowship. Additionally, Pecou was the Georgia awardee for the 2020 South Arts Prize. In 2017 he was the subject of a retrospective exhibition “Miroirs de l’Homme” in Paris, France. A recipient of the 2016 Joan Mitchell Foundation “Painters and Sculptors” Award, his work also appears in several films and television shows including; HBO’s Between the World and Me, Blackish, and The Chi. Pecou’s work has also been featured on numerous publications including Atlanta Magazine, Hanif Abdurraqib’s poetry collection, A Fortune for Your Disaster and the award-winning collection of short stories by Rion Amilcar Scott, The World Doesn’t Require You.

Learn more at

Images: Top Left – Ebon Heath, Chasing Beauty, 2015; Bottom Left – Tahir Hemphill, MaximumDistance.MinimumDisplacement.:Jay,2023

About the 21st Century VisArts Emerging Curator Program: The VisArts Emerging Curator Program pairs an emerging curator with an experienced mentoring curator to produce new exhibitions and related programming.

Generous funding for this exhibition has been provided by

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