Los Angeles–based artist Rakeem Cunningham uses photography, collage, installation, and video to explore the nuances of queer black experience. Dressed and undressed in polyester superhero costumes, leotards, kimonos, wigs, and other items, Cunningham stages himself within unpretentious arrangements of draped fabrics, cast off foam, salvaged classroom materials, acetates, bubble wrap, fake grass, painted wood, and painters tape—a vernacular aesthetics of the San Fernando Valley that are both spontaneous and optimistic. Contrapposto while gazing into the distance or balancing while gracefully drawing an oversized weapon-sculpture—Cunningham appropriates poses from a cascade of emotionally charged scenes sourced from manga, anime, and video games. As a queer youth of color, he idolized heroes that didn’t look like him, taking solace in the trials and tribulations of each character. Often bullied by his peers for his niche special interest, Cunningham revisited these characters as an adult, proudly honoring his past self. Each portrait is a declaration of subjectivity and existence—proof of self-validation and an ongoing healing journey that expands upon a definition of hero.
Email: [email protected]