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Kumasi J. Barnett: American Alien

Carol Schlosberg Gallery

September 26, 2022 - November 19, 2022

Kumasi J. Barnett: American Alien

Montserrat Galleries is pleased to present American Alien, a solo exhibition by the Baltimore-based artist, Kumasi J. Barnett. Influenced by the aesthetics and narratives of comic books, the exhibition features the artist’s ongoing series of hand-painted comic books that imbue mainstream comic genres with a present-day social consciousness. Using humor and sardonic wit, Barnett paints directly over the original comic book cover—including such superhero classics as The Amazing Spider-ManThe Incredible Hulk,  SupermanDaredevil, and Captain America—subverting their typical storylines and tropes of good versus evil through themes of police brutality, racial profiling, and systemic racism and the creation of characters like “The Amazing Black-Man,” “The Media’s Thug,” “Whitedevil,” and “Police-Man.” For example, Barnett transforms The Amazing Spiderman into “The Amazing Blackman,” substituting the hero’s recognizable red and blue leotard with a Black figure wearing jeans and a hooded sweatshirt—a new kind of survival armor—who battles police violence and racial injustices. Similarly, Barnett changes Marvel’s Superboy into “The New Adventures of Whiteboy,” a humorous commentary on today’s cancel culture.

Acquired from years of collecting comics, the works used in this series are personal mementos sourced from Barnett’s private collection and address his desire to create comic characters that reflect and comment upon the media’s racist and monolithic representations of the Black experience. Barnett’s collection also includes recent purchases that revisit and re-engage the artist’s youth spent among the dusty shelves of comic bookstores. By appropriating these familiar comic books, Barnett challenges white cultural nostalgia and histories of white superheroes, creating new comic narratives that center Black characters. Barnett harnesses a brutal, hyper-realistic vision of America today, reimagining a subculture of heroes who take on new super villains. By rewriting classic superhero genres, Barnett establishes stereotypes, prejudices, race-based violence as part of his new evil alliance, all attacking “The True American Heroes”.

Kumasi J. Barnett received his MFA from The Ohio State University, and now lives and works in Baltimore, MD. Barnett’s works have been exhibited widely both in the United States and abroad, including exhibitions at Lowell Ryan Projects, Los Angeles, CA; the SPRING/BREAK Art Show, New York, NY; City Lore, New York, NY; Con-Artist Collective, New York, NY; The Arsenal Gallery, New York, NY; Sulphur Bath Studio, Brooklyn, NY; and The Brooklyn Public Library, Brooklyn, NY. Museum exhibitions include the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa in Cape Town, South Africa; The Boca Raton Museum of Art, Boca Raton, FL; and most recently the Verge Center for the Arts, Sacramento, CA. Barnett presented a solo booth with Lowell Ryan Projects at The Armory Show 2020, in the Focus section curated by Jamillah James. Barnett’s work has been featured in ArtforumAmmo, Vibe, HyperallergicHuffington PostAutreArtnet News, and The Guardian, among others.

Kumasi J. Barnett is represented by Lowell Ryan Projects, Los Angeles