Faheem Majeed

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Faheem Majeed (b. 1976) is a Chicago-based artist whose studio practice focuses on investigating, challenging, and highlighting the significance of culturally specific institutions. As its former Executive Director (2007-2011), Chicago’s South Side Community Art Center serves as his primary muse. 

Majeed is a recipient of the Field and MacArthur Foundation’s Leaders for a New Chicago Award (2020), the Joyce Foundation Award (2020), the Joan Mitchell Painters and Sculptors Grant (2015), and is a Harpo Foundation Awardee (2016). Majeed’s solo exhibitions include MCA Chicago, SMFA at Tufts, and the Hyde Park Art Center.  

I’m a husband, then a father, then a member of my community and then an artist. 

In this context I don’t consider “artist” last as much as I consider it at the top of a pyramid whose base consists of the other labels. My art is my voice that allows me to express the interactions that result from my life.

I find that I am drawn to odd or broken things…that translates to both objects and people. I think I’m drawn to these kinds of things because of a bottomless curiosity…not necessarily to tear things apart to see how they work but to understand connections and motivations.

I believe in meeting people where they are…sometimes that’s not a good thing but more often than not it has helped me build long lasting, deep and loyal relationships. I believe in legacy. I believe in leaving something behind that has impact and not just in the visual sense. I am a serial committer even if it means I am the last one in the room. I believe in speaking things into being. I’m not religious, but I believe in doing the right thing.

Collaboration and community is at the core of my practice as a result of all of these things. Attempting to go above and beyond a single act to actually drive change in a way that others can access, experience and feel.

The work I create is dictated by the message I am attempting to communicate. People, space, industrial materials, found objects and my foundation of welding metal have all been leveraged in my work with strong aesthetic around use and wear. I like to feel that people can see what I put into my work rather than just seeing a beautiful object. I want them to connect to its patina, use, and history so that it takes more than one glance to really answer the question of its beauty.

 

MIXED MEDIA AND STILL LIFE

Works in EMERGENCE are diverse in their subject matter and media, but a few themes reappear throughout. Working in abstraction or in the traditionally peaceful genre of still life, artists like William Carter, Allen Stringfellow, and Jonathan Green express themes of interiority or sociability, history or modernity. Notably, Stringfellow and Ralph Arnold both experimented with media and materials and worked extensively in collage, which allowed them to combine abstract design, figurative imagery, and on occasion political ideas.

Viewers typically expect Black artists to focus on particular aspects of their social and political identities within their work. Where might those expectations come from? Still life, abstraction, and collage may express many different things about artists’ interior lives and their visual and social observation, whether connected to public manifestations of identity or not.

William Carter’s mid-century still life Untitled presents a group of vibrantly colored bottles that invite the viewer’s gaze, set against a similarly colorful background with floral elements like grapes and leaves. They give evidence of conviviality and might be interpreted as symbols of social gatherings, but they could also just be a collection of pleasing forms. We might put Carter’s still life in dialogue with that of Jonathan Green, who became close friends with Carter while living in Chicago. Green’s close-up view of an eloquently simple composition presents oranges, a pear, and a lemon in front of two vessels. Works like this piece call the viewer to examine the objects the artist chose to include, to consider how they interact with each other like bodies in space, and to reflect on their meaning within the traditional genre of still life painting.

Collage might suggest the piecing together of identity from different components that might not usually coexist, giving room for more expansive imaginations of meaning than a straightforward representational image might allow. It could also just be an inventive way of combining colors, shapes, and textures. Allen Stringfellow’s Untitled, a collage from 1962, brings familiar motifs from still life—fruit and flowers, desserts and glassware—together with imagery of artist’s models and performers. Layered with paint and tissue paper that frustrate the viewer’s attempt to get clarity on the subject matter, the bursts of form and colors hint at the splashy abstraction of Stringfellow’s untitled, textured painting made from house paint and particulate on cardboard. Here the artist tests commonly found materials to create new textures and plays with the creation of colors and finishes that diverge from “Western” academic painting methods.

In The Waiting, Arnold constructs a large collage from different paper components, lace, and paint. In the piece, elements of European and African art are placed in dialogue with one another, while some figures appear alone and isolated, others in large groups. Without giving easy answers, Arnold implies questions about social issues. Who is waiting, and for what? In his Love Sign II, which bears the words “Love is Universal,” Arnold asserts the equal validity of all types of romantic affection and love, utilizing collage to convey a more straightforward political message.