Q&A with Hebru Brantley | Bleader

Q&A with Hebru Brantley


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Numb Declaration, Hebru Brantley
  • Numb Declaration, Hebru Brantley

A little over a year ago, I interviewed artist Hebru Brantley. At the time, Brantley spoke about life as a street artist, Chicago pride, and his solo show at Zhou B. Art Center, "Afro Futurism: (Impossible View)." Since our conversation last March, Brantley’s career has taken flight. Last summer, he designed the 20th anniversary flyer for Lollapalooza, exhibited work at Art Basel, and made 110 pieces for his October show, "Yesterday’s Losers." Although Brantley’s visibility has risen exponentially, he’s now taking a step back. His latest endeavor, "Trapped in What I Made Believe," is a smaller, more concise body of work. For "Trapped in What I Made Believe," Brantley created a series of oil and acrylic paintings—as opposed to some of his larger spray paint and sculpture pieces—and though the medium may be different, the playful graffiti aesthetic is thoroughly Brantley.

Tell me about "Trapped in What I Made Believe."

With this show, I’m further extending the characters I’ve created. I’m telling different stories; some are complex, others are simple. It’s like all those Walt Disney guys. As a creator, I’m using my medium to tell certain tales. And I want to make my characters identifiable to a larger audience.

Who are these characters?

I still use the same imagery as in "Impossible View." The flyboy, the goggles. . . they’ve become a trademark that’s associated with my work and me.

What about the show’s title, "Trapped in What I Made Believe"—what does that mean?

It’s about living in both worlds. This world that I’ve created artistically, which in many ways mirrors my reality, and my own life. I begin to live with these characters.

How is this show different from "Impossible View" and "Yesterday’s Losers?"

Well, first, it’s a smaller gallery. With the last two shows, I could easily hang 40-100 pieces. Here, it’s significantly scaled down. But I don’t think the experience is lessened. This show allows the viewer to concentrate on specific narratives.

Can you describe a particular piece from the show?

One piece, In and Out Of It, is set against the Illinois flag. There’s a boy half submerged in water. He’s very lackluster in emotion. He’s very complacent. And then there’s a little guy happening by in a boat. The piece begs the question: is the guy in the water necessarily stuck in his situation? A lot of the pieces in this show deal on a more personal level and ask certain questions that I’ve asked myself.

Like what?

Are people of color trapped in a mundane cycle? Are we going to just float and coast on by? I’m really just challenging that way of thinking. Challenging people not to be spectators. Or, I'm encouraging them to strive to be a player in the game.

Thu 4/12, 6-8 PM, Kasia Kay Art Projects, 215 N. Aberdeen.