Smile Politely

Consider Uncanny Juxtapositions at the McKinley Foundation

Two images from two different managa by Kofi Bazzell-Smith. On the left, a black and white drawing of a crow. The crow is black, the background gray, and the ground on which the crow stands is white. On the right a character named Azuki. Azuki is a black child with brown skin and black hair. They wear a blue outfit. The background is light blue and pink. There is Japanese writing above the character's head, and the name Azuki spelled out vertically in bubble letters to the left.
Kofi Bazzell-Smith

The McKinley Foundation’s current Artists’ Alley exhibition is Uncanny Juxtapositions by Kofi Bazzell-Smith. The exhibition features two different projects the artist is working on: Azuki and Karasu. 

The exhibition opens Wednesday, January 25th, with a reception on Thursday, January 27th from 4:30 to 6 p.m. and remarks from Bazzell-Smith at 5:30 p.m.

Specific information about the projects is in the information below:

Uncanny Juxtapositions features selections from two works I am drawing simultaneously with opposing themes. Each work was created with both English and Japanese versions.

A translation can radically change the voice and subtext of a story. Since I am both the creator and the translator of my works, I have full control of these choices and I am experimenting with telling versions of stories that may resonate in different ways with different audiences.

Azuki is a parody set in a world where Rock Paper Scissors is a serious martial art. Azuki only plays scissors every match but always wins as she embarks on a quest to reunite her family. The absurd story represents Black girl magic as reality comically bends toward Azuki’s will, speculating the potential of a world where race doesn’t exist. The pacing is whimsical, the scenes are comical, and the story is for all-ages. When we talk about Blackness in the arts and in the academy, it is often negative and painful. I want being Black to be seen as a fun adventure- and Azuki is my appeal.

Karasu is a drama about a man dealing with the death of his daughter- inspired by a Japanese folk song by Hako Yamasaki of the same name about crows kidnapping children. Grief and death are inevitable, and this story is about that realization. I use space and slow pacing to evoke 間(Ma)- a Zen concept prevalent in Japanese art and film meaning space (and time) to reflect. Ma is a narrative tool that highlights the absence of object(s) as the marker of attention. One becomes aware of what is not there– and contemplates.

Pairing pessimistic realism with positive and imaginative fantasy in this exhibition juxtaposes tragic elements of the human condition with the speculation of an unlimited future, creating a narrative in the space “between the panels” and highlighting the power of intercultural exchange as a vehicle for knowledge production.

Uncanny Juxtapositions
McKinley Foundation
809 S Fifth St
Champaign
January 25-March 24, 2023
Opening Reception: Th January 26h, 4:30 to 6 p.m.
Free

Editor’s Note: Due to forecasted inclement weather, the opening reception and artist talk have been moved to Thursday, January 27th. The SPlog has been updated to reflect this information.

Editor-in-Chief

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