Stacey Robinson: Branding the Afrofuture

Stacey Robinson, Afrotopia 1

Afrotopia 1, digital illustration, 2015

Stacey Robinson, now an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, was an Arthur A. Schomburg Fellow who completed his Masters of Fine Art at the University at Buffalo.

Through an amalgam of recent work, including posters, branding, comics, and other graphic matter created while in Buffalo, he asks, “What is Black? What is the future of Black people? What does that future with Black people in it look like?” The answers seem to lie just out of reach.


About the artist

Stacey Robinson, an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, was an Arthur A. Schomburg Fellow who completed his Masters of Fine Art at the University at Buffalo. His work discusses ideas of “Black Utopias” as spaces of peace away from colonial influence by considering past and present Black protest movements, and the art movements that document(ed) them.

He is part of the collaborative team Black Kirby with artist John Jennings that creates comic books, gallery exhibitions, and lectures that deconstruct the work of artist Jack Kirby and re-imagine Black resistance spaces inspired by Hip Hop, religion, the arts and sciences. His recent exhibition ‘Binary ConScience’ explores ideas of W.E.B. Du Bois’s “double consciousness” as a Black cultural adaptation and a means of colonial survival. Recent works appear in upcoming books Kid Code: Channel Zero from Rosarium Publishing and The Black Speculative Arts Movement: Afrofuturism, Art+Design (edited by Reynaldo Anderson) from Lexington Books.

He recently Art Directed ‘Unveiling Visions: The Alchemy of the Black Imagination’ for the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, NY. Various institutions including Modern Graphics in Berlin, Bucknell University, and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture have collected Stacey’s work.


Artist statement

What is Black? What is the future of Black people? What does that future with Black people in it look like? These are some of the questions that Branding the Afrofuture asks. As Afrofuturism is a hot, commodified, aesthetically charged topic, I’m concerned about what’s beyond the aesthetics of cool future fashion, cutting edge music, and appropriated catch phrases.

Branding the Afrofuture questions how pop culture blurs racial lines via dismissing conversations of racial equality, the politics behind the erasure of Black people in mainstream science-fiction and fantasy, and thinks about redefining or (re)connoting what Blackness is. Branding the Afrofuture commandeers the responsibility of redefining what Black means.

This collection of works consists of an amalgam of various series, including comics, branding, and promotional materials under the Black Kirby moniker (with collaborating artist John Jennings), and artworks from other series that explore stylistic approaches, honor Black historical artists, and utilize contemporary aesthetics to speculate Afrofuturist ideas.

With Branding the Afrofuture, the title implies that the Black future has a particular clarifying mark. On the contrary, I’m more interested in marking an idea inside the imagination of my audience. Flipping the idea of branding to think about something possibly unbrandable, the Black imagination. The idea that Black futures need to be planned, calculated, and constructed … by Black people.


Installation views


Acknowledgments

Special thanks to Jeff Sherven.