is currently exhibiting at Nordine Zidoun Gallery
his artworks : colored advertisments from the 50' that
he created after his own mind. Art and You tried to know why he's interested in adding black people in his ads/paintings.
Could you explain me why you paint ribbons at the bottom of some of your paintings ?
I'm looking at my paintings like i'm giving a pack, so the ribbons is, like you're wrapping a gift, and put the ribbon on it. They're more like a symbol of given this gift back to my family or people that didn't see images like this. What I'm doing is also formal standpoint of a research, questionning the all thing about being americana. What is african-american ? What is americana ? Andy Warhol, when you look at his work, is americana. Because it's stuff of America. If you put Blacks in it, people don't consider it americana.
I'm questionning and I'm also trying to show that these images could have been considered americana. I think, some people that are here, in France, when they look at these paintings, they see this americana. It's an american painting ! So, it's americana to them, but it's not americana to people over there, in America. That's weird. You told me about a gift. You use old photographs, is this a present to the past ?
Yes,that's what I'm doing : I'm taking something old and i'm adding it to something new. I'm borrowing from the past, I try different combinations of things. Basically, it's like I'm looking at an old film, that's why I use some old photographs, because I want you to think at something old.
Compared to Renée Cox, which was the previous artist exhibited here, you seem to have a different vision of advertisement. She was trying to free black people from advertisement, whereas you're trying to put them in !
I think the advertisments she's talking about are more the advertisments of today, they are more « enslavement » : a guy, playing basket ball, and « Nike ». Everybody look at him like he's just a slave from Nike : they only use him because he brings more money. And I'm saying, why did they not do this kind of advertisment back again ? It would be more positive. Today advertisement, to me, is something negative. They don't put, you know, the big woman, or the real black guy. Some people consider them still negative today. And I think that's what Renée is thinking at. That's a différence between her work and mine.
You look more positive, you're not fighting.
No, it's like I'm fighting, but I'm doing it in the way advertisement work. I use advertisement to draw your attention to the fact that blacks are not in this images. But I'm using pretty things. I don't want to do it in a radical way.
From my standing point, there are so many black kids wo don't have any social image, like, they don't think they're good. I believe if this images were back again, people would think differently about themselves. You always see image of whites, you think, they're popular, they're better than I am, because, they don't put ME on these images. Kids got images of blacks, but still, even with that, these are rappers, or ball players. To a lot of kids, the only thing, the only way out of the ghetto is ballplaying or rapping. They don't think a bout being a doctor, they don't think about being a president !
Do you think Obama's election will change anything in your art creation ?
Why are people so shocked that Barack is the president ? Because they don't have anything to prepare them to think like they could become a president. So now, I'm hopping that a lot of change come, him being a president. More so, I should say now « I think I could be a doctor, I could be a president, I could be an artist ». It 's amazing me how many kids don't even think you can do anything with your art. Because they're taken out of school.
It' won't change anything in my artworks, I'm just hopping it will change more the kids, as I hope my paintings change them, because I go to schools, and I talk to kids about this, and I see the difference, I see a change in them after I talk to them. Their first question is « You make money ? From this ? » and I : « Yeah ! » and them : « Really ? ». I'm juste gonna keep questionning and questionning, because since I've been here, I hear it from you and other people that the advertisement here is not like that. I wanna do something with that, like showing french advertisement.
Do you try to keep this « child eye » on everything ?
Yes, I think, we always have to keep these part in us, to those day we all have kids. I'm doing it in an innocent way, so it will draw attention to people. I created some paintings about slaves, but it's more educational : people advertised slaves as they sold them, they did'nt advertise them as regular people. But I think I'm more popular with these child images.
How did you meet Nordine, the galerist ?
Well, you know, I still haven't met him ! He saw my works on an Art fair in Florida and took contact with me. There's a lot of galerist I never met, still I got shows in their galery ! Because of the Internet, everybody's doing it now : email you, ask you « Will you show here ? » Is this your first show in France?
Yes, and my first travel too ! I never thought being here in France. I always thought my works would stay in America, because my work is americana. I only thought this is only important for Americans, but I see, now I'm talking with people, that it's not. This kind of separation exists everywhere. I've been to Brazil, you have the light skin, the dark skin. So it's like « God, that's a good thing being travelling, because now it brings new meanings to my work ». I'm happy now to go home and to work on some french advertisments. I'm taking photographs of all the signs that I'm seeing. I will use french letterings, but still will make them look old, and I will ask « What if these advertisements have taken place in the 1940' in France ? ».
I hope the show does well, I hope people will receive it well. I hope to share a little light about what goes on in America. Now I just have to learn french ! So that i will be able to expose my french works in America, to make people understand that it exists not only over here, but over there too. I'm very happy to go home, just to experience that alone.
[Pictures : above, Cedric Smith, Carrot Cake
, 2008. Huile sur toile, 122x91 cm. Below : Cedric Smith, With sugar in top
, 2008. Huile sur toile, 91x91 cm]