In da beginning was da Do-Rag, and da Do-Rag was God, and da Do-Rag
was on God. God was recently seen wearing a Do-Rag , while stepping fast, fast, fast, down funky, funky Broadway . Anything asked in the matchless name of it’s “Royal Crown,” da Do-Rag could do, all day everyday. With a fresh shinny anointing on, “ oops upside yo head, say oops upside yo fo head,” - from a can of some “Murray’s”, there was no style that could not be created, particularly with a stocking cap Do-Rag knotted over the 7th crown charka, to form a (Long Aid) “K-7” magnetic field , where everything was funk-fully fried, dyed , and laid to da side, She could reverently lay hands on your king-dome and queen-dome, and with 3 snaps and some “Short and Wavy”, command an electrifying network of antenna like brotha man/sistah-locks, as a supernatural outgrowth of her do-rags’, in - house, call ‘n response . The A-free-ka-n Wholy Ghost’s OM-nipresence made her the Uni-verse’s first Astral Cosmo-toligist.
- From da Mystory of Do-Rag Beginnings…….
As a result of the Great throw down, Do-Rags fell from the heavens, like UFO’s - (Unidentified Funky Objects), onto the Southern Cali landscape. One transformed itself into da do rag that children of ex-slaves, would blindly pledge their allegiance. Another landed in the 1940’s in Watts, on 103rd at Jordan High School, where a Black student spotted the white principal hastily throwing his Ku –Klux- Klan sheet/ rag over his head, while running late to his local Klan meeting, in broad daylight. Do-Rags flew over Watts in 1965, like comet trails, connected to Molotov cocktails, forming righteous revolutionary “ ribbons in the sky” Stevie(Wonder) knows what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.
South Central was suddenly ignited , while simultaneously sparking an equally important Tehuti based, lotus sensitive art movement - the South Central - Lil A-free-KA-(LA)- Urban Bush Artaculture (SC-LA-UBA) coming from the CPT - (C)ultural (P)ractices and (T)raditions - working in a range of media that I call Mao Mau; (M)ysticslly (A)ctivated (O)bjects in a (M)ethodically (A)rranged (U)nified field , traditionally referred to as found objects”, “bric-a-brac”, “bricolage, industrial debris or what we call in the “slanguage” of the ‘hood, “funk junk”, Fresh Funkaesthetic Forms, Westside 3F, West Coast Eastside FFF,’W-E F3, to facilitate “artaculture” (art) or “cultural reconnections”.
The CPT’s philosophy rests upon an environmentally based, and Eco- friendly green loop, that played out as:
1. Respectfully taking potential media from our environment without violating
“Black Mama Earth” or creating a toxic dome around “Big Daddy Sun”.
2. Always be aware of the Maatian planetary balance. Put it back so you can get
it back .
3. Practice the bush politics and ecological philosophy behind living green :
“Twa /forest green,” “collard green,” “mustard green,” or “ turn-up greens” .
4. Don’t forget yo Pot Liquor Libation to the ancestors. Declare your oneness with
the “living green” elixir, by drinking some Pot Liquor (a culturally conscious
O.G. forerunner to today’s Vitamin Water) from your finest wine glass, and
sop it up in your best China, with some hot “watah” corn bread, and
“accidentally intentionally” spill some on your best “glad rags” and Black
Mama Earth .
5. Align yourself with the green lifestyle’s imported “A-free-ka-n” (Afrikan)
mantra to “recycle, reduce reuse” or “reclaim”(decay} “regenerate” and “renew”.
6. Practice the economy of means found within the “Chittlin’ Chronicles” by
making the art of improvisation second nature to ya .
7. “Art is anything you need it to be” (John Outterbridge ), when you need it
it to be, at the point it “do - be” .
8. Be kool. Put your sunglasses on, so you can see whatcha 3rd eye is lookin’ at 9. Use your earphones, to see what’s dancing between your ears, to hear the my-
story between audible sounds, and hear through the light, to crack the code
behind and beyond the Ultra Violet and Infra -Red spectrum .
10. Let your sophisticated logic be a humble servant, in high service to your deep
talk common sense .
This philosophy naturally resonated with the Amer-I-can-A-free-ka-n’s DNA through ancient-future ancestral memory, resurfacing as recuring A-free-ka- n retentions, ‘Bridge along with a large number of artaculturalists (artists) automatically gravitated towards the CPT, responding as new- world hunters and gatherers, urban artacultural field workers, and urban bushocologists, making circular offerings back to the community through a reciprocal network involving the re-presentation of “artaculture” (art) or in this instance Do- rag offerings.
Every Do-rag carries an aspect of consciousness, and a unique energetic, based on size ,color, shape, age , pattern, texture, culture, geography, function, generational usage, energy transfer, i.e. transubstantiation and past life cycles, from “pre-owned rags” , or “hand me downs” only to be recycled into the army of funk-tional design and proverbial becoming. Every rag has a continuously evolving story, that is imbedded and imprinted within the DNA of it’s weave .
‘Bridge is a do-rag master and “artaculturalist” of the SC-LA-UBA, and promises to funk, the whole funk, and nothing but the funk, so help me George Clinton He’s a global neighborHOOD observer, a cultural intuitive , jali (griot), a master storyteller, an interstellar dream catcher, terrestrially re-weaving Astro –Black stories and mythologies, pulling rag strings behind the seams and pulling old coat tales from the cultural memory of an ancient-future people, so that we may once again hear with our eyes and see the subtle instructions, with our mouths and heart charka, cumin’ at cha in Scott Joplin ragtime .
The artaculturalist comes from an old school grassroots ESP community of culturally centered members who’s every survival instinct caused them to become “perceptual visioneers” , whose purpose was , to exercise creativity in the midst of extreme adversity, discern the complexity within simplicity, contact the abstract life, within mundane objects, seek the profound in the obvious, and discover an already existing phenomena, within the illusion of apparent nothingness. “Bridge transposed this philosophical construct into an art strategy, and has elevated elements of so-called “Outsider/Folk Art”, to the level of Nilestream/Fine Art , through the act of personal proclamation as aesthetic validation. , The artaculturalist has articulated the Ragaesthetic since 1972 , beginning with the “Rag Man Series”, moving through the “ Ethnic -Heritage Series”, on through the “Esthetics Of Urban Blythe” continuing through one of his most ambitious ragaesthetic projects , “The Lie-Lye Soap Conference, and Seven Scarecrows” as part of a major retrospective at the California African-American Museum (CAAM) in 1994, and continuing at the 22nd Sao Paulo Biennal in Brazil’s Museum of Modern Art LAX Art presents his latest inquiry and investigation into the “Ragaesthetic”.
Throwbacks and Fast Forwards
The notion of a Ragaesthetic evolved from a specific cultural context
in the American-A-free-ka-n community. An important aspect is the works’s ability to host and engage a series of visual precursors (throwbacks) ,from a non- mainstream index that later resurface within mainstream movements (fast forwards) and calls to task the integrity and authenticity of certain mainstream developments. The his-story of Western art has been one big XXX global appropriation and conspiracy project , involving the three R’s: “Remove”, “Recontext” and “Redefine”, based on entitlement, privilege , and a European male system of domination, i.e. racism .
First is the notion that Bridge calls the “poetic gesture”, of which he has become a master poet, further underscoring the fact that BeBop had a baby ,and they called it Abstract – Expressionism (Ab-Ex). In a poetic gesture of self contemplation Ab-Ex became responsible in varying degrees for a grip, of art movements, which Bridge’s work has addressed in varying degrees throughout his career.
Next, is the notion of the “Throw Down”, In Houston, Texas there was the “Smokehouse Throw Down,” where rags were thrown in the smokehouse, which no doubt gave the rags a smoky “aromatic funk”. Down south in Greenville, North Carolina where Bridge was born and raised, a mule driven cart that traveled the alley ways as apartment dwellers would simultaneously “throw down” their rags. This was the “Country Throw Down”. When Bridge moved up north to Chicago, the mule driven cart remained a fixture, with the critical addition of a Conga player in back, playing ,singin’, and announcin’ the arrival of ‘da Rag Man. This was the “Big City Throw Down.”
The unspoken drama, grammar and invisible ge-OM-etry of the alley is saturated with subtle aesthetic double takes. from a call ‘n response, binary consciousness. For example, one can conveniently overlay the invisible geometry of the alley throw down on a Morris Louis stained-run painting. Merely exchange the vertical sides of the canvas, with the alley building’s vertical walls and exchange the descending “colorfalls” with the descending “ragfalls” thrown down by the apartment dwellers., and boo-ya, you have an alley empowered, environmental real time, happening, conceptual, process driven, urban dramatic Morris Louis canvas, in a kind of virtual space.
As a post-minimal, pro- feminist gesture, Lynda Benglis’ gallery floor paintings of the 70s share a strong resemblance to the “dressed floors” and rear cart beds that Bridge witnessed as a young man, and would later inform his work, with an ironically more authentic feminist presence than Benglis. The notion of covering the earth’s surface and dressing the sky’s space with ready made colored fabric/rags, was certainly addressed in Christo’s over the top bombastic 24 mile “Running Fence” suspended in the air with hi-tech clothes, lines, referencing an urban aerial alley aesthetic, gone country .
Richard Serra’s molten lead splash pieces of the early 1960’s bare a low tech resemblance to the improvisational motion and a similar poetic gesture that comes from throwing rags , like divination throws, against the wall/floor corner. Additionally, Benglis’ urethane wall sculptures appear unintentionally derivative of the natural build up and lava like flow of islands of piled and accumulated rags, particularly those mountainous rag build- ups, found in the “Smokehouse Throwdown”. Certainly it’s no accident that a high grade industrial rag a.k.a. felt would eventually slip into the mainstream media vocabularies of Robert Morris, ( post-minimal felt hangings) Frank Stella ’s high relief wood “collaged felt paintings” in the 70’s, and Joseph Beuys (sculptures and performances). It was funky yet functional, a guiding principal within the notion of the Ragaesthetic. Ain’t nothing but a rag thang!
Rauschenberg poses an interesting “fast forward”, when one considers the source of most of the media that landed in his “Combines” (sculptural paintings). He was all up in the ragamatazz, combing the streets and alley ways of the NYC. Did I say alley ways? Guess he took advantage of the urban rag surplus that had gone down from the throwdown. He would later compromise the rag’s raw edge by “gentrifying” it in later prints .
I would further argue that the Art Povera movement with it’s inclusion of unartistic and worthless media , owes a high five to #6 of the CPT. What’s more worthless and unartistic than a chittlin as a “throwback” . A-free-ika-ns in America, got off the boat running and practicing the roots of Art Povera, while Europeans later treated it as a provocative aesthetic inquiry.
The “Country Throwdown” is a forerunner /”throwback” for Allan Kaprows’s “Happenings” of the 1960’s . It’s process, was open ended, and attempted to flirt with a non-linear sense of time and place . It was an extension and conceptual sub-set of the earlier performance pieces begun in the fifties involving the likes of Merce Cunningham, Robert Rauschenberg , John Cage and company, in turn became a fast forward of the Big City Throwdown. When Cage and his wanna be (hip) disciples were contemplating the huge pockets of silence in his compositions, the Conga player on the back of the rag cart in Chicago was playin’/ breakin’ down the sound of silence : as R&B –Rhythm & Breath – playing rhythms on the conga, while announcing the return of the rag man plus breath (inhale-exhale) equals silence. This is a terrestrial/microcosmic version of a much greater celestial/macrocosmic drama/reality. Yo,yo, yo …where o where is Simon and Garfunkel ? That’s a number 10 on the CPT list. Sun Ra had already rescued the silence, and was all the way down the block, and half way around the galaxy , before Cage awoke from his coma. If you don’t think so, listen to John Cage Meets Sun Ra.. Y’all know ‘bout Sun Ra ? Calling Planet Earth, Calling Planet Earth…….
…..Whenever it throws down, the Black Church Service is the ultimate performance and process piece, Talk about a flawless, seamless power-full inter-disciplinary approach to the (sacred) arts , That’s a number 8 on the CPT list.The preacha’ man/woman are “living word sculptures”. Folks that be getting’ happy, and start shoutin’, and gettin’ slain in da Spheret, are possessed A-free-ka-n wholy ghost dancers. The musicians, singers, and choirs, are vessels, subject to be used in a moment’s notice , when voice activated by “Spheret” Speaking in tongues, prophesyin’, moanin’ n’ hummin’ are examples of the spoken word/ talkin’ books, coming from an esoteric, ancient-future, my-story school, sacred text / literature. The church edifice is a sacred theater and sanctified landing site, where the “Spheret” comes down and, takes over , and gives all the devotees and believers an overdose of da Holy Ghost. Ragaesthics clearly factors in ,when you consider the Saturday night/ Sunday morning Rag protocol, a member has to undergo the right space suits/dresses with the right color coordination and combinations ,size ,type, weave texture, blend, codification, crowns (hats),symbols, etc., then, and only then does the whole church takes off , and goes into orbit, without ever leaving the ground! James Brown asks, “Can I go to church y’all?”
Some of the “fast forwards” and “throwbacks” introduced, are merely the tip of a complex and densely layered iceberg. ‘Bridge operates out of an ever expanding network of cultural codes , con-text messages, ancestral whispers, deep heart talk, water signs, atmospheric signals, Earth whispers, ring shouts, cultural imperatives, 3rd eye illuminations ,intuitive revelations, ancient future wisdom, heart-mind footprints, lotus logic, bush magic, astral traveling, reoccurring mythologies, and sacred Twa Green-OM--metry.
The Ragaesthetic will not be televised, the Ragaesthetic will be throwin’ down LIVE in ragtime , at LAX ART. ‘Bridge’s ragacentric, ragspecific , ragutmost, raglorius, rag-tacular, ragamystical, rag-OM-metrics are not to be missed, Did you wear yo “baddest rags” to the opening ? Strike a pose! Or did cha wear clothes devoid of funk? Well, ya got 15 minutes on C.P. ragtime, da go back home, change and cum correct!
Nu Rag’s In My Nu Bag Roll Call: Poppin’Off For Bridge
Shoe shine rags
Massa ‘s rags Bobo rags
Prayer cloth rags
Left over rags
Lil’ Eva’s rags
Pig Foot Rags
Mid - wife rags
King Cotton rags
Sacred Shroud rag Prayer Flag rags
Blood Stained Banner rags
Sunday go ‘da meeting rags
Birth of the cool rags
Rag tag rags
2nd Line rags
Pin Stripe rags
Big City rags
James Brown’s rags
Scott Joplin rag
Bridge said all of these rags came in one cardboard box.
Before enlightenment: a cardboard box with many rag cast offs
After enlightenment: a cardboard box with many rag cast offs
- from The Book of Grassroots Urban Bush Wisdom….
Greg Angaza Pitts (Angaza Het-Heru)) copyright 2011
Art Education Consultant Services / Writing With An Attitude
Photos courtesy of LAX Gallery 2011