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Rakeem Cunningham at Ochi Projects
June 26, 2021 - August 7, 2021
At Ochi Projects, Rakeem Cunningham creates empowered self-portraits that blend ad hoc props and costumes with anime fantasy. The back wall contains a large collage of wigs, fabrics, and anime screengrabs, like a mood board from which Cunningham pulls to create his photographic portraits. Rainbow piñatas sit next to cut-outs of the artist, preening for the camera, collaged near Cup O’ Noodles and action figures.
Cunningham’s own costumes are hodgepodge and scrappy (pool noodles are used to great effect), yet he elevates his humble materials with a work-with-what-you’ve-got chutzpah. On the gallery walls, small portraits of the artist are lined with simple props and swaths of pinned or taped fabric. Where commercial photography cuts in on its style subject, concealing the frame edges and C-clamps just outside of the frame, Cunningham zooms out to reveal his slapped-together sets — an extension cord is often visible in the frame. One of the clippings on the wall looks as if it’s pulled from a narrative video game, reading: “That’s right. I’m a man of infinite possibility. Wherever I go, I leave rainbows in my wake.” Cunningham channels this energy to create an empowered self-mythology.
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Photo: Rakeem Cunningham, “Pillar,” 2021. Edition of 3. Archival inkjet print, 24 x 16 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Ochi Projects.