• Conceptual Audacity

    Interview with Allen-Golden Carpenter

Exploring the bold and innovative world of a conceptual artist who challenges conventions and addresses social and crucial themes through their work. From their early beginnings to their current solo show at No gallery in New York, this artist has captured the attention of the art world, increasingly stunning audiences with their provocative installations and unique vision. We delve into their personal journey, the influences that have shaped their work, future projects, and the great tenacity that continually fuels their creative passion.

Your creativity holds substantial content; there’s a need to express something and articulate it boldly. Could you share a memory from your past when, for the first time, you realised you wouldn’t conform to the norm and found your unique way of self-expression? What was the initial message or theme you tackled, and with which artwork?

Realising that I wouldn’t conform to the norm, and finding my unique way of expression didn’t really happen at the same time, it took a look a lot of time to close the gap between knowing I didn’t want to be like everyone else, and actually being able to express that in my own distinct way. And I’m not sure if this was the first time, but it was the first thing in terms of art that came to mind as an answer to this question, but it would be the work I produced for Dupont Underground. It was a community art space built out of a refurbished underground street car tunnel. The show was for black artists and took place during black history month. My installation wasn’t the only one of “political” nature (I resent the term “political”, since it’s usually just a matter of basic human rights), but I will say what maybe made it unique was just how direct it was, I didn’t hold anything back. Some of the works took shots at the vice president and the DC mayor Muriel Bowser because of their roles in harming protestors during the 2020 activations, I mean there goes any DC Arts Council funding but I’m not gonna sit by and act like everything is just ok, for a long time it felt like black people were afraid to criticise or disavow black leaders because of how few of them there were, looking the other way in their complicity in harming our communities. I really appreciate the curator Carmen for having my back since apparently there was internal pushback against my ideas, particularly my gun sculptures cast from concrete. It showed me that it’s gonna be hard to say what I wanna say. A lot of people want “pretty”, and I’m just not the one to give them that.

Personal background consists of various challenging yet defining steps. The theme of family and personal history is prominently evident in your works; something you think has been fundamental for your definition? During the early stages of pursuing your goals, did you receive support and encouragement?

I’m blessed to have been supported pretty much from the beginning, my mom went to art school actually so there was always a lot of support in me making art in the house, people always tell me how young I am to be doing what I’m doing and I have my upbringing to thank for that. But in terms of it as a career choice, let’s just say me and my parents didn’t always see eye to eye. My mom wanted an architect, my dad wanted me to be a cop, and instead they got a radical conceptual artist. Oops. It’d been my dream to study art in New York for years so when I got into my dream school and the bill for the tuition came, in short and much less painful words, my dad was like “nah”. Crushed dreams aside I wasn’t gonna let that or anything else stop me. It still hurts that my dad didn’t believe in me at first but the stuff I’m doing now my parents had no idea was even possible through art. Sometimes you just gotta do something just to show people what’s possible.

Describe your comfort context – that combination of elements where the vibes allow you to be yourself: whether it’s a neighborhood, a setting, a music playlist, or even a specific time of day when you feel like you enter your bubble and are at peace with your essence.

I’d say my comfort context would be sitting in my room on a rainy day, window open, letting in the sound and smell of the rain, listening to my favorite playlist, its called “ambient wide” and I’ve been slowly building it for months, it’s only like 13 songs, favorites including Underground “Flower by Richie Culver”, “Forever” by Irakli, “Lose You Beau” by Space Afrika, and “Several Stories To Dissect” by African-American Sound Recordings. It’s this very moody atmospheric kind of sound that gets me in this certain headspace where I can really think and withdraw, sitting by my bookshelf flipping through my collection, sometimes just sitting by my books makes me feel good. They’re like artifacts, they have energy. I actually hope to open a research library one day with my art book collection. My other favorite moment when I enter my bubble is when i’m staying in New York (usually the Lower East Side) and exercise my bad habit of occasional vegan ice cream for breakfast, and when I’m walking from the ice cream place steadily eating my soft serve cone in between rapping along out loud (very loudly) to drill music. Finally its also just when I’m alone making my work, art for me is a very private thing, I make this joke about the “Zoo-quarium” nature of the art world right now, and how artists are forced to do open studios so people can come poke and prod the artist and “tap on the aquarium glass”. I’m just like this should be a private place, leave me alone.

At times, a connection with the world of the unconscious, the dreamlike, and symbolism emerges. Is this correct? Are these elements that attract you, or do you lean more towards analysing the true and tangible aspects of daily reality?

I like to look at the tangible and investigate how I can pull dreamlike elements out of it. I live by this philosophy of there being an inherent beauty in all things. That’s why I love conceptual and object art, because it makes you look at everyday objects in a whole new way, it makes you see the latent potential in anything around you which honestly makes everyday life more fulfilling. One of my all-time favorite compliments from a very close person in my life was that If I were sitting in an office and all I had was basic office supplies like pencils, tape, paper, etc., that I could still somehow find a way to make a conceptual artwork, that meant the world to me. In my mind, the artist is a magician that takes the ordinary and intervenes with it to make something extraordinary. A big influence to this philosophy was the anime Bleach, one of the story arcs was about how all objects had a soul and there were these special people called Fullbringers, who could call upon and manipulate the souls that exist in all physical things, particularly objects that are of great importance to that person.

Creative expression involves experimentation and the fusion of different techniques and fields. Could you tell us about three figures (without temporal or contextual limits) that you hold in high esteem and find inspiring?

For me it’d be Arthur Jafa, Aaron McGruder, and fictional character Uncle Iroh. Without the work of Arthur Jafa, I honestly might not even be the same artist I am today, I saw “Love is the Message, The Message is Death” when I was like 17 or 18, and to this day I don’t think any other work has produced as emotional a response from me (I cried), and I was like “damn, you can string together found videos to some music and it can be in a major museum”. I’m inspired by his boldness in not shying away from dark images, I respect someone that just does what they want, what they feel, he has this thing about certain sparse people being “witches” in terms of embracing the disturbing, and I honestly identify with that a lot. Don’t get me wrong I definitely have my strong criticisms of him for sure but like bell hooks said, we are allowed to critique the things we love. And one of his arguably most outspoken critics who has even come at me, Faith Ice cold, he documented his call with her, transcribed it and put it in the book for his museum survey, which I really appreciated because he acknowledged and debated his criticisms. With Aaron McGruder, his seminal series “The Boondocks”, a lot of people grew up watching it, myself included but it wasn’t until rewatching it as an adult, that I was able to pick up on all the meanings, and even at times prophetic pieces of social commentary specifically around black culture. He’s part of this greater but also in some ways waning tradition of black humor. I learned from him that in order to get most people to engage with an idea, it has to be packaged properly, and as a conceptual artist, delivery is everything. But what also resonated with me is the idea of just how many people consumed that show, not understanding what they’re laughing at, why they’re laughing, or why they shouldn’t be. Finally Uncle Iroh, a patriarchal character from Avatar: The Last Airbender, represents the wise old man trope, but with a degree of tenderness, care and patience that some might to be considered “motherly”. I watched this video on his character and its representation of positive masculinity, talking about how good masculinity is a blend of both “masculine” and “feminine” traits, and how those aren’t supposed to be mutually exclusive things. His character always seems to know the right thing to say, which I look up to, having the wisdom for every moment, and especially having the wisdom to know when you don’t have the answer. The most potent part being that his wisdom was hard fought for over the course of his whole life, starting as a literal war lord, then becoming a soft, tea loving old man.

In your aesthetics, there’s harmonious coherence among diverse elements (art, installation, music, texts, etc.). Can you update us on your current projects, or share a specific project you aim to complete and have set as a goal?

I mean that’s a bit hard to speak to since there’s so many projects right now which are yet to be confirmed, which as an artist that’s something I’ve come to accept, but the goal is just get more weird and ambitious with my work, I have some stuff that I am holding onto, it’s just a matter of finding the right avenue to execute on the concepts. But also I do have plans to start releasing music properly this year, my music practice is something that I’ve kind of kept to myself as a hobby for a long time, but now I’m ready to share.

Allen-Golder Carpenter / Conceptual Audacity

Credits:

Artist: Allen-Golden Carpenter / @allengolder
Interview: Annalisa Fabbrucci / @annalisa_fabbrucci
Editor: Maria Abramenko / @mariabramenko

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