I recently met up with Faheem Majeed at his studio in MANA Contemporary Chicago. Faheem is a socially and politically engaged artist, educator, curator and administrator. I had just encountered his “Socially Engaged Political Balloon,” which was fully inflated in a large empty loft at MANA.
An inflated, happy-faced African-American artist with beret, brush and palette lifts a much smaller brother off the ground with a squeezing grip around the neck. The message is loud and clear to anybody with any awareness of problems related to urban gentrification and how artists get sucked into being used as tools of displacement by developers.
Large inflatable sculptures like this are usually seen at children’s parties, malls and car dealerships, environments of fun and shopping. We’ve had Paul McCarthy’s monumental inflatable turds, un-tethered from museum grounds and blowing in the wind, scatological art from an artist of extreme privilege who coyly bites the hand that feeds him, without any fear of retribution. Faheem Majeed’s Socially Engaged Political Balloon rises to the top with child-like honesty and candor. There isn’t a trace of the sanctimonious charades currently on display throughout the art world.
Faheem talked about his shacks and shanties, installations built in vacant lots and intended for community adaptation. He uses recycled building materials in ways that bring to mind Theaster Gates, but without any of the obvious underlying appeal to the political elite, real estate developers or concern for business that one senses with Gate’s work. Maheed also does many works dedicated to bringing more attention to the life and work of Dr. Margaret Burroughs, founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago. What struck me listening to Faheem speak was the broadness of his outlook and perspective, a comfortable fluidity of thought.
Bruce Thorn earned a B.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1975 and an M.F.A. from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1987. He has maintained a vibrant art practice throughout his life. His works have been exhibited in the United States, Czechoslovakia, Canada and the Netherlands.