Freitag, 13. Februar 2009
Hip Hop goes Art World - The [Abstract] Best
This mixtape would be worth getting even if it was just a "Best of Q-Tip/Tribe" ... which it isn't. On top of that, it features an impressive roster of guest appearances, a whole lot of remixes, Tribe sample sources and even a bunch of interview-type interludes dropping science on Tribe history, Tip's production techniques et al., all mixed to perfection. Just have a look at the tracklist. If by now you don't feel the irresistible urge to listen to it, please get out and never visit this blog again. Seriously though, get it while it's hot! You can download it directly from J.Period's site.
The artwork is quite a ride, too. I like how the organic colors of Q-Tip's head hint at the trademark Tribe artworks of red/green figures on a deep black background, above all referring to the collage on Midnight Marauders (which in turn is an allusion to the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band").
Highly surreal/symbolistic in nature, the collage on "The [Abstract] Best" goes to show that by now it isn't only Hip Hop but a more general concept of black (music) history and identity that defines Q-Tip's persona. The camouflage pattern covering his face is reflected in the background which also consists of a decorative ornament: a reduced geometric black and gray shape. But wait, did I just say ornament? Even if it might look like a random pattern, it is indeed a sophisticated reference ... and it is no coincidence that the mixtape's title is "The [Abstract] Best":
Looks familiar? I thought so. This is a relatively unknown painting by one of 20th century art's most prominent figures: Piet Mondrian. Mondrian went on to become famous for his highly reduced abstract paintings consisting of rectangular, asymetric grids of black lines filled with red, yellow, blue or white color. He had a highly theoretical, almost ideological approach to art and he imposed rigorous constraints on himself: In later years, Mondrian completely banished diagonal lines from his works and even early on, he wouldn't have rectangular and diagonal lines in the same painting. As the story goes, he apparently went at great lengths to hide the above painting cause it contradicted his own theory.
As a proponent of avantgarde painting, Mondrian was strongly opposed to the decorative, ornamental and playful lines of Art Nouveau. He preferred a rational and geometric - some might even call it sterile - form of Abstractionism. If you trace the development of his art there is a logical progression leading from a short stint with Cubism to his own style of Neoplasticism. However - and this has been swept under the rug in art history -, that way necessarily passes through a geometric-ornamental period (as exemplified by this black and gray painting). Far from the restrained emptiness of his later works, it evokes the spiritual and transcendent qualities of islamic art ... entangled lines forming an infinite pattern ... a geometric arabesque. Fuse Green, who did the artwork for the mixtape, intuitively brought to light that hidden subtext which amounts to nothing less than the missing link in Mondrian's art.
On a lighter note, here's another Mondrian appropriation:
This would be more a case of "Art goes Pop Culture", though ...