A rivalry between cities sets the stage for a new exhibition of original artworks by visual artist Pablo Power and American gangsta rap pioneer, Schoolly D. In addition to Power's illusory, split mirrored compositions, Philly VS New York: A Declaration of Co-Independence features some of the rapper's more personal works, developed in recent years, as well as original pieces that have served as his album covers in the past. The two artists planned the show many months in advance, which allowed them to collaborate on some new sculptural pieces for the first time.
On one hand, the title of the show is a simple reference to two cities that share a close proximity and long, symbiotic history, but the meaning goes deeper. "We wanted to use the title and the concept for the show to depict the two cities as a metaphor for challenge and struggle," Power tells Creators over email, "by using the word 'versus' to symbolize two entities meeting each other with the challenge to be your best and show the absolute best that you have." It's about lifting each other up. Power and Schoolly D want to show that even cities with roots as deep as Philadelphia and New York can learn from each other. "Cities are such crucibles for so much good to happen and so much positive change, because of the challenges that one encounters at every turn," Power explains. "People meet in cities across divisions of every sort imaginable: class, race, different levels of education, religious, artistic, political, and even just current emotional states. What we do with those everyday encounters and challenges can be so powerful and important to affect positive change in our community for the future."
Spreading awareness and respect for everyone's unique struggle goes a long way in both cities. Power got his start writing graffiti, which he saw as an outlet to introduce something colorful and considerate to areas that may otherwise be overlooked. He became fascinated by exploring how divergent communities can coexist and relate to one another, and how that dichotomy has the ability to bring awareness to facets of life that people may not otherwise want to face. Schoolly D has similarly used his work in sculpture and painting as an outlet to express his cultural and social commentary. His collage paintings are scratchy reinterpretations of pop culture and its emblematic iconography. Through these mixed media compositions the rapper is able to address issues of class, race, urban realism, and violence.
Philly VS New York is a continuation of a previous exhibition the artists hosted back in 2013 called, Am I Black Enough? The show featured Schoolly D's album art as well as works by Power that reflected gangsta rap's influence on him and the society he grew up in. The two first met earlier that year at a performance of Schoolly D's in Asbury Park. After D finished his set, Power met him backstage and ceremoniously presented him a piece of his artwork. The two spent some time talking that night and came up with the idea for a collaborative show shortly after. Schoolly D had been a huge source of inspiration for Power since junior high. During their talk, Power's enthusiasm inspired the rapper to revisit his visual art practice, so the duo decided to launch a show about hero worship turning to inspiration and collaboration—"the possibility of a fan becoming collaborators with their demigods, and finding common ground where that can occur," Power explains. From this show came a close collaborative friendship that has flourished into their current exhibition at the Okay Space Gallery in Brooklyn.
Philly VS New York: A Declaration of Co-Independence is up now until April 1st. Learn more at the Okay Space's website.