Hoods to Woods

Brian "Deka" Paupaw is a broadcast designer, creative director of the Se7en Nations clothing brand (still kicking?), a serious snowboarder, and now a filmmaker. He chronicles his journey from Bed-Stuy to South American back country mountains in his recently completed documentary, Hoods to Woods:

I will have just arrived in Liberia-- with my newly acquired surfboard in tow-- but if you're in New York next Thursday, you should go to the Hoods to Woods screening party at The Blue Seats:

Hoods to Woods Screening
Hosted by Filmmaker Brian "Deka" Paupaw
March 5th, 2009
The Blue Seats
157 Ludlow Street, New York, NY 10002

Doors open @ 6pm
Film Screening: 8:00 - 8:30
Reception: 8:30 - until

David Adjaye

There has been a tendency to shy away from who you are, and I don’t want to deny who I am. If a Japanese architect talks about Shintoism, everyone goes, “Wow.” If an African architect talks about an African village, it is somehow weird in the Western context. I find that hilarious. What’s the difference?
London-based, Ghanaian architect David Adjaye was born in Tanzania and educated at the Royal College of Art. His 2005 Whitechapel Idea Store-- he designed several "Idea Stores," which are not at all unlike Japan's one-stop culture shop community centers-- in London won the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) First Prize Bronze Medal (photo just below). Adjaye also creates stunning private spaces-- including James Casebere and Lorna Simpson's four-story Fort Greene studio (bottom photo), which you may remember as the subject of a 2006 Times article.

Adjaye is all of 42 years old.

Old School

1962, St. John's Episcopal High School in Robertsport, Liberia. Eat your heart out, Thom Browne.

Tracy Reese Fall 2009

A sneak peek of what one might see if one dragged oneself over to Tracy Reese's 1 pm unveiling of her Fall 2009 collection, which is said to have been inspired by post-impressionist portraiture-- Vuillard, Van Gogh, and Modigliani.

Xaviera Simmons

A photograph by Xaviera Simmons-- one of the many works on offer at the Swann Galleries African-American Fine Art Auction next Tuesday. The Brooklyn-based Simmons received her BFA from Bard College, completed a two-year actor training program at Maggie Flanigan, and is a co-founder of Tuffness Crew, a DJ collective.

Esperanza for Banana Republic

Last night I trekked from the Jazz Standard, where I caught the second bit of Esperanza Spalding's sold out three-set marathon, up to Port Authority, where my chariot awaited. I settled into my seat on the DeCamp, and pulled out from my poorly aging purse the last issue of Domino, which I'd picked up before hitting the show. On the back cover I spied a gorgeous girl who, amusingly enough, looked just like Esperanza.

Imagine my delight when I read the fine print and discovered that it was in fact her. She, along with nine other artists (including Nigerian-German soul singer Ayo), is featured in Banana Republic's City Stories spring ad campaign.

Don't let the smokey eyes and sexy posturing fool you; Esperanza is all spunk and funk and is not at all too cool to BURN.

Esperanza Spalding

I've had this post sitting in my queue for sometime, so you can imagine my surprise-- and admitted disappointment-- when I discovered that I'd been beaten to the punch by none other than everyone's favorite Fly Girl. Thankfully, the focus was more on the badass bassist's badass 'fro, rather than her great story or spot on music. So here goes.

Beyond fantastic hair, singing bassist Esperanza Spalding is nothing short of a world-class musician. One of the youngest faculty members in the history of the famed Berklee College of Music, The Portland, Oregon-born Spalding, who was, of course, always into music, sort of stumbled into voice and bass-- not before teaching herself how to play the violin at age five, tinkering with the oboe, clarinet, and cello, becoming concertmaster of the Chamber Music Society of Oregon at age fifteen, writing songs for an indie rock group, and touring with Patti Austin.

Released last may by Heads Up Records, Spalding's second studio album, Esperanza, is an organic mélange of samba, soul, and straight-ahead jazz. Some of her stuff-- which she writes-- is a bit too challenging for popular consumption, but she's got an arsenal of less complex-- but no less thrilling-- material that will please the common denominator.

Esperanza plays tonight (through Sunday) at the Jazz Standard-- a perfect way to spend this Valentine's evening.

If you're in New York:

Esperanza Spalding
February 13-15
7:30 pm & 9:30 pm sets
The Jazz Standard
116 E 27th Street
New York, New York 10016
The Jazz Standard | Tickets

Sister, Where Art Thou?

I've been itching-- and trying-- to unearth more information on prop stylist Lili Diallo, whose easy, breezy Brooklyn loft was featured in the March 2008 issue of Domino, and subsequently lusted over by design bloggers webwide. So far, nothing. If her own space is this chic, imagine the fantasy, strictly editorial environments she must create for the likes of Elle Decor. It'd also be interesting to see how her space has evolved in the past year-- and to learn how she became one of the most sought after stylists in the industry.

Rashaad Newsome

Visual and performance artist Rashaad Newsome stages his cerebral, wildly amusing Shade Compositions 2009 tonight through Saturday at The Kitchen. Newsome says much of his work is "an interrogation of the notion of class," and that he is interested in exploring "the desire for power by people in subalterian positions." Me, too.

Shade Compositions strikes me as a sort of post-modern "Four Women"-- although tonight's presentation will involve twenty lovelies. The work hinges on the re-presentation of familiar gestural movements and sounds-- the teeth sucking, the foot stomping, the eye rolling, and the guttural expressions of disdain birthed by Black women and ironically expropriated across racial, cultural, sexual, and socioeconomic lines. Newsome is interested, he says, in marrying so-called high culture with so-called low culture-- in injecting "ghetto elements into the canonized white box" and adding new language to discourse of contemporary art.

Shade Compositions 2009
will be presented alongside performance artist Kalup Linzy's Comedy, Tragdy, Sketches of Me. If you're in New York:

Kalup Linzy and Rashaad Newsome
February 12 and 13 at 8pm
February 14 at 5 pm
The Kitchen
512 W. 19th Street
New York, NY 10011
Get tickets

Friday Frivolity

17 year-old angelface Shelby Coleman was discovered last year at a trunk show in her hometown of Chicago by Giambattista Valli, who promptly made arrangements for the "All-American beauty" to debut at his fall 2008 runway show as a worldwide exclusive. Ah, to be young, tall, thin, beautiful, and ethnically ambiguous black.

Nicola Vassell for The (Video) Look Book

Despite its limited demographic, New York Magazine still manages to feature a bona fide cross section of New York denizens in its Look Book series. From the kooky, young Japanese textile designer whose Tokyo roots set him eons into the future at birth, to the nerdy tourist from Boston whose outfit was inspired by the "Denise Huxtable moment" she'd had that morning-- and her more glamorous though bespectacled partner-in-crime-- no one with memorable style is exempt. Bloody surprising-- and, I guess, relatively impressive-- for a swanky, blue blood rag.

At any rate, Nicola is as effortlessly chic here as ever.

Nicola Vassell

"It’s not a surprise that the director of a prominent, important gallery is black or is young or is a woman,” said Arnold Lehman, director of the Brooklyn Museum, which has showed two of Ms. Vassell’s artists. “But when you run the three together, it sends a very important signal."

Deitch Projects director Nicola Vassell is the subject of an article in The Times, A Shaper of Talent for a Changing Art World. The piece is the fourth in the paper's "Breaking In," series, which explores the ups and downs of trying to begin a career in the arts. Previous subjects were a dancer, a musician, and a music promoter.

30 year-old Vassell (whose face you may recognize; she was an oft-booked model in a previous life) joined the Deitch empire as an intern three and a half years ago. She moved through the ranks, impressed owner Jeffrey Deitch with "an artistic vision that is embedded in her personality," and became a director in 2007. Needless to say, the landscape has shifted a bit since Vassell began her new post. The Kingston, Jamaica native credits having survived her country's recession with her unshakable poise and verve in today's dwindling market. "Even as a newbie," she says, "I knew the center couldn't hold."

Vassell represents Kehinde Wiley, who'll be designing a collection of clothing and accessories for Puma, for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. Wiley says of Vassell, "In the last few years, it’s like somebody who abides with you. She’s got a nose for really great art. She comes by the studio, and we talk, and I can paint. It’s a conversation that turns into an ability to communicate to the public what I’m trying to do."

Cha by Chandra

The irony of my love for hats is that I have a head so large, it sometimes-- when my appetite is under control-- shares a circumference with my waist. This unfortunate fact has made me a huge fan of the cocktail hat-- that nice, dramatic finishing flourish for a knockout ensemble. That sartorial equivalent of a piece of terminal punctuation at the end of a well-crafted, multi-clausal sentence. That old-school, diminutive topper which requires very little cranial real estate and therefore fits heads of all sizes, including colossal.

These gorgeous, sculptural hats from Cha by Chandra are right on the money. They playfully hint at the designer's architectural training (acquired at Howard) and are vintage-inspired without being terribly familiar, modern without affectation.