In late 2016 and early ’17, every inch of the Carpenters Building in downtown Tacoma became a showcase for art. Paintings, photos and other media spread throughout the multi-story space, a well of history laden with color and energy. Artist and curator Chris Jordan put together the massive show, called COLORED, which invited Black artists from the United States and Caribbean to unite and create work of all forms.
On the main show floor, St. Martin artist David Gumbs’s “Blossoms” projected a series of digital flowers, a theme that emanated from the Caribbean process of detoxifying and purifying the air with natural blooms. Spanning the outer walls of the space, Jordan created a 7,500-square-foot mural. The mural danced between traditional graffiti style and large portraits of figures that impacted Jordan’s life, including a young man he encountered during a residency in Trinidad. (The building where COLORED was held is now being remodled around Jordan’s mural to preserve his work.) Port of Spain artists Arnaldo James and Rodell Warner created a black-and-white photo series; Sharita Towne installed an interactive video installation. An interactive video installation called “Karaoking History” retold colonial and contemporary histories with repurposed pop melodies. And more: paintings from Seattle artist Aramis Hamer, Philadelphia artist Inga Kimberly Brown’s large-scale oil painting “Stardust Dawn,” a mixed media collage called “Rituals” by Brooklyn artist Devin Morris.
Jordan to took special care to ensure COLORED centered itself around the Black audience that Jordan believes may be more neglected than Black artists themselves. “For decades, the target role of the Black artists has been brokering our experiences to white audiences, which leaves our people behind,” he said.
Today we’re posting a short film recap of the event—proof that this show was one of the best exhibits of the year, a gallery exhibit unlike anything else. There’s a disco ball spinning, music playing, people of all ages skating and dancing. Seattle poet and author Blu The Baqi was one of many literary artists that performed throughout the space. Standard artist talks and performances were flipped, removing the space between audience and artist, inviting everyone to huddle as a collective, part of each piece. More events like this should happen on the regular in Tacoma and Seattle, evolving the traditional gallery model to accommodate a wider spectrum of artists and fans.
Initially, COLORED was slated to show during Kwanzaa week, but after boasting 500-plus in attendance on opening night, the show was extended through Martin Luther King week. Jordan has no plans of slowing down following this show. To broaden its dialogue and lifespan, he’s adapting selected works nto public murals and virtual experiences. He also plans to bring COLORED to Trinidad and Tobago. For now, check out the video and see exactly how Jordan brought this ambitious project to life.