September 20, 2015

Rashaad Newsome Hosts King of Arms Art Ball III

Once every year, artist Rashaad Newsome holds "The King of Arms Art Ball," a night that mixes performance and vogue (the dance style and community that emerged in Harlem in the 1970s but was made popular by Madonna in the early '90s) in New York City. For the third annual ball, Newsome assembled art world stars such as artist Mickalene Thomas and The Studio Museum in Harlem's Assistant Curator Amanda Hunt, as well as vogue performance legends Dawn Ebony, Lola Mizrahi, and Leiomy Maldonado, to judge "vogue battles." Each competition featured performers, who strutted, dipped, and dropped down the runway to "Jersey House" beats by DJ MikeQ and Byrrell The Great.

The ball expands upon Newsome's decades-long collaboration with members of the vogue ballroom community. Vogue dancers staged his 2005 performance "Shade Compositions," and his 2014 video work "KNOT" features voguers against a digitally rendered background that resembles a diamond encrusted dome of a 17th-century catholic church. Newsome's incorporation of vogueing into his studio practice helps raise questions about representation, power, and gender.

This year's performance categories took inspiration from artists Nick Cave, El Anatsui, The Black Lives Matters Movement, and Africa in general with a category called, "Vogue Afrique." The performers, donning custom-made renditions of Cave's "Sound Suits" and mimicking the materials found in El Anatsui's shiny sculptural aluminum works, mixed vogueing styles with traditional African dance. At the end of the night, Kia Labeija took home the grand prize and was crowned by Newsome as this year's Queen of Arms. —Antwaun Sargent

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