Delano dunn: Snowfall in Los Angeles
From September 23 to October 28, 2021
By EMANN ODUFU, October 2021
Delano Dunn’s Snowfall in Los Angeles plunges us into the heart of a complex network of introspection through the artist. On the one hand, he tells about a difficult period in his life faced with a depressive episode and a drug addiction problem that resulted at the height of the pandemic. On the other side he channels the frustration and anguish of this period of his life into a disturbing critique of the representation of black figures and black bodies in canonical history. In this exhibition, Delano continues to do what he does best to recontextualize historical images, many of which he drew illustrations from Uncle Tom’s cabinm and various old comics. He simultaneously attracts the viewer with its colorful backgrounds, cute and shiny wallpapers embellishments, only to remove the veil revealing a darker and more sordid reality. Doing this, Delano plays the chef, mixing the perfect combination of sweet and bitter candies medicine to almost Trojan horse the viewer in analyzing some of the darker aspects of the story. The result is a break with any fantasy of an egalitarian, just, or even post-racial society that the viewer can own.
The title, Snowfall in Los Angeles, refers to the period during which Delano created the exhibition as being something of an anomaly in his life. It’s not raining in Southern California and certainly doesn’t snow in LA, and likewise, Delano’s depressed state of mind and experimenting with drugs was something unusual for him. Growing up in the south Central LA to a father victim of the crack epidemic, drugs were something Delano stayed away all his life for fear of repeating his father’s mistakes. However, in this period of time, it was his salvation in his ongoing battle with his depression and a way to channel his creativity.
“I started working on the show in the spring of 2020,” Dunn explained. “But because of the depression, I had hit these roadblocks, unable to collect my thoughts and having all those starts and stops. As the situation got worse, I kind of stopped. I would panic and get really nervous before entering the studio. So I’d smoke weed, hoping the smoke would help me get through that, and it would, but I still had that fear of work. I do not know if saying that the drugs helped is the right thing to say, but specifically with the article, Light in My eyes, it may be valid. It was the room I was working on right before the darkest period. I had it in the house, my family was gone and they were in Cincinnati at the time. This piece was directly affected by drug addiction. It was in the living room, and every time I saw him he literally freaked me out. “
As in much of Delano’s work, various characters are found in several pieces. throughout the exhibition. The figure of Uncle Tom plays a central role in Snowfall in Los Angeles. A few A few years ago, Delano stumbled across a Classics Illustrated comic book adaptation of At Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the famous anti-slavery manifesto originally written by Harriet Beecher Stowe. It was amazed at how the illustrations in this comic book adaptation were so vibrant and highly contrasted with those of the original novel which presented blacks in a servile and obscure light. After the exposure, he realized that his use of Uncle Tom’s imagery also reflected his own inner turmoil.
“It only became important to me after the job was done,” explained the artist. “It was like, I guess maybe it was you trying to escape what was going on. In our company, we refer to an “Uncle Tom” as a clearance sale. There have been many times in my life that people have presumed, ‘I’m not black enough’ or stuff like that. But how do you define it? Do you think Darkness is just a monolith moving in the same direction like a flock of birds? Do you think we have a beehive mind? “
Another of the most integral characters that permeate Snowfall in Los Angeles are the Gold Dust twins. Gold Dust was a washing powder and all-purpose cleaning agent that rose to prominence in the early 1900s. The Gold Dust twins, Goldie and Dustie, were the faces of the product and were a cartoon pair of bald black children of unspecified gender, wearing tutus and often depicted clean and dry dishes in a washing tub. They can be seen through rooms, cleaning and purify the fantastic world of Snowfall in Los Angeles, strongly contrasting with the sometimes discordant shoe polish stains that appear on many parts of the exhibition. Some other characters that appear are a mysterious black man with a sword – who, according to Delano, is either Alexander Dumas or one of his family members – a photo of Frederick Douglas, and a black cowboy standing confidently with a firearm. These characters are all from the Golden Legacy comics and exist as the antithesis of the representations of the characters Gold Dust Twins and Uncle Tom.
The music that Delano listened to during this time also played a vital role in the creation of the exhibition. Usually, Delano listens to music that is totally opposite to the work he is creating, but at that time, because of the frustration, anger and confusion that characterized his mental state, Delano began to listen to more aggressive music, finding affinities with hip-hop and gangster rap. His influences range from Steely Dan to 2pac, Drake and Future, Juvenile, Do or Die, Pimp C, Lil Baby, Lil Durk, Jim Jones and Dom Kennedy to name a few.
“Not all of the songs were represented in the artwork,” Dunn explained. “But in the end I started do this process by which I began to understand what I ‘i speak in every painting and how this is reflected. The Steely Dan song I used tells about how once you’ve exhausted all the possibilities; you start to go to extremes to find that relief. Hip-hop songs, especially 2pac and Drake tracks, are about that feeling, especially during the high, where I felt like that baller who was living this hip-hop fantasy of spending all that money, and it’s something I never really did so I was sort of vicariously living through music. “
In its best moments, the exhibition of Delano Snowfall in Los Angeles captures the essence of the duality that you have to own to survive in modern society. Sometimes we feel like we are creatures of contradiction trying to find ourselves and make sense of a world that is becoming more and more confused further you dig. In his work, vibrant colors echo fleeting visions of a utopia or the potential of a better future, characteristic of Afro-futurism, but the book also warns against the pitfalls of sipping Kool-Aid and thinking the ghosts of the past will never be fair beneath the surface. Delano’s exhibition is on view at Montague Contemporary in Chelsea until October 28. MW