Inside The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's 707 Gallery on Friday, Dec. 11, I halted my note taking, sparked by the installed TIME Magazine covers titled "Are We Giving Kids Too Many Drugs?" and "Kids Who Sell Crack," to say to Makayla Wray, after previously meeting her at the corner of Penn Ave and 7th St walking to the show, "I know you're a fashion designer." She smiled and replied emphatically, "That's what I like to be known for! You should write that down. I'm quick with it," finishing her statement with a "dab."
Wray's use of the hit dance craze alerted me to the national and local contemporary flavors on display at the exhibit curated by Sean Beauford.
While I gazed at a lucid black, purple and white painting called "Codeine Crazy" by Amani Davis, Travis Scott's platinum record "Antidote" played. Around me, Chancelor Humphrey of Keep Pittsburgh Dope was dancing and taking pictures of people, like rapper Mars Jackson. A friend of KPD, visual artist, and food photographer Cody Baker heard the tune from outside and instinctively joined the party.
Space began to crowd and I looked down, as to not step on any feet and to find room to walk. I saw multiple pairs of Vans, an olive green pair of Eras, Sk8-His in blacked out and classic black-white colorways, and Old Skools. Along with Timberland 6" Boots, colorfully painted Timberland 6" Boots and "Wheat" Air Force 1 High, Yeezy Boost 350 "Moonrock," two pairs of Chelsea boots tan and black respectively, green Dr. Martens and Jordan silhouettes filling the room.
I stood next to a podium that read, "The Kids Aren't Alright," and observed owner of JENESIS Magazine and co-founder of Pittsburgh event space Boom Concepts Thomas Agnew, along with cultural practitioner D.S. Kinsel, artist Baron Batch with an eye painted on his red sweatpants and many more among the active, youthful, creative and intuitive attendees who celebrated Beauford's Poison art show.
Beauford, a young man from Mansfield, Ohio, works in Pittsburgh to deliver atmospheres attractive to popular culture. His latest project taps artists for an introspective exhibition that comments on America's drug use.
The show alludes to the amplified life experience drug users become addicted to. Drugs heighten reality, take away pain and stimulate euphoria; they make people feel alive all the while destroying their lives in the process.
Outside 707 Gallery, where Poison is located, plastered on its front window in bright pink is the phrase, "WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE."
Artist and Poison contributor Hannibal Hopson said, "You have life and you have death. There is a time to be alive and people choose to cut that short in a number of ways, like drinking 40 oz."
Positive and negative values fill every piece featured in Poison. Hopson's "Teuton Fury |40 oz|" is cement casts of Steel Reserve and Colt 45 with sunflowers pushing out of the top. Another contributor, LinShuttr, has canvas covered in crayon drawn clouds, sun rays, trucks, and fish accented with attached crack vials and boxes of Arm & Hammer baking soda.
Along a wall, I viewed photographs by Good Mike. The images chronicled heroin and cocaine users cooking on a white stove top and shooting up while sitting in a bathtub. Once viewers reach the end of the consecutive images they are greeted by a hooded figure passed out face-down on top of a mattress on the floor, a scary symbol that death's reality is lurking.
Performer Grits Capone, standing on an orange milk crate, said in his spoken word piece exclusive to the opening reception, "Death is inevitable, but baby patience is a virtue."
"What A Time To Be Alive" emerges as a theme and underlining message to Beauford's Poison because the exhibit reflects upon the parallels and choice of evocative experimentation and destruction resulting from drug use.
Subjects like hip-hop and streetwear intersect with drug culture because artists glorify the lean sipping, pill popping and blunt passing used in their creative processes. The excitement lies in the masterpieces being created; drugs are used as a celebratory aid. Hopson and Davis spoke to gallery patrons with Olde English 40 oz stuck to their hands.
Beyond the relevance of "What A Time To Be Alive" as Drake and Future's mixtape title, the phrase and the opening reception for Beauford's Poison actively describes a progressive environment.
A group of guests congregated outside the show. A girl named Morgan said, "It's nice to see them [referring to Poison artists] doing something. Growing up here, I did not see this progression in Pittsburgh."
By utilizing fashion and lifestyle outlet Keep Pittsburgh Dope to promote the show on Instagram to other actors in Pittsburgh popular culture, combined with the art itself showcased in Poison, Beauford illustrates there is no better time than now for people to create and offer positive output to their environment.
See artists Amani Davis, LinShuttr, Mathias Heavy, Good Mike and Hannibal Hopson's work at Sean Beauford's curated Poison at 707 Gallery on Wednesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. - 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. - 8 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. through January 10.
707 Penn AVE
Pittsburgh, PA 15222