Amani Davis

Poison by Sean Beauford (Opening Reception Recap) by Alex Young

Sean Beauford captured by  Keep Pittsburgh Dope

Sean Beauford captured by Keep Pittsburgh Dope

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.

Photo by  LinShuttr

Photo by LinShuttr

Photo by  LinShuttr

Photo by LinShuttr

Via  Poison

Via Poison

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.

"Teuton Fury |40 oz|" by Hannibal Hopson

"Teuton Fury |40 oz|" by Hannibal Hopson

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

Ghetto Sauce - "Taste So Good Make You Wanna Smack Your Mama" by Alex Young

Photo by Amani Davis 7/5/15

Photo by Amani Davis 7/5/15

Ghetto Sauce was created by Freddie Lee, it took him 20 years to finesse this bomb ass sh*t. The sauce’s website claims you can put it on: ribs, meatloaf, steak, hamburgers, grilled salmon, chicken, fish, spaghetti, Bloody Mary mix, chili, baked beans, even soups and pizza. I have discovered myself to be very partial to the chicken and baked beans recipes. Ghetto Sauce is available at the Historic Soulard Farmers' Market in St. Louis, in grocery stores, and online. In many ways does this sauce make basic foods delectably ghetto.

Unfortunately, all who enjoy the sauce do not share in romanticizing the ghetto experience. The St. Louis grocery store, Shnucks, thought their customers would be offended by the name “Ghetto Sauce” and changed the name to “American Gourmet Sauce”. To me this is as consistent with St. Louis’ treatment of its marginalized populations as ever: ignore their existence as much as you can, and appropriate their contributions as quickly as possible. Fortunately, an article came from a STL paper about the name change and it popularized the sauce like never before. The flavor of Ghetto Sauce is one of a kind, and the name is icing on top of the cake. Comical and true to the legacy of the people who birthed it, “Ghetto Sauce” should be a household name. It represents the American dream; but also the worst nightmare of some of the very same people who coined the phrase.

Photo by Amani Davis 7/5/15

Photo by Amani Davis 7/5/15

What is incredible about Ghetto Sauce is it tells the same tale of the African American narrative: making pleasure from pain. It seems that nothing good should ever come from the ghetto, but the marginalized populations in America prove time and time again that they can make something from nothing. Ghetto Sauce is yet another example of this undying reality. I will say personally this sh*t is the most fire sauce ever. EVER.  Over the summer I threw down on some incredible veggies, beans, steak, burgers—and obviously—bomb ass wings.

Ghetto Sauce means, “We come from the ghetto and still do positive things”. It is a reminder of the value the most oppressed people in this nation have, and the hope that lies in staying true to oneself. It is remarkable when people use the tools around them to produce positive things for not only themselves, but for the mainstream population. 

InTheRough Gallery for Life's Goods by Alex Young

Today, InTheRough celebrates the opening of "Gallery"-- a space where consumers can browse and purchase selections of art. Gallery compliments ITR's "Life's Goods" and "Projects" pages because it offers tangible creations that comment on popular culture. The marketplace place houses work by multiple artists leaving endless possibilities to what specifically is and will be sold in the future. Gallery will open and close as InTheRough works to showcase new, unique products.

First to display in Gallery is Amani Davis of Kamili and Alex of InTheRough presenting a range of illustration and photography prints. Gallery's first exhibition comes on the cusp of Kamili, an art exhibition that re-purposed wood from torn down Pittsburgh neighborhoods. ITR's work with Amani and Hannibal Hopson now allows the opportunity for a space dedicated to the sale of art.

Amani comes to Gallery with colorful 11x17in illustration prints influenced by hip hop music's current atmosphere. The pieces recognize musicians' popularity as well as their rambunctious lifestyle. While Amani's pieces are pointed, there is an abstract quality that characterizes the illustrations, particularly in "Thuggin Noise".

In documenting Life's Goods for InTheRough, Alex finds he has amassed many photographs of his Pittsburgh environment and images inviting to the eye. He adds an intriguing 16x20 photograph print capturing the city's David L. Lawrence Convention Center.

On July 25th Alex, Amani, and Hannibal took to Pittsburgh's Hamilton Ave where a building covered in pink served as the backdrop to show Gallery's pieces. The area's painted walls substituted for any basic white or black background, the physical gallery we crafted in the building's parking lot  serves as the visuals consumers will see in Gallery. Explore the exhibit here.

Celebrate the Neighborhood: Kamili by Amani Davis and Hannibal Hopson by Alex Young

Artists Amani Davis and Hannibal Hopson hail from Pittsburgh's Highland Park-Point Breeze-Squirrel Hill region and have seen the area go through changes over a 16-year period of growing up there. The pair notes how gentrification results in new housing developments, new businesses, and new families who are unaware or forget the history and culture already instilled in the neighborhood. Kamili, a sustainable art exhibition, counteracts the process. The following includes a conversation and visuals by Amani Davis, Hannibal Hopson, and Alex Young from June 11 and July 2, 2015 regarding Kamili.

Alex Young: What is the genesis of Kamili?

Amani Davis: I feel like in College motherf*ckers work too much... In Organic [chemistry] class you're looking at shapes of carbon--carbon makes little shapes: hexagons, triangles, all this little sh*t. I was looking at it and I knew it was an abstraction. I might have solved these problems, but even if they tell me I got an A I still don't know how this sh*t works. I was studying and I worked really hard all summer, studying, studying, studying like a little b*tch.  And then there was this little piece of wood and I was like Mom I'm gonna paint on that. I painted this stupid thing but to me it's like, "Oh I learned all this stuff and it's coming out in this stupid painting," and you just forget it. It's kind of a sad view of school, but I'm glad I know that sh*t obviously. I think I realized painting whether you are good or bad at it is definitely therapeutic.

Hannibal Hopson: I can definitely second that thought about painting being therapeutic, one, and two just the way that I had come about it.  What initially was kind of a thing I had done when I was really young I didn’t really know how to… I was trying too hard. I was looking at images in my head and I wanted to duplicate those images. I sat here for two days on the porch and I just started drawing on the inside of a desk. I started drawing on it and I painted it a bit and then all of my ideas started flooding in terms of what else I wanted to do with this time and space... I immediately started writing a ton more, I started reading more just so that more thoughts were going through my head, there was more inspiration, I was reading different types of things, I was reading different authors, and I was making music again. It was kind of a culmination and painting was the tale end of that culmination of real rejuvenation.

Amani: I was talking to a friend of mine today and he was like, "All you can do is hope that your art is tight because no one is going to tell you if it sucks or not." If it's garbage, it's garbage and you'll really never know. Your mom is going to be like, "Yeah it was tight." There was a moment for me looking at my shit being like 'its all garbage' to 'wow I kind of like one or two of these things.'

Alex: How do you feel about the lack of honesty, people not being honest about art?

Amani: That's the thing; most art right now is bad anyway. I don't want to say most art is bad, but I think a lot of artists rely on interpretations.

Hannibal: Art is so broad nowadays; it covers so many spectrums of our daily lives. I like to think that we each have our individual creativity and definitely a side you can tap into.  Artists recognize artists not really grasping the basic fundamental parts of art: being in tune with yourself, trying to figure out some of the things that you are thinking or dreaming and how to put that on paper.

Amani: A lot of it is about interpretation, how does one present themselves in reference to their art and make statements about their art... its way different than all that museum sh*t.

Hannibal: Unfortunately right now the hip hop industry is glorifying drugs and how drugs affect art and it's just kind of like is it really making you a better artist or did you always have that capability.

Amani: My favorite artist is addicted to lean.

Hannibal: We still bump Thugger (Young Thug) like whatever, we definitely respect his artistry.

Amani: I put my Mom on Thug. If the only way you can rap is by being high as fuck off lean then do it, but you don’t have to sell it to my little brother man, he’s little. 

Hannibal: I’m reading a Basquiat book about his drug use. It’s a biography, but obviously if you want to talk about Basquiat then you have to talk about New York in the ‘70s, ‘80s, club culture, new fashion, new disco, new law. This is a very changed world for artists in New York City and Manhattan. Basquiat was doing drugs in middle school and he never said anything about it, he never came out. People knew about it, he might have said one time I was high whatever, smoking on some grass whatever, but when it came down to it, it definitely ruined him in the end, you know he died of an overdose, but that’s something he did in his personal life.

Kamili is commemorative because it is authentic--it literally draws upon the material, which has long since been erased. The harsh reality of Pittsburgh's concrete jungle is change is ever-present, making gentrification and commercial re-development frequent across the city. Amani and Hannibal have seen their East Liberty, Pittsburgh neighborhood shift and commercialization remove the area's longstanding culture. As a result both artists deliver a tangible and organic exhibition to remember the community that raised them.

Alex: What is Kamili a commentary on?

Amani: To me if there's anything that I hope anyone goes to the show and f*cks with I feel like that wood was the art, that piece of garbage that someone threw out from someone's house and motherf*ckers were forcibly moving people out of homes through police, through money, or through gentrification-- all that bullsh*t-- that someone threw out a piece of someone's home that no one gave a f*ck about. I took time with it, I wanted to love the wood so motherf*ckers would be like, "Yeah people used to live here, people still live here, and I want to know where the people who lived there live now,"... the meaning is not on the art, the meaning is the wood.

Hannibal: The fact that you can't park on my street and my street will get permit parking in the next 5 years just because we have random people who are going to school at Chatham University just parking on our streets... that's something we can't really grasp, but we can grasp the people who have moved out of these homes.

Alex: How does sustainable art fit into this situation?

Hannibal: When you talk about sustainability and when you talk about art... there is a difference between what we are doing and street art. When you think about commissioned street art that is an element of sustainability when you can take a defaced property, when you can take a retaining wall and put someone who is artistically minded and go, "Here, please make this look a little better than it is," that's sustainable thinking. I speak to the clutter kind of piling up on each other so we gotta figure out ways, how can we limit, or how can we reduce, reuse, recycle-- the three 'Rs'-- how can we R and R and R our world.

Amani: I think with this there isn't that sense of pride with the residents of a neighborhood because that's just people. When those people leave, the space is still the same, but the space is very different now. I would not go to a block party in my neighborhood now, when I may have four years ago... I really hope that someone might say that this is street art, it is definitely about my street. My street is a different f*cking street now, but that sh*t in that room (referring to their art pieces), that's the street, that's the street that I seek to remember. Gentrification is crazy. There's no outlet to be like, "You know what, that's f*cked up. Where the f*ck do these people live now?" Obviously there's a positive way, an angry way, an ignorant ass way to do it, and a respectful way to do it, but I think that's something that motherf*ckers do not talk about. It's so linked to police brutality, incarceration, and all these problems. All these f*cking yups go home in their homes and are like, "Oh yeah that's so crazy that happened." It's like no, one you don't know and two, you're exacerbating this... I wasn't angry the whole time we were doing this I was having a ball.

Hannibal: No, there are definitely moments of anger. There are definitely moments where I have been angry in painting and there are definitely pieces that will be in the show where there's anger while I was painting and a lot of it had some very serious stuff to do with it. But the painting process itself wasn't necessarily an angry one, it was always a fulfilling one, it was always a relief.

Amani: This space is always going to be East Liberty… when neighborhoods flip socioeconomically in terms of the whole community, I feel like people want to forget sh*t.

Hannibal: That’s why they knock down schools.

Amani: Yeah, that’s why they knock down schools, change names, and shit. At least Hannibal and I are going to know other motherf*ckers lived here as well.

Hannibal: My Pittsburgh high school experience I can’t go back to either one of the high schools. One is being turned into apartments and the other one is already apartments and then knocked down. There is a whole class of Pittsburgh students who don’t know where we are going to have our reunions.

Alex: Would you say gentrification is rampant in Pittsburgh?

Hannibal: No, I would say the culture in Pittsburgh is one of inclusivity in terms of grasping to your neighborhood, grasping to family because Pittsburgh has that small town feel… I would say not gentrification, but definitely an attachment to your home, an attachment to your neighborhood, an attachment to the people around you, an attachment to childhood memories if you want to put it like that, but definitely space, we have that, neighborhood kids going to neighborhood schools—we have that. So if you knock down a school…?

Amani: Ya what the f*ck is that...

Hannibal: Obviously there are factors that you can't really weigh into or whatever, but that’s definitely something that has inspired our art and that is definitely something that we can speak to about our art… I don’t even want to make it a gentrification thing; I feel like even that is a cop out because there are factors that lead to gentrification. But, I will definitely say that the neighborhood aspect, especially in a city like Pittsburgh, is important. Being able to stay in your neighborhood and catch the bus, that’s why with the bus cuts everyone was hooting and hollering because people would have to walk outside of their comfort zone and there weren’t enough buses. Realistically how were they going to do that? And that’s when they decided they weren’t going to cut all the lines, but a small fraction. That stuff is important.

Amani: If your art sucks, not if your art sucks, but if people can’t find either meaning or just raw aestheticism then you probably missed the mark. I hope that if our message is received that people do realize that we are two black guys who did some cool sh*t about their neighborhood.

Hannibal: Real deal Holyfield these are pretty raw emotions… we are talking about organic experiences. You don’t have to go above and beyond your comfort zone to have organic feelings. The whole point of the art is that it’s always inside of you.

Go see Kamili for yourself in its last day at PointBreezeway today from 6-9pm.


7113 Reynolds St.

Pittsburgh, PA 15208