Soon-to-be Corcoran School Alumni Poised to Infiltrate Art Industries by Maxwell Young

Performers in Yacine Fall’s thesis project,  Un Lien , rehearse for “NEXT,” Corcoran School of the Arts and Design’s thesis showcase. Polaroids by  Maxwell Young

Performers in Yacine Fall’s thesis project, Un Lien, rehearse for “NEXT,” Corcoran School of the Arts and Design’s thesis showcase. Polaroids by Maxwell Young

Washington, D.C.—Two bronze-cast lions lay await in front of the entrance to the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design. Protectors of the realms of imagination and creative skill—they size-up the foreign body approaching. I am a George Washington University alumnus all the same, but there is a difference between the School of Business degree I received in 2017 and the Fine Arts/Photojournalism/Art History/Interior Design/Theater/etc. degrees that will be awarded to the graduating classes this coming May.

For 150 years, the Corcoran name has been “dedicated to art and used solely for the purpose of encouraging the American genius.” That was the mission of the oldest and largest private art museum in the District of Columbia, when banker William Wilson Corcoran endowed the Gallery in 1869, and it still rings true today as its graduates and undergraduates prepare for their thesis showcase.

“NEXT” is a 30 year-old tradition for the arts and design students. A public display of the art world’s future stars, it’s both an exhibition for employers and art enthusiasts to see fresh perspectives in contemporary art as well as a culmination of the skillsets burgeoning artists have acquired throughout their education. On Thursday, April 25, the collection opens, amplifying work of varying mediums across disciplines.

Earlier this week, I had the privilege of previewing select compositions and installations from several undergraduate seniors. Artists Yacine Fall, Ashley Llanes, Seung Hyun Rhee, and Layla K. Saad explore themes of shared and personal identity in their thesis projects.

“I had never seen Muslim artwork on the walls of a gallery,” Saad admitted to me as we observed her seven-piece installation, United States of Being. Elements of wood-work, 3-D printing, quilting, and print making inform her project. The New Mexican-born artist’s Muslim heritage is intertwined with Native American culture as well as Egyptian-Lebanese lineages. When the Corcoran’s mission was written centuries ago, I doubt the encouragement of the “American genius” included the work of people who looked like Saad. “What about the Muslim kids who are interested in artwork? They don’t have this imagery to reference. They have Michelangelo. They have Picasso…all of these other artists who are interesting, but they don’t have something relevant to their identity.”

This re-contextualization of culture is evident in the respective work of all four artists. In addition to Saad’s installation, Yacine Fall debuts a performance piece, Un Lien, that uses burlap rope, clay, and the physical presence of eleven other bodies to connect histories and individual experiences together. Ashley Llanes’ La Quinceañera seeks to find the balance between her teenage self, who wanted to challenge stereotypes, and her current self, who values the conservation of culture, through a series of self portraits that evaluate the aesthetics of quinceañera tradition. And Seung Hyun Rhee’s Homesick uses manual and digital collage of K-pop stars to juxtapose his described "militant” music interest against his daily routine of American life as reflections of his desire to return home to South Korea.

Keep your eyes peeled to InTheRough pages as we dig deeper into these topics in individual articles. We will unveil more insight into the artists and their work while the “NEXT” exhibition is displayed until Monday, May 20. Admission for “NEXT” is free and open to the public. Don’t miss the opening Senior thesis show on Thursday from 6-9pm.

“NEXT” Senior Thesis Show

April 25, 6-9pm

Corcoran School of the Arts and Design

500 17th St, NW

Washington, D.C. 20006 

Yung Mulatto Illustrates the Hip-Hop Sound from Pittsburgh by Alex Young

Yung Mulatto photograph by Alex Young

Yung Mulatto photograph by Alex Young

Yung Mulatto can't help his native Southern Charm. He's the type to brew fresh tea leaves for a house guest. Tea time is one of Mulatto's hobbies, "just like doodling has always been," he said. The transplant makes a good impression upon Pittsburgh's resident artists and cool makers. 

Officially named Miles Saal, 20-year-old Mulatto speaks optimistically about his time in the city. "Pittsburgh is nothing like my hometown," he said. "There weren't a lot of arts programs at my magnet high school in Jacksonville, Florida." When he moved to the 'Burgh in 2013, Creative And Performing Arts High School opened the doors for Mulatto to explore his artistry and ingenuity. "A lot of agreeable people here" get his vision.

As an illustrator and music producer, Mulatto satisfies his desires while "trying to connect people with other people," he said. 

At eight-years-old, he handled the piano and the double bass. In high school, he played the trumpet. Since dropping out of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania where he studied music and film, Mulatto began to produce hip-hop. "I wanted to know more about the local scene beyond Mac and Wiz," Mulatto said.

He adores Pittsburgh for the creative people he meets. CAPA is the reason Mulatto met young rapper, James Perry. The big city, small town vibe familiarizes Mulatto with social circles. Although, SoundCloud digging and the unification of his drawing and musical skills puts Mulatto in the center of Pittsburgh's underground hip-hop community.

Mulatto's sphere of influence grows from drawing cover art for rap mixtapes or Local 412 Trading Cards done on coffee sleeves that idolize the 'Burgh's hip-hop heroes, like Pk Delay in a fur coat from his "M's" cover. Mulatto shouts out the scene regularly and casually. He doodles when he's working at the Jitters coffee shop in Shady Side. He selects local rappers, like Patches, to play through the shop's speakers. What goes in Mulatto's ears travels out of his hand on to the trading cards. The coffee sleeve drawings depict the life of the hip-hop scene and its actors like cartoons. "Danny Phantom, Anime, and Adventure Time are huge influences on my drawing style."

Importantly, Mulatto's work archives what is happening now creatively in popular Pittsburgh. He wrote out a long list of everyone he knew who made hip-hop here and the list travels as a beacon throughout social media space. Wait until the radar detects it.

The respect Mulatto has for the music community breathes organic collaborations with other artists. He drew the "Astro O2" album art for youth rap star Blackboi, and Mulatto sent him beats. Another rapper in Akono Miles received a storyboard cartoon about textbooks from Mulatto. "Cover art is the visual connection with music." Additionally, he joined with lifestyle label Reviving Real to release a mix featuring 15 local artists. He also drew the mix's artwork and placed some of his beats on the project. 

He knows the rap history. "The Bushnel is one of my favorite spots in Pittsburgh," he said. A lot of musicians throw house parties at that venue in the Oakland neighborhood. "I heard extensively about the Shadow Lounge when I moved here."

While exploring the landscape, Mulatto has become a fan of R&B artist Amir Miles and boom bap producer C. Scott.

[I’m] trying to connect people with other people.

Further, Mulatto's beat tapes are tranquil. His production matches the realism in his doodles. Listeners hear suave trumpets. His sounds come to life, and diverse instrumentation builds his music. "Producers shape where the sound will go," he said. "Sampling is big," too. "I kinda want to make the weirdest hip-hop possible. The kind that makes you turn your ear and say, 'This is amazing!'" For a reference, Mulatto likens himself to legendary hip-hop acts like Danger Doom, Outkast, Lil  B, and Tyler The Creator.

Ultimately, Mulatto calls himself a "big picture guy" and must thank the community he engages with and honors. "Pittsburgh has been really good to me," he said. Good times continue on September 16 at The Bushnel where Yung Mulatto hosts a birthday show.


Hebru Brantley's Flyboy Mural in Pittsburgh by Alex Young

Hebru Brantley painting his Flyboy mural - photograph by Alex Young

Hebru Brantley painting his Flyboy mural - photograph by Alex Young

"World class" art displays minutes outside of Pittsburgh at the corner of Wallace Avenue and Pitt Street in Wilkinsburg, Pa.

Renowned visual artist Hebru Brantley of Chicago initially came to Pittsburgh for his "I Wish I Knew (How It Felt To Be Free)" exhibit last May. Inside the city's August Wilson Center for African American Culture, he exhibited his Flyboy sculptures and paintings, which reflect the disenfranchised youth's adventure and imagination. According to Marqui Lyons, the program manager at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust who brought Brantley to the city, "I Wish I Knew (How It Felt To Be Free)" attracted 10,000 people to the exhibit from May to July.

Now, people can travel to Wilkinsburg to see Brantley's new Flyboy mural that serves as a mark of talent and community enrichment.

The effort of the Cultural Trust and the Wilkinsburg Arts Commission to bring a permanent Brantley piece to the city "celebrates work by African Americans and improves the neighborhood," developer Michael Polite said during the mural's unveiling on Friday morning.

Add Brantley's new mural in Pittsburgh to his list of public and private works that he's been recognized for, like another mural in Detroit, an ad for Cadillac, or his exhibit in Switzerland.

At the unveiling ceremony, Brantley spoke from his cherry picker crane while putting the finishing touches on his art. He told a story about how the day before a young black boy walked down Wallace Ave., and slowed to stare at the painting of a black boy flying through the air like a superhero. Brantley saw the boy "connect" with Flyboy, a symbol of encouragement. "The mural in Wilkinsburg depicts a black kid traveling safely through the city," he said.

Brantley's work promotes inspiration because Flyboy supports young kids' identity and "what it means to fly in your imagination." Overall, Brantley said he is blessed to shift the narrative in Pittsburgh and "uplift people."

Duces Pittsburgh. It's been real.

A post shared by Hebru Brantley (@hebrubrantley) on

Hebru Brantley's Flyboy

501 Wallace Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15221

Jenesis Magazine Celebrates 10th Anniversary with Party and Hennessy by Alex Young

Jenesis Magazine covers

Jenesis Magazine covers

Jenesis Magazine, Pittsburgh's "word up" publication, will celebrate their 10th anniversary on April 1.

"How many people do you know have done something good for 10 years?" Thomas Agnew, Jenesis' publisher and managing editor, said to his Instagram story.

Encouraging a community is the fruit of Jenesis' thorough work. The magazine's commentary has supported many different artists across the country. Jenesis was present to document the ascension of Pittsburgh legends like Mac Miller, Girl Talk, and Wiz Khalifa. Agnew's curiosities, as well as those of the interviewers and photographers who have contributed to Jenesis, have generated conversations and imagery about heroes like rappers Smoke DZA, ScHoolboy Q, and photographer Cam Kirk.

Dive into years of feature articles, interview clips, and day-in-the-life videos on Covet the print editions with iconic covers-- Wiz December 2009, "Deal Or No Deal."

Thomas Agnew signed copy of Issue 56 with Smoke DZA & vibe pin

Thomas Agnew signed copy of Issue 56 with Smoke DZA & vibe pin

10 years of documenting creative human life deserves a thank you. Jenesis has placed the spotlight on a lot of people by giving them words, stages to perform, and wall space to display. Boom Concepts, an event space under Jenesis and D.S. Kinsel's umbrella, hosts progress-makers and problem-solvers. Events like the Women's Focus Group Forum and the magazine's content detail progress-makers and problem-solvers.

Agnew and his team are Pittsburgh historians who have seen the city grow and nurture ambitious individuals, such as local business owners like Daniel Childs of Chromos Eyewear or rising musicians Choo Jackson and Tairey.

So when Jenesis Magazine celebrates their 10th anniversary on Saturday, a lot of people should attend their party at Boom Concepts. Not showing up is like not attending your grandma's 100th birthday party. People should want to express their gratitude for Jenesis taking responsibility to appreciate other artists' work and showcasing it to larger audiences.

The anniversary party kicks off at 10 p.m., and DJs iB Rease of Ohio and Wave Matthews of New York will offer hip-hop selections. Free Hennessy, a staple at Boom, spills from 11:30 p.m. - 12:30 a.m.

Show up for Jenesis, support their culture.

Boom Concepts

5139 Penn Avenue

Pittsburgh, PA 15224

Observe Urban Exploration in New York City by Alex Young

Victor G. Thomas III, better known as Vic.Invades on Instagram, is an urban explorer, or  "UrbExer," in New York City.

The Brooklyn native, Thomas, is an extreme explorer who frequents underground subway lines and skyscraper rooftops, dangerous and illegal locations, all for photographs.

"Trespassing is definitely what I do," Thomas said. The photographer climbs fences, slides down shingles and stands on train tracks to produce breathtaking visuals of NYC few have seen.

Wealth and exclusivity restrict many New Yorkers from the tall, lavish buildings that overlook the Big Apple. Vic says, "UrbExing certainly is a political thing. I feel like there are no barriers on this planet. Everything is meant to be explored."

The New York Times contributor and director Matthew Bate follows Thomas around his urban playground in a short documentary called "Vic Invades." Viewers can see how the photographer captures his images and why he thinks urban exploration is important.