www.agentofchaos.com presents guest artist, poet, musician, storyteller Hashim El-Ra-Mun
Agent of Chaos
Cleveland-area African-Americans' work shown
By Dorothy Shinn
art and architecture critic
Ackron Beacon Journal
February 08, 2004
X-Africa: The African American Experience
on view at the Cleveland State University Art Gallery.
Curated by Askari Keita and co-sponsored by CSU's Office of Minority Affairs and Community Relations and by Sankofa Fine Art Plus, X-Africa is a small exhibit of works by 17 artists whose interests and skills vary widely.
Sankofa Fine Art Plus is a nonprofit organization specializing in raising the profile of art from Cleveland's ethnic communities through education, communication and the discovery, preservation and distribution of fine ethnic art.
There are some familiar names among those exhibiting in X-Africa: Kevin Knuckles, Erl Lumpkin, Steady Breeze, Garner Chapman and Fatima Karriem. But there are others whose names haven't been as visible: Gary Williams, Charmaine Spencer, Lorraine Johnson Davis, Jerome T. White, Georgio Sabino, Harold Luke, Keaf Holliday, Jacquie Rowell, Ni Kole Taylor, Hashim El-Ra-Mun and Christopher Kelley.
Frequently, Keita says, black artists are "expected to fit into a special niche. It is a compartmentalization which greatly overlooks their full range of skills."
Because many of the X-Africa artists haven't been through the standard art school training, their approach to their work is often noncanonical, often resulting in work that's oddly beautiful and almost unclassifiable.
Certainly, this could be said of the work of El-Ra-Mun, who specializes in stoneware sculptures in the form of astrolabes, the Temple of Abu-Simbel, and something he calls a teleportation disc.
These well-crafted objects are not functional, although they look as though they could be.
Fashioned on the pattern of the brass astrolabe shown in uncounted medieval art works in the hands of astronomers and astrologers, El-Ra-Mun's astrolabe is made of clay, decorated with turquoise, green and yellow glazes, and is beautiful to behold.
El-Ra-Mun meticulously incised the copied Arabic script that runs around the edge of his astrolabes, as well as the script marking various major stars on the inner plane of the disc.
He glazes some of the sculptures with iron oxide, then washes it off after the first firing, so that what's left is an earthy pink tint. This glaze also pools into the incised lines, creating an oxgall color for the script, which he often has to repaint with glaze so the incised lines will stand out crisply against the surface.
He has created fanciful "pointers" and glazed them turquoise or green, and he has incised a design -- which he calls a thousand-petal lotus -- across the inner surface of the disc that in a real instrument would have marked celestial longitude and latitude.
In short, El-Ra-Mun has compressed the intricate ancient instrument into one highly decorative ceramic sculpture with glazed pointers and guides.
They, and the plainer teleportation discs -- entirely invented by the artist -- are beautiful objects to behold, and practically speaking, do nothing, thus completely satisfying all the classical requirements of a work of art.
El-Ra-Mun's home page (www.agentofchaos.com/hashim/) displays some of his clay sculptures, as well as his drawings, collages and poetry, all of which are impressive and worthy of greater exposure.
His model of the temple of Ramesses II at Abu Simbel is a delight as well. He has so thoroughly researched this monument, displaced so that the Aswan Dam could be built in the 1970s, that he has included the objects still found inside it.
Dorothy Shinn writes about art and architecture for the Akron Beacon Journal. Send information to her at the Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309-0640 or email@example.com.
contact Hashim El-Ra-Mun at
Hashim1954 at-sign yahoo dot com
call (216) 391-2117.
Return to Hashim's home page