Black Magic

Running Time: 23 minutes 41 seconds | 2021

“My work, as long as I have been making it, is an undeniable love letter to the Black Queer Community,” says Rashaad Newsome. Black Magic is a striking, uplifting celebration of resiliency and strength. The sleek, unfolding film documents a 2019 live performance that Newsome has “expanded” and activated with the use of motion tracking software and dazzling visual effects. Organized into three acts, the film explores trans women and their contributions to the Vogue fem lexicon; the five elements of Vogue fem, including hands, catwalk, floor performance, spin dips, and duck-walking; and how the marginalization of the Black Queer community has led to systemic oppression, violence, and instability. Yet Black Queer people resist, creating space for creativity, community, and joy. Newsome refers to this resistance as Black Magic.

The film’s choreography features performers vigorously flipping, swinging, twirling, and shaking their red, black, and green hair. As they “pass the beat,” Newsome visually depicts their energies and “souls” passing from one to another. Concurrently, Newsome maps the movement patterns of the dancers and transforms the collected data into drawings on a screen above the stage.

Black Magic features an original score by Newsome that is an amalgamation of several live performances, where the artist uses two Nintendo Wii's to play and manipulate his score, while a gospel choir, Gregorian chants, live electronic music, live instrumentation, a vogue MC, and an opera singer collide, acting as an operating system to create a new visual and sonic reality.






BLACK MAGIC (2020) is a tripartite project by artist Rashaad Newsome. The project launches with The premiere of "Black Magic," a multi-channel work, and live performance co-commissioned with Times Square Arts that combines improvisational performance with video and animation; a site-specific vinyl installation in the Museum's Living Room Gallery windows; and the debut of the full Black Magic film and a virtual event presented in partnership with EYEBEAM.

Carefully choreographed across 72 digital displays each night in December, Black Magic (Times Square) carved out a space for transgression and liberation within Times Square's dominant culture, while also resonating with the district's long history as a gathering place for celebration, protest, creativity, and performance. The project combines excerpts from the 3rd act of the live performance Black Magic, performed initially at New York Live Arts in fall 2019. The dancers on-screen were asked to perform “Black Magic”--what Newsome calls the human spirit's strength to navigate systemic racism, homophobia, and a deadly epidemic, with grace and dignity. All performances have been slowed down to focus on the dancer's story. As the films play the King of Arms Tincture, an animated graphic pattern decorated with bejeweled flowers and dazzling golden vines runs through the Times Square landscape, acting as a type of armor, creating a more liberatory space for displaying the Queer Black bodies performing within the panorama.

For Newsome’s site-specific vinyl installation at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, he covered the museum's Living Room Gallery windows with his King of Arms Tincture. Initially created to cover the King of Arms Float in his first public parade for his solo exhibition at the New Orleans Museum of Art in 2013. This project evolved into an immersive installation, which the artist describes as a strategy for creating a more libratory space within environments that have historically been hegemonic. Through the use of nonorganic flowers, Newsome transforms the allegory of vanitas into a parable for immortality, a reminder of the undying voices that continue to speak out against dehumanization.

In 2021, the project proceeds with the debut of the full Black Magic performance film at, and a virtual event presented in partnership with EYEBEAM. In total, Black Magic demonstrates the Black LGBTQ+ community's capacity to persevere in creating art, joy, connection, and resistance amid a global pandemic and racial violence.

Bringing together the visual, musical, and performative expressions of marginalized communities through boundary-defying cross-cultural aesthetics is at the heart of Newsome's practice. Through this installation, Newsome hopes to encourage an interrogation of family dynamics and community constructions in a celebration of difference and togetherness.

Rashaad Newsome's work blends several practices, including collage, sculpture, film, photography, music, computer programming, software engineering, community organizing, and performance, to create a new field that rejects classification. Using the diasporic traditions of improvisation, he pulls from the world of advertising, the internet, Art History, Black and Queer culture to produce counter-hegemonic work that walks the tightrope between creative computing, social practice, abstraction, and intersectionality. Collage acts as a theoretical, conceptual, and technical method to construct a new cultural framework of power that does not find others' oppression necessary. Newsome's work celebrates Black contributions to the art canon and creates innovative and inclusive forms of culture and media.

Newsome lives and works in Oakland, California, and New York City. He was born in 1979 in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he received a BFA in Art History at Tulane University in 2001. In 2004, he received a certificate of study in Digital Post Production from Film/Video Arts Inc. (NYC). In 2005 he studied MAX/MSP Programming at Harvestworks Digital Media Art Center (NYC). He has exhibited and performed in galleries, museums, institutions, and festivals throughout the world, including The Studio Museum in Harlem (NYC), The National Museum of African American History and Culture (DC), The Whitney Museum (NYC), Brooklyn Museum (NYC), MoMAPS1 (NYC), SFMOMA (CA), New Orleans Museum of Art (LA), Centre Georges Pompidou (Paris), The Garage Center for Contemporary Culture (Moscow), and MUSA (Vienna). Newsome's work is in numerous public collections, including the Studio Museum in Harlem, Whitney Museum of American Art (NYC), The Brooklyn Museum of Art (NYC), The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, McNay Art Museum (TX), The Chazen Museum of Art (WI), National Museum of African American History and Culture (DC) and Oakland Museum of California.