As an artist, Faheem Majeed’s work plays an important role in highlighting the complexity of the lack of investment in the cultural capital present in minority communities by creating space for dialogue, and in bringing together a spectrum of stakeholders. Majeed believes artwork itself does not immediately solve this problem; however, it does create platforms to connect, expose, fund and amplify those that are already working to address these issues in their communities.
Majeed is also a builder—literally and metaphorically. As part of his studio practice, the artist transforms materials such as particle board, scrap metal & wood, and discarded signs and billboard remnants, breathing new life into these often overlooked and devalued materials.
Video by Spirit of Space in collaboration with Art Design Chicago
Majeed’s current work is an example of this new life transformation. He recently completed a number of sculptures inspired by billboards and made with 4’x8’ sheets of recycled wood as a part of his UNITE series. The artist created this series as a conversation about social justice, while also serving as commentary on propaganda. It influences our thinking of what’s in vogue while tapping into social history.
The artist and sculptor made the materials for this series from recycled lumber from demolished buildings and previous projects, and employed men from his South Side neighborhood to process the materials. The artist and his new crew then created particle boards through a process of cutting, shaving, compressing, gluing, and finally staining the wooden fragments utilizing a unorthodox product...Kool-Aid. These colorful painterly board up sculptures have become representations of the changes that are happening in the artist’s gentrifying South Shore Chicago neighborhood.
The artist and sculptor often looks to the material makeup of his neighborhood and surrounding areas as an entry point into larger questions around civic-mindedness, community activism, and even institutional racism.
Additionally, Majeed’s latest series serves as a way of telling a story of not just Chicago neighborhoods, but also numerous neighborhoods throughout this country. He describes the way the images of boarded up houses are portrayed in his neighborhood in particular. He explains, “People who live next to these boarded up properties may not know about Barnett Neuman or Jasper Johns or the history of painting, but they understand and recognize the pattern of particle board and what it means when that pattern begins to show up throughout the neighborhood. While others who look to capitalize on these boarded up properties can walk through these same neighborhoods and see a potential in this pattern. The pattern becomes a marker of fiscal security to protect their investment, where the neighborhood sees it as an eyesore”.
Majeed mentions he also has difficulty referencing the history of painting. However, it seems that the artist has no difficulty applying his practice to create structures that may mean different things to different people in order to generate a dialogue and get people from diverse backgrounds in a room together to consume his art by creating a potential bridge for meaningful discussions.
While conceptualizing his UNITE series, he references a print by Barbara Jones- Hogu called “Unite,” (1968), which kept coming back to him as it references current times, Black art history and Black empowerment. It also represents the same ‘60’s Chicago Southside neighborhoods that Majeed’s work is inspired by and in which he and his family live.
He describes the colors he uses by making a correlation with blue raspberry, cherry, pink lemonade, grape, lime, orange and tropical punch which are the flavors and the taste that represent the food culture in stores in his neighborhood and numerous other Black neighborhoods. His use of Kool-Aid is reminiscent of 1968 Cool-aid (“Cool”) colors used by the artists' collective AfriCOBRA to draw people into their print work which also had messaging.
Majeed’s resulting sculptures resemble textured paintings that are also billboards, addressing ideas about propaganda, patriotism, solidarity and empowerment. The sculptures, with the largest piece measuring 60 feet tall, have been featured in various galleries and shows in the U.S.
For Majeed, it’s important that he’s having conversations with both his neighborhood and the art world and he works on striking a balance between the two.
Along with his own work, Majeed is one of the founders and co-directors of the Floating Museum, which operates without a permanent physical space and takes on the literal embodiment of its name by serving as a mobile gallery for an impressive roster of cultural institutions, community organizations and artists. The expansive project included an industrial barge that traveled up the Chicago River from southeast Chicago to the new Riverwalk in downtown Chicago and was installed at Navy Pier.
Majeed and his fellow directors of Chicago-based Art Collective Floating Museum has been named as Artistic Directors of The 2023 Chicago Architecture Biennial, which will celebrate its fifth edition and opens in September 2023.
You can also see one of Majeed's latest works titled Freedom’s Stand, located on NYC's High Line at 30th Street. His installation, which was scheduled to be on display through August 2023, has been extended until March 2024.
This summer, Majeed collaborates with RiseAD to create a collection of sunglasses inspired by his UNITE Series featuring frames infused with the colors taken from the sheets of recycled wood dyed with Kool-Aid flavors from the series.
To learn more about Faheem Majeed please visit www.faheemmajeed.com