kai lumumba barrow (b. 1959, Chicago) is a visual and performance artist who lives and works in New Orleans. She has exhibited paintings, sculptures, site-specific installations and multimedia performances in Atlanta, Brooklyn, Chicago, Durham, Glasgow, London, New Orleans, and NYC.
barrow is concerned with notions of radical imagination. Her sprawling paintings, installations, and sculptures transgress biological, geographic, ideological, and physical borders. Her work is imbued with cultural and historical clues that reference avant-garde art and radical liberation movements. barrow’s installations and ritualistic environments recall African diasporic cosmologies incorporating reusable materials such as dirt, moss, rocks, machines, money and bones as a visual and ethnographic language. Together with her four muses: Absurdity, Sarcasm, Myth, and Merriment, the work performs queer, Black, feminist resistance to carceral control.
In 2010 barrow launched Gallery of the Streets, a broad network of artists, activists, scholars, and organizers who work at the nexus of art, political education, and transformative change to confront and resist oppressive policies, practices, and beliefs through public art, organizing, and community engagement.
My work aims to evoke a paradigm shift at the crossroads of cultural work, art practice, environmental sustainability, and direct confrontation with power. For me this art is dialogic: inviting participation through investigation and/or physical interaction, oppositional: critical, bold, and embracing of contradictions, and erotic: emerging from the underground, passionate in its quest to transform. These characteristics are also fundamental to an intersectional politic that guides my activism. I am drawn to Black surrealism and ecofeminism as aesthetic movements that, to quote Robin D.G. Kelley, “invites dreaming, urges us to improvise and invent, and recognizes the imagination as our most powerful weapon.” In this sense, my work aims to demonstrate how imaginative play can challenge and expand social, cultural, economic, and environmental organizing and movement-building.
[b]reach: adventures in heterotopia, a black surrealist opera
[b]reach considers the notion of black fugitivity as a point of departure. a third space between confinement and freedom. a place to discuss the questions. a multimedia surrealist opera, [b]reach will be staged throughout the black diaspora and includes the vision and voices of community collaborators dedicated to subverting the status quo.