Souleo Universe
Derrick Adams The Holdout installation view/Courtesy of the artist and Aljira

Derrick Adams The Holdout installation view/Courtesy of the artist and Aljira

Before the internet there was and remains, the oral tradition of sharing knowledge, wisdom, and history through the spoken word. Acclaimed visual artist, Derrick Adams’ new solo project THE HOLDOUT  taps into that tradition and combines it with digital technology through a large pyramid-like sculpture housing an online radio station, organized by curator Dexter Wimberly.

The structure, suspended from the ceiling of Newark’s Aljira A Center for Contemporary Art, provides an interactive space featuring live DJ broadcasts, spoken word performances, and discussions about topics from music of the African diaspora to LGBT rights. Building on the theme are photographs and sculptures from Adams’ ongoing series Welcome to Monument City.

“The space is for the people, I don’t frame the conversation,” said Adams, who conducts live DJ sets on several dates from within the pyramid. “I’m there to play music from the culture and to participate in the rich oral tradition of sharing what I’ve experienced and allowing others to do the same. It’s important for me to communicate through this installation that the value is not always in a physical property. You are valuable and you take it with you wherever you go.  The ‘it’ is for you to define.  Self-worth can’t be marginalized, so recognize it, value it, hold on to it.  That’s the essence of THE HOLDOUT.”

At the end of the exhibition’s run on April 25, Adams plans to dismantle the installation and make fragments from the pyramid available for sale to further support Aljira’s mission of providing a space for artists to engage the community.

Syleena Johnson Makes Movie Musical Debut Inspired by Album and Sister

Soul singer, Syleena Johnson didn’t have to go too far to find material for her TV-movie musical debut, Couples Therapy, which premieres on BET this Monday, March 30 at 8pm EST. Her recent album Chapter 6: Couples Therapyprovides the soundtrack and story structure with songs documenting the trials and tribulations of a relationship. And for one of the movie’s major plot twists she allowed director, Tangie B. Moore to pull from her sister and manager, Dr. Syleecia Thompson’s stillbirth experience.

“I will never know how my sister felt exactly but it was an honor to highlight something she went through and to hopefully heal other women,” Johnson said. “Losing a baby goes on all the time and people chill but it is a serious situation. There is no evidence as to why it keeps happening. It is hard to digest why you lost your child. I hope this movie brings awareness. It touches on relationship issues, spirituality, the maternal instinct of women, friendship and so many things we can all relate to.”

Although she is known more for her music than acting, Johnson revealed that the latter was always a passion. She recalled being younger writing scripts and plays and studying theater throughout her high school and college years. For her the movie musical represents a dream come true that she also gets to share with collaborators from her album, who co-star in the production including Leela James, Dave Hollister, and Willie Taylor.

“Acting has been part of my life for a long time. When I was little I used to write plays and scripts. I’ve always wanted to do scripted material but it’s hard to do when you’re a singer first. People don’t take you serious. Now I am hoping to get back to it.”


The weekly column, On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture entertainment and philanthropy in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.


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