0 Posted by - March 24, 2014 - ARTIST PROFILE, CONVERSATIONS


MFA Candidate Jamaal Hasef Tolbert

 ArtBlitzLA had the chance to sit down with Claremont Graduate MFA Jamaal Hasef Tolbert to talk about his upcoming show and his emerging career as an artist. His Thesis, The White Room Disruption will open March 25th at 6pm with a live performance starting at 6:30pm which will be streamed lived online through his website. This will be a show not to be missed.

ABLA: How did you get into art? What is your earliest memory?

My mom introduced to me to art, she was an abstract painter. I painted when I was younger, but in college I was introduced to film, video art and welding.

ABLA: What is your favorite medium to work in?

I did painting in high school. I decided to go into sculpture and metal welding in my last year of undergrad. The same with video art, I got into it my last year as well. That is where my entire interest came from. In my undergrad, my professor Jesse Sugarman introduced me to these other mediums including film and video art. He helped me with my undergraduate thesis, Shadism. Originally, I didn’t know that these were areas to explore in art.

I was always the friend with camera, always filming or photographing someone. I was the one that got it on camera. Make sure he isn’t recording. Basically I combined with my sociology degree, I was very interested in the research and black studies and political issues. I had to start thinking about ways to implement in into video. It’s a strong way for people to connect to with.

 ABLA: Who/what are some of your inspirations while working?

What inspired the topic was that I have been doing a lot of research on many African American artists like Adrian Piper, Glenn Ligon. There is a lot of research in black identity with black artists. However, there are up an coming artists who are white and focusing on the white identity and whiteness. I haven’t seen any black artists focus deeply on the white end of the work and the whiteness.

ABLA: How did you come about the MFA program in Claremont?

I attending Cal State Bakersfield and studied Studio Art and Sociology and my professors told me about this program, especially since I didn’t want to wait a year in between.

ABLA: Tell us about your thesis, The White Room Disruption.

Well basically, all I do is find random people and I introduce my project about whiteness. I ask them to give me their honest about what they think about whiteness. They are normally awkward but once I get them in the studio, they give me an honest opinion knowing that there are no strings attached, no right or wrong answer.

There have been so many great responses and it is really really really cool. You can see the struggle. I am looking at the sociological and psychological aspect and the uncomfortableness. I can see all the dynamics tied into the film. Basically, tell me what you think about whiteness.

ABLA: How does your live performance fit into your show? What does it entail?

I do not know, but I will know next week. It will be a surprise for everyone and me. It will be a first time that I will ever do a live performance. I have done everything else, painting, drawing, you name it. It is pushing myself in the boundaries of me. I am using live stream to reach national and global viewers. I am hoping that they will be watching, brining the art gallery to them but live.

 ABLA: What made you interested in live performances?

For artistic and audience perspective. It is a new form and entering the art world in terms of making money. I want it to be incorporating the Internet and the art world. We are in the era of technology, whether it will be me or another artist. It will happen. Also, with the performance, the viewers are able to leave comments to participate and I will be responding in real time.

 ABLA: How did you come about these themes?

I was always the friend with the camera, always filming or photographing someone. I was that friend that was always recording things whether good or bad.  Basically, I combined with my filming and recording skills with my  sociology degree, I was very interested in the research and black studies and political issues. I had to start thinking about ways to implement in into video. It’s a strong way for people to connect to with the art.

ABLA: If you could have drinks with three people who would it be?

President Barak Obama, Oprah, and Beyonce.

ABLA: Favorite place to grab a bite to eat or beverage?

Food is my favorite thing, it’s difficult for me to choose. In California I would recommend Harold and Belles.


For more information about Jamaal’s work and live performance can also be found at his website. Check it out!


Jamaal Hasef Tolbert

Live Performance Viewing HERE

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