Black Voguers Will Grace 72 Times Square Billboards Through the End of 2020

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Nov 30, 2020

Starting December 1 and running through New Year’s Eve, New York City’s Times Square will feature artist Rashaad Newsome’s “Black Magic” ballroom series to commemorate World AIDS Day (December 1), the Times Square Arts announced.

Using improvisation and collage, “Black Magic” will embody 72 digital displays with footage that will include the live performance “FIVE.” For “FIVE,” Newsome gathered a group of New York-based dancers who performed their idea of “Black Magic” through vogue, the highly stylized, modern house dance which originated in the late 1980s and evolved out of the Harlem ballroom scene of the 1960s.

In a statement, Newsome said the improvisational inspiration behind “Black Magic” stemmed from the improvised protests witnessed over the summer against systemic racism:

I feel that the power of Black creative and resistance modalities are akin to Quantum Physics. Black individuals have had to possess an enormous amount of strength to navigate systemic racism. That power is amplified to an extraordinary amount when we unite, as is evident in the improvisation we saw in the streets across the country in the wake of George Floyd’s murder. This energy is something that has long inspired me, and you can see it in the Black cultural production celebrated and abstracted in my work. Rock, hip-hop, jazz, ballroom, etc. are undoubtedly the crown jewels of American culture and are linked to liberation movements. ‘Black Magic’ unearths the power embedded in Blackness by referencing creative expression born out of Black sociality.

Watch a video below, from 2013, when “FIVE” performed at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

New York City’s Times Square remains one of the most visible and visited destinations in New York City with its Broadway shows, bright lights and dozens of billboards, but it’s also the same place where pro- and anti-Donald Trump protestors clashed, a car slammed into a Black Lives Matter protest and 85 people were arrested demonstrating against U.S, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In response, Newsome’s work will “carve out a space for transgression and liberation within the dominant culture of Times Square,” according to his statement.

Also, in a city where some Black and Latinx residents were reportedly dying of  COVID-19 at 15 times the rate of others, Newsome told the New York Times, “I want it to be a memorial to those who have fallen.”

In addition to its unveiling at Times Square on December 1, The Times reported that the facade of the Leslie-Lohman Museum, which is partnering with Newsome, will be wrapped in printed vinyl wallpaper featuring the “King of Arms Tincture,” and on December 10, in Time’s Square’s Duffy Square, Newsome, Times Square Arts, and the Leslie-Lohman Museum will host a live performance to celebrate the installations.

Now, if you can’t make it to Times Square to see all this magic, no worries. In January, the Soho-based museum’s website will feature a full-length version of the 2019 performances included in “Black Magic."