“The Rise And Fail Of The N-Word”


With this exhibition of over 60 revolvving beautiful and provocative works, artist Rhinold Lamar Ponder addresses our collective inability to have honest and productive discussions about race, justice and inequality in America. Despite this dysfunction, more and more people across races, ethnicities, religions, sexes and  sexual preferences desire to have intersectional discussions about injustice and inequality centered around race.  The purpose of The Rise and Fail of the N-Word Traveling Art Exhibit and seminar is to serve as a prompt to facilitate those conversations and meaningful reflection on these concerns.

This exhibit offers us an opportunity to view these issues from a creative perspective and to develop a common language so that we can gain a mutual understanding of the impact of racial injustice in America and all our lives.

Our collective dysfunction around race is most outwardly evident around the word “Nigger.” The word draws a societal range of emotions and actions that seem to be filled with more contradictions than rationality.  Incredibly, art can serve as a healing force as it provokes us to collectively re-examine our environment and perceptions of the world.  This provocative project focuses on over 50 works by Rhinold and includes his groundbreaking project of logos, from the word nigger, created by hired designers from around the world.  Rhinold’s  work of stunning pieces includes a panels installation representing the life-ending encounters between unarmed individuals and law enforcement officers and large scale abstract work with clear historical significance.

The project is accompanied by select poetry, created specifically for this project, mounted alongside the art work for consideration and reflection.

The project, which was first exhibited at Princeton University in 2014, will begin a national tour in the fall of 2017.  It will be shown in Hartford, Connecticut with the support of a major foundation, to be announced, in October this year.

If you or your organization are interested in supporting or hosting this exhibition, please feel free to contact the artist by e-mail (rlponder@aol.com), Facebook (Rhinold Ponder) or fax 609.228.5851.


The Work

The concept of “race” is a  living fiction.  If functions in real life as “racism.”  It is a lie created, perpetuated and expanded to rationalize the subjugation of one segment of the human race by other members of the human race. At the very core is the notion that one group of people is “inferior” to another group.   White supremacy and black inferiority are woven deep into the fabric of American life from the Constitution to our culture.

For many, the word “Nigger” represents the lowest, most vile elements of this notion of racial inferiority that persists to this day. How do you live, love, be productive, and be happy and whole while living your reality in a pervasive fiction? How do you as an individual and as a group remove yourself from or destroy the fiction instead of simply rewriting and reshaping the narrative?

The Welcome Nigger Mirror (mixed media, including found and cut mirror, tape and frosted paint — not shown here) is a harsh greeting but is meant to begin your thinking about “Nigger” as part of a fiction called race, a fiction that ignores that the only race is human. In that fiction invariably what we see is a distorted and disjointed image of ourselves.  

Optic White is a group of four white on white paintings with the word “Nigger” or variations of the word included within the paintings. The paintings were inspired by Ralph Ellison’s book “Invisible Man” which is in essence about identity and the in humanity of man based on racial ideas.  For the artist, painting white on white (and black on black) addressed the problem of artistically translating the idea of human invisibility and lost identity onto canvas.

Nightshade series, “Nigger Rich”

“Nightshade: Nigger Rich” has multiple meanings just like the word “Nigger” does. Most commonly it refers to one’ s rich not being the best type of rich. You pick your own meaning, but appreciate that the word rich in the painting is shaped by real bits of one dollar bills.

“Nigger Rich” detail


This work also seeks to join the conversation with famous expressionists/modernists such as Robert Raushenberg, Robert Ryman and Piero Manzinni who  have dealt with all-black and all- white paintings.  They did so largely in contemplation of art as a thing not in the context of what the works mean as art  in association with the ideas of race.
Strange Fruit: High Tech Lynching or Suicide?
This show is not about transforming the word, but transforming ourselves “Strange Fruit: High Tech Lynching or Suicide: This multimedia painting is a reference to three of the most public trials in America n history all involving Black men and challenging the established media images of blacks. The Thomas hearings were probably a precursor to reality TV. It was the first time America got an up close view of the spectacularly bright black professionals in our society. It was also the event where Thomas, not known for caring much for black people in general, played the “race card” and called the hearings a “high tech lynching.”
The Trayvon-Martin silk screens were hand drawn to pair Trayvon Martin, the young victim, with a ghostly, barely perceptible image of Dr. King in a hoodie. The tragic killing and aftermath  reflected and perpetuated the notion that a black boy ’s life is “inferior” 
to other lives. The shooter’s heightened sense of superiority during the encounter with Trayvon led him to a “heroism” that fit the fiction of race but not the reality of a young man enjoying life in his own neighborhood. Much of society also perpetuated the idea that the value of Trayvon’s life was decreased by the emotions his presence provoked from others.  
This painting also reflects upon Andy Warhol’s work and speaks to how central race is to pop culture. Warhol was a master at appropriating and representing contemporary images and ideas, but his understanding and contemplation of race was practically non-existent.

Hands Up, Don’t Shoot panel.  Hands Up Don’t Shoot is a multi-paneled painting representative of the hundreds of unarmed people of color killed by police. It celebrates the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement while reminding the viewer that society has not progressed far enough in the perception and treatment of people of color.


Description of the “Nigger Logos”

I hired 20 people –10 international and 10 Americans– through an online service called Fiverr to create logos with the idea that the Americans would have the most difficult time dealing with the assignment. In short, most of the International logos were very creative and half of the Americans could not follow the only real instruction I gave: “No black and white logos.” My take? Our dysfunction around race, racism and the N-word not only reflects our inability to collectively deal with nuance, it also shows how our creative energies are diminished because of this fiction called “race.” The logos were put on canvas by printer, Trenton Joe and Son at 4 Scotch Road, Ewing, NJ, (609) 538.9450. I hope enjoy the work and I will be happy to answer any questions.
N-Word Logo (edited) Costa Rica
N-Word Logo UK (edited))
N-word Logo (edited) United Kingdom

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