The two local organizations unveiled Black On Black Love: A Public Art Action, two collaborative public artworks described in a press release as “an expression of solidarity, Black Love and Black Excellence.” The project was completed at the Carrie Blast Furnaces on Sept. 12 and includes contributions from an inter-generational group of local artists working in a variety of disciplines.
The project is dedicated to the late George Gist, a Pittsburgh-based jazz musician, muralist, and multi-disciplinary artist who installed public artworks across the country. He died on July 29.
BOOM Concepts co-founder DS Kinsel says Black On Black Love also pays tribute to the Black ironworkers of the Carrie Blast Furnaces, a former manufacturing hub for U.S. Steel’s Homestead Works. Since the facility's closure in 1982, Rivers of Steel has converted it into a type of museum on Pittsburgh's industrial history, as well as a space for festivals, plays, and art displays. Besides Black On Black Love, Carrie Blast Furnaces was recently transformed into a “sensorial maze” for the show LightPlay.
“The site was selected as a result of open dialogue and community building, really figuring out how we can share resources and access with the goal of having more opportunities around Public Art for Black artists,” says Kinsel, who gives credit to Rivers of Steel arts coordinator, Shane Pilsner, and contributing artist Camerin “Camo” Nesbit for “being a real catalyst” for the project.
He says the artists were instructed to express the prompt "Black on Black Love" through their respective styles. Created using aerosol and house paint, the result is a “fun and vibrant melange of graffiti-style characters, symbols, icons, and text” that reflect the “vastness of Black Love and how Black people love each other.”
“The wall looks and feels like an Afrofuturist cartoon series showcasing recognizable images from history and pop culture,” says Kinsel, emphasizing the goal of focusing on positive, honest reflections of the Black experience.
Besides helping to execute the project, Kinsel also worked with two other artists, Jim Kidd and Alisha B. Wormsley, to create a wheat paste collage described as incorporating print works from their personal archives. The work was installed across six large, bricked-over windows inside the site's Power House.
Contributing artists include Latika Anne, Takara Canty, Natiq Jalil, Jerome “Chu” Charles, Kemist1, Wavy Wednesday, Danielle Robinson, and Universal Hunt.
Black On Black Love adds to Rivers of Steel's mission of supporting and elevating the Pittsburgh arts scene. The project was launched as part of the organization's Graffiti Arts Program, which is described as drawing inspiration from the underground culture of “local graffiti writers, urban explorers, and guerrilla artists” who used Carrie Furnaces and other industrial sites as canvases following the collapse of Pittsburgh's steel industry in the 1980s.