“What does the Black man say?” Jordan Allen and His Dynamic Explorations Through Art
Jordan Allen is an emerging, self-taught artist that is originally from St. Paul, Minnesota. Based in New York since 2017, Allen’s practice explores existential questions as a means of searching for his own truth and identity. His upbringing as the single male in a a single mother household, and his experiences as a Black man in America a have inspired him to create his own world influences by the feelings that form his worldly experiences.
What is your reason for creating?
My purpose for creating is to reach deeply within myself to see what I can pull out. Everyday I learn a little more about who I am and what I’m made of. I’m moved to build worlds. When I look outside my door it feels like I’m watching the collapse of civilization in real time. My response has always been to construct a place that allows me to live totally free of the constraints of society. We’re told who we’re supposed to be, and how we’re supposed to get there, but oftentimes that conflicts with our greater ambition.
I believe that I was placed here to illustrate for people how realistic it is to believe in themselves. Not to be cliché, but anything is possible and I want to show people how true that is.
I want little black kids to understand that they can overcome any barrier in life. Encouraging confidence will allow them to achieve their dreams just like my heroes did for me.
What are some of your motifs?
Ears are something that I definitely use heavily in my work. The bigger the better. I was the only boy in a household full of women. There were certain things that weren’t connecting with my mother and sisters. I would go off into my own world in my bedroom and sit at my computer and look for music on blogs, research different artists, and try to figure out how to build a time machine. Although the thoughts in my head couldn’t be fully understood by my family, I did feel supported by them. In that any supplies, materials, or request for an audience I needed to test out my ideas, they did whatever they could to assist me. Then I would go back to my room and continue building. The ears started out as me wanting to be heard by anyone that was willing to listen to me, but as I developed as an artist I realized that I was also telling myself to listen to myself. Oftentimes I find that I second guess my gut feeling, and the ears are a reminder for me to continue going with my gut. It hasn’t let me down so far.
Name a few of the artists that inspire you.
I admire Charles White and his work because he was a master at depicting black people beautifully. There’s so much emotion and strength in his artworks that leave me wanting to add as much feeling as possible into what I’m doing. Jean-Michel Basquiat showed me how to be fearless in other areas of my life. Accepting who I am and unapologetically leaning into who I am as a person, and creator. He taught me that barriers only exist if you let them.
I’ve been really inspired by René Margritte. I’m interested in world building and how his work challenges people to look closer at the world around them. I definitely pull inspiration from Pablo Picasso. He was dynamic in his exploration of the possibilities of what art can look and feel like. He opened all the doors.
What do you aim to represent in your work?
For the longest time I was trying to figure out where my niche was and then one day I woke up and realized that I shouldn’t be trying to represent anyone but myself. If I can inspire people to see that anything is possible, then that’s amazing, but I’m trying to prove to 10 year old Jordan that he was right, even way back then. I do believe that there are tons of people who feel misunderstood, and if there’s anything that I can say it’s that being misunderstood is a super power. Use whatever it is that makes you different to your advantage. It’s a beautiful thing to not be like everyone else. It’s even more beautiful to believe in something when not everyone gets it right away. My work is so imaginary because I believe that if you can think it, you can achieve it.
The work that I create is centered around the freedom that is inside all of us, especially those of use who are Black. Society attempts to mold us with its expectations. My artwork aims to directly confront the expectations placed on us through a dialogue on personal development
What inspiration did you receive during the quarantine period?
I was inspired by so many things. I’ve mainly been inspired by the idea of breaking down and taking the shattered parts and re-assembling them into something new. The quarantine revealed the causes for assorted breakdowns: mental, physical, and spiritual. I realized my greatest breakthroughs followed each breakdown, which is what my most recent series explores. Pushing through self doubt and quieting the outside noise; I was able to hear how to put myself back together again when it felt like things were falling apart. The goal of the new work is to take what I found and share that with anyone who wants to listen. This time helped to understand that healing first occurs internally, and when that happens we can collectively help each other more effectively. Paying attention to the little things can lead to large discoveries, we just have to be present to receive the information. Each day brings the possibility of new life and it’s up to us to decide to approach the opportunity fearlessly.
What are you planning for the future?
As soon as the world can regain its footing to find its equilibrium I’m planning to do the biggest show to date. I miss human interaction, and witnessing the work’s affect on people in person. I can’t wait to have conversations with everyone and I love the suspense leading up to a show. I’ve also been working on exploring the possibilities of creative direction and making functional sculptures. I really believe in making art that serves a purpose in daily life. I want to bring the world inside of my mind into reality. I’ve been designing a lot of clothing lately as well. I have so much to share when the time is right. I’m trying to push myself to affect every visual field.
To connect with Jordan Allen you can follow him on Instagram and support his art business!
Interview conducted by Shirley Reynozo