Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Essay'd: Bakpak Durden

My latest piece for Essay'd is a brief consideration of a Detroit dynamo, the self-taught artist Bakpak Durden (b. 1991).

The Eyo (detail), 2019

I first encountered Durden's work in February of this year when I happened upon their minimalist, multi-panel mural The Eyo, painted on the side of Yum Village restaurant in New Center. Michel and I were driving up Woodward when Durden's enigmatic, shrouded figures caught my eye. We pulled over and spent some time admiring and photographing the mural, after which I started following the artist on Instagram, where I developed an appreciation for their haunting, masterful paintings and unassuming disposition.     

Durden is having a big year. In April, they co-curated We Exist: the Future is Fluid, an exhibition of billboard art by trans/nonbinary artists. In June, they helped Sydney James realize her acclaimed mural memorializing Malice Green and other Black people who have been murdered by the police. That same month, Model D published an article about Paper Street Press, the zine that Durden and their partner co-founded to give marginalized artists a platform. And in August, their painting Not This Again (2018) appeared in (and served as the promotional image for) Multifaceted Narratives, an exhibition at the Detroit Artists Market of figurative work by Black artists.

I'm happy to contribute to the conversation about this important young artist, who, as I explore in the essay, is notable not only for the remarkable skill and care with which they execute their work, but for the fact that they use their considerable talents in service of a larger objective: the visibility and wellbeing of the intersectional/queer communities they are part of.

Read it here.