“As long as I can remember, I’ve been an artist,” said Vic Mensa, reflecting on his career. “Drawing, singing, painting, rapping, you name it. It’s my lifestyle, my method of self-expression.” From Grammy nominations to philanthropic initiatives, Mensa’s prolific career has always been about unlocking his own truth and inspiring others to do the same.

Over the weekend, the Chicago-based rapper curated his first art exhibition, SKIN + MASKS, at Kavi Gupta Gallery. Inspired by Frantz Fanon’s seminal text, Black Skin White Masks, in which he critically analyzes the psychological ramifications of colonialism and white supremacy, Mensa told HYPEBEAST that his inaugural show seeks to find ways to “express identity and experience that transcend the proximity to the White gaze and the binary constructs of race in general.”

Hebru Brantley, Jahlil Nzinga, Dada Khanyisa, Jake Troyli — some of the many close friends and contemporary artists Mensa enlisted to develop their own conceptual framework to the show. “The freedom of association between concept and execution in the visual arts fascinates me, and there are so many different ways that one can represent an idea, from figuration to composition, texture, and more,” Mensa added.

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At the core of the exhibition is the hope to dismantle the often negative stereotypes that persist about the Black community. “Let’s stop destroying Black men and Black women for just trying to live their lives,” Mensa told The Roots, adding, “We live in this social media culture and it’s gotta be up to each of us as individuals to address and assess our relationship with it. Negativity is the algorithm, negativity moves the algorithm, negative things get more attention. But can we please stop destroying people for living their lives without hurting somebody else?”

All proceeds from the exhibition will benefit SaveMoneySaveLife, Mensa’s philanthropic non-profit organization operating at the intersection of art, entertainment, and sustainable social change. SKIN + MASKS will be on view at Kavi Gupta Gallery until August 13.

On the topic of the Chicago, here’s a first look at the forthcoming Obama Presidential Center.

Kavi Gupta Gallery
219 N. Elizabeth St.
Chicago, IL 60607

Exhibiting Artists

Hebru Brantley
Sherman Beck
Andrea Coleman
Mikey Coleman
Joshua Donor
Ndidi Emefiele
Jewel Ham
Armani Howard
Dada Khanyisa
Mia Lee
Muna Malik
Kenrick McFarlane
Josie Love Roebuck
Jahlil Nzinga
Foster Sakyiamah
Troy Scat
Elizabeth Sekyiamah
Sydnie Jimenez
Terron Cooper Sorrells
Erol Harris
Thelonious Stokes
Nikko Washington
Jake Troyli
Darryl Westly
Gerald Williams

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