Arts & Culture News

Punk Noir Is an Art Exhibition for the Rule-Breakers

Texas artist Dawn Okoro's exhibition is a celebration of black artists and punk.
Texas artist Dawn Okoro's exhibition is a celebration of black artists and punk. Shane Gordon

It’s the beginning of a new year, and the South Dallas Culture Center is halfway through its gallery season. The institution is kicking off 2020 with a new exhibition called Punk Noir by Nigerian American artist Dawn Okoro, which will run from Jan. 25 through March 21.

Okoro's art has been shown at the Texas Biennial, Notre Dame University, New York University, Rice University, George Washington Carver Museum, the MoCADA Museum in Brooklyn and is now ready for its Dallas debut.

After seeing her thought-provoking pieces of work, SDCC’s general manager John Spriggins, who curated the show, was immediately blown away by the boldness present in Okoro's art.

“There was a strong focus on the figures itself, use of color and a come-as-you-are relatability in the art,” Spriggins says. In addition, the subject matter highlights alternative black creatives in a compelling way, which perfectly aligns with SDCC’s vision to educate and promote a more impartial community by engaging the public with art and cultural experiences influenced by the African Diaspora.

“I want people to walk into the exhibition and feel like they belong.” — Dawn Okoro

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Growing up, Okoro felt isolated as a result of her introverted nature, she says, adding that she often struggled to fit in. She became interested in punk music but felt like others wouldn't understand a young black girl's affinity toward the genre and kept it to herself to avoid being made fun of. Okoro's perspective began to change as she became an adult and  learned that black artists have contributed widely to punk. She saw a shift in black culture's embracing of punk, as evidenced by the Brooklyn-based Afropunk music festival.

Okoro decided to capture this progression visually. She started photographing black writers, musicians and other artists in their natural element as the focal point of every piece and used those photos as inspiration for paintings. The artist found her subjects to be free and expressing themselves unapologetically, in upmost punk spirit.

Okoro wanted to make a tantalizing show celebrating being black, different and living in a world not defined by societal standards. Her paintings' vibrant color palette was inspired from images from fashion and from her artistic inspirations, Andy Warhol and Barkley L. Hendricks. Punk Noir first debuted in Austin in 2018, and received rave reviews. The following year, the show made its appearance in San Antonio.

There’s a special treat for the Dallas opening as the show will include paintings of local Dallas artists. Adding to the theme, local African American punk band The Good Sons will be providing headbanging tunes so attendees can jam out to while enjoying the art.

Just like punk rock bands rejected the extremes of a mainstream industry, the exhibition defies all punk norms.

“I want people to walk into the exhibition and feel like they belong,” Okoro says. “I hope they can feel the sense of movement and see themselves reflected in the pieces.”
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