About three years ago, Atlanta artist Fabian Williams read a blog post on an Ebony/Jet-run site about the depiction of African-American men in the work of Fahamu Pecou. A fellow Atlanta artist, Pecou often satirizes male hip-hop culture in his large-scale paintings. Williams responded to comments by a woman about irresponsible behavior from black men, saying that she should date "some nice guys." Soon after, another artist joined the fray, pelting Williams with questions about his artistic merit. What ensued led to the makings of his next creative move.
"I challenged her to an art battle," he says. "If you're gonna attack me academically or artistically, then we've got a major beef." Williams backed away from his potential opponent so as not seem like a bully and decided to channel the energy elsewhere. "That felt good to talk shit like that," he says with a laugh.
So Williams founded the World Wide Arts Federation and began hosting art battles, wildly theatrical confrontations between artists that put race and gender politics at the fore. (The WWAF was CL's 2011 Critics Pick for Best Local Art Beef). WWAF art battles are as much about the paint as they are about the pageantry. Originally held at Stuart McClean Gallery in the Old Fourth Ward, past showdowns have included "The Art of the War of Art" and "Composition of Chaos" in which competitors channeled influences ranging from the ostentatiousness of wrestler Ric Flair to the sublime cool of painter Bob Ross.
This time, the battle is political. Williams, aka the Occasional Superstar, decided to capitalize on Decision 2012 with "The Election of the First President" of the WWAF. Pecou will provide commentary and participants will vote for a representative from one of three competing parties: the conservative Renaissancecan, the forward-thinking Contemporaricrat, or the independent/libertarian-inclined Urbatarian.
Unlike a campaign, proceeds for this election won't fund any particular candidate. Instead, they'll go toward the Grace Kisa Donation Fund. Kisa, an Atlanta-based visual artist and participant in previous shows, recently suffered a stroke. Williams wanted to rally his peers to assist in her recovery. "She's a beautiful person and we want her back on her feet," he said on his Facebook page.
For the election battle, Williams wanted to go deeper. "I thought it would be a cool way to address politics and our weird political system; how nasty it can be sometimes," he says. "It's getting bigger than the artist-on-artist dis. It's about the institutions that each artist represents; the system that creates the conflict."