Kembra Pfahler and Daniel Roberts

Daniel Roberts

Kembra Pfahler. 2017

SAMOA, Immigrant Song.

“Is this Pop Art? “ Samoa ask me the other day as we were varnishing one of the last paintings.

I stopped and thought about it. 

DR: “Samoa’s work is Pop Art with a Consciousness.”

KP:  “ It is Non Fiction Surrealist Ilustration. I’ve never really known what Pop art is. Is it popular, populist? for the people because they recognize the imagery somehow ?…. it’s been laying dormant in their subconscious.  Which is then surrounded by Samoa’s particular un-brandable oddness…I agree with you completely when you describe his work as having consciousness. 

It’s prophetic as well. I see his prediction of our dystopic future in his paintings too.

DR: “ It is ambiguous and frightening and delightful and makes you think. “

KP:” His earlier portraits were much more vanilla . This HOWL Gallery show “dark Vanilla” . Elements of sweetness that cloaks socially transmitted diseases.  But Samoa’s hell. In his clothing that’s represented in a re-enactment of his store “candy coated evil”, Samoa sews the sign of the devil, often which is the classic two fingers down and the pointer and pinky up. Dan, I thought it ironic when you told me the hand sign for “love ” in sign language was similar, the difference being the thumb is open. Samoa pushes love hard.

DR: “The work is biographic, in that the subjects of the paintings all stand for something larger than Themselves.  For something that has spoken to Samoa’s heart and soul.”

KP: “Despite how Samoa has been critiqued throughout the years, Samoa’s talent is extremely provocative as you say.  Yes, I agree. Unknowingly, I think it affects some wanting to paint well. Samoa will share with you non-secretively that his technique is all “Bob Ross.” A popular, populist, pop artist to be sure. I say non-secretively, rather than transparently because secrets are what humans covet. In this show at HOWL Gallery, Samoa gives to us his heart and soul. ”

DR: “The work speaks out against the unjust history of our world.  Of the unjust world we find ourselves in today.  Whether it is pointing out the travesty of racism, the decimation of the Native American population, or the Cuban soldier who sold her soul to the revolution, to an ideal. All of the individuals are ICONS. “

DR: “While black Americans are not being lynched, in 2017 they are being shot in the street by cops who are supposed to be serving and protecting.   Instead the cops are making poor decisions and killing a generation. “

KP: “ The most violence in 2017 is now towards trans women of color, and our contemporary hate crimes so mean spirited, clever, painful, and deadly …. it’s so unrecognized that there’s simply the absence of the statistic in our conversations….the denial of it even happening. …When I was in Denmark last summer they kept saying that sexism and and racism had been eradicated in their country, but as you say, “young black kids are still being gunned down in the streets “.

So in the United States, and most parts of this globe …the lynch mob is still out and Samoa in his paintings, gives us a reality check. 

There’s such a separate-ness to all of us now, but if we blow our world to shreds by an atomic blunder, we’ll have no reservoir to drink from, no hotel to check in to, no gallery to visit Samoa’s work in. As Eugene Debbs once said……….”while there is Lower class class I am of it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free, I have no country to fight for, I am a citizen of the world, the most heroic word in all languages is revolution” .

I feel that Samoa is bringing us together with his work. We need that, I need that. 

Samoa’s grandparents were from a generation that survived Hiroshima , and in his “Immigrant Song” series I feel the breath of all that experience still lives, and he teaches us in his paintings, “this is James Baldwin” this is chief Wolf Robe, and like the book by WUB -KE-NIEW, he calls his book “We have the right to exist” He offers to us through his imagery Indigenous thought process really.

I’m not sure if I answered Your question Dan, maybe I answered a few, I don’t consider myself so much a curator of this show but part of a group of friends who all love Samoa’s work. That’s my motive. None of us would be here on the l.e.s.(Lower East Side) If we wanted riches and fame. This neighborhood is a community that shares there cookies and hot dogs. I’m just a white girl from Los Angeles and had I not held onto my anger like a waterskiing tether, I would have stayed in Los Angeles, probably ending up in Kodak commercials or in San Diego . One of the things all of us helping to present Samoa’s show is that art can heal and art can change the world….Like Samoa’s astute son, Patrick said ” dad there’s room for all different sorts of art work in this world and you shouldn’t be judgmental  if you don’t like something it hurts the artist .” Meaning despite stylistic and aesthetic differences, art isn’t just about decoration. To the eye or intellectually it may present different polemics, but there is room for all art, and there’s especially plenty of room for evolution through art. 

But through Samoa’s paintings that also scream with color, I will say again that it’s a hand we need to be dealt.

Also to learn about “love” being the answer, I remember back in the day “International Chrysis ” a legendary beauty, now deceased, she’d always serve up those words  when Samoa and I were both growing up doing performances on the l.e.s. Those ethics at times have abandoned me, and I still to this day admit to feeling that …..but that selfishness has never overtaken Samoa .

Graphically Samoa has a classism to his paintings, to utilizing “the golden mean”. I always thought the golden was actually mean. Seeing Samoa’s use of these classic golden rays of light emanate from his subjects I always marveled at how clever he was with this use of gold. Somehow even his choice of each color in his vocabulary is Samoa-Esque  meaning to me. No pun Intended .,,,which is like a large bite taken out of the fine art cake.

Through his “Immigrant Song” painting series he heats up conversations we’ve been having for some time, and it shares  with us clothing and objects created for his historical store

” Candy Coated Evil”.  I can’t even begin to speak about the gravity of some of these paintings. Again it’s a different flavor for Samoa

DR: ”The Native American plight is still being forced to accept the decisions of corporations and money and the white man over the protections of Mother Earth.  

Pipelines that pump dirty fossil fuel across the reservations are leaking massive amounts of destruction in their path.

James Baldwin represents the LGBTQ community as well as the Black American community.

The Cuban female revolutionary was an Officer for Enforcer for Domestic Violence.  She fought a battle to answer the violence against women in domestic situations.

Ken Takakura ,The portrait of the Japanese film icon was a 50s and 60s movie star in Japanese Gangster movies.  The precursor of the Spaghetti Western made popular by the Italian filmmakers.

Nina Simone, the female singer, songwriter, pianist, arranger, and activist in the civil rights movement .

All of these people were outsiders who stood for something larger than them selves.  All of them speak to Samoa and his desire to help preserve our world. “

KP: “Samoa loves Nina Simone, you feel that in his portraits, in his intense heroic studies, or in his earlier light hearted works.

Samoa’s ambition to be a passionate lover of the freedoms New York had to offer him as a young man, and now as a mid career interdisciplinary artist. A combination of an idealist, a determinist, and an immigrant .Ill make up a word for him now and call him a “pimagrant”. A punk immigrant with an agenda the size of Nebraska.

With punk there’s a desire to work towards originality. Truth. New art.

I encouraged Samoa to have this exhibit at the HOWL gallery because  HOWL is  one of the few art spaces that waters their artists like vicious little flowers. There is no hierarchy of mediums when it comes to performance, sculpture, props, or painting and Jane Friedman makes sure of this. 

Kembra Pfahler

Daniel Roberts 2017