Ascension of Black Stillness (2021)

Tokie Rome Taylor, Ascension of Black Stillness
Tokie Rome Taylor

CEPA is excited to announce the opening of a new exhibition, Ascension of Black Stillness, in collaboration with Guest Curator and Artist Stacey Robinson, The National Endowment for the Arts, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. CEPA will be hosting an opening reception on September 17, 2021 for the exhibition which will be taking place in all three galleries in the historic Market Arcade Building located at 617 Main St in Buffalo. The show will run until December 23rd, 2021.

Ascension of Black Stillness is a multimedia exhibition with the common thread of Afrofuturism. “Afrofuturism, (a genre of multimedia arts that merges the arts and sciences through science fiction, fantasy) looks at speculating Black futures through examining past and present cultural phenomena.”, said Stacey Robinson, Graphic Design Professor and Guest Curator of the exhibition.

“This exhibition consists of 10 multimedia artist’s collections that look at Afrofuturist philosophy through a multi-lens discipline. As an exhibition the works can tell a variety of stories that imagine parallel universes, alternate realities, and what if scenarios that stem specifically through the idea of still photography and its alterations. With media consisting of holograms, motion graphics, animation, and print images, the exhibition highlights the various conversations Black artists are having about the need for agency in actualizing our own liberated futures.”, said Stacey Robinson.

Participating artists include: BLACKMAU, Manzel Bowman, Krista Franklin, Nettrice Gaskins, Wayne Hodge, Ann ‘Sole Sister’ Johnson, Ricardo Robinson aka La’Vender Freddy, Tokie Rome-Taylor, Alisa Sikelianos-Carter, and Quentin VerCetty.


Ascension of Black Stillness Press Release

Exhibit Location

CEPA Gallery
617 Main Street
Buffalo, NY 14203

Exhibit Dates

Friday, September 17, 2021
Thursday, December 23, 2021

Opening Reception
Friday, September 17, 2021, 5:00-8:00pm

Closing Party: Friday, December 3, 2021, 5:00-8:00pm

Exhibit Times

Wednesday, Friday, Saturday
12:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.
4:00 p.m.–7:00 p.m.

Publication for Sale from Ascension of Black Stillness

Sponsors for Ascension of Black Stillness

Andy Warhol Foundation Logo
NEA Logos
Joy of Giving Something Logo

About the Artists

About the Artists


A collaborative duo converging in 2019, BLACKMAU consists of Kamau “DJ KamauMau” Grantham, Clinical Psychologist and Stacey “Black Star” Robinson, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design. Both at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, their work examines liberated Black futures where the ideas of agency, sovereignty dystopia, and escape are explored through digital collage aesthetics, House Music, and animation. 

Both Grantham and Robinson have unique overlaps living in four of the same cities, two at the same time. The influence of Black culture, politics and aesthetics heavily guide both creators independently. When examining these overlaps, the duo decided to create a moniker and a practice that spoke to the obscure speculative imaginings. 

Manzel Bowman

Manzel Bowman is a New York-based artist exhibiting work internationally, both in galleries and in the public environment. His work is inspired by ornate designs while conveying stories that transcend space and time. Being traditional in form, Manzel’s vibrant works depict a blend of science and myth. 

With the creation of his best selling Tarot deck, Manzel has created a cultural and spiritual impact through his work. Through the use of portraits and surreal landscapes, he borrows elements from traditional paintings to contemporary graphic design. 

Composed of many layers with intricate details that cannot be seen at a quick glance, Manzel’s futuristic artwork calls for people’s attention.

Krista Franklin

Krista Franklin is a writer and visual artist, the author of Too Much Midnight (Haymarket Books, 2020), the artist book Under the Knife (Candor Arts, 2018), and the chapbook Study of Love & Black Body (Willow Books, 2012). She is a Helen and Tim Meier Foundation for the Arts Achievement awardee, and a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters and Sculptors Grant.

Her visual art has been exhibited at Poetry Foundation, Konsthall C, Rootwork Gallery, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Studio Museum in Harlem, Chicago Cultural Center, the National Museum of Mexican Art, and the set of 20th Century Fox’s Empire. She has been published in Poetry, Black Camera, The Offing, Vinyl, and a number of anthologies and artist books.

Dr. Nettrice R. Gaskins

Dr. Nettrice R. Gaskins is an African American digital artist, academic, cultural critic and advocate of STEAM fields. In her work she explores “techno-vernacular creativity” and Afrofuturism.

Dr. Gaskins teaches, writes, “fabs”, and makes art using algorithms and machine learning. She has taught multimedia, computational media, visual art, and even Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles with high school students who majored in the arts. She earned a BFA in Computer Graphics with Honors from Pratt Institute in 1992 and an MFA in Art and Technology from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1994. She received a doctorate in Digital Media from Georgia Tech in 2014. Currently, Dr. Gaskins is a resident in the Autodesk Technology Centers Outsight Network. She is the assistant director of the Lesley STEAM Learning Lab at Lesley University. Her first full-length book, Techno-Vernacular Creativity and Innovation through The MIT Press will be available in August.

Gaskins served as Board President of the National Alliance for Media Arts and Culture (The Alliance) and was on the board of the Community Technology Centers Network (CTCNet). She is currently on the board of Artisan’s Asylum.

Wayne Hodge

Wayne Hodge is an artist whose work combines elements of collage, performance and photography. His practice explores the relationship between history, media and fantasies of race and desire. His imagery is drawn from media, historical and science fiction sources. He received an M.F.A. from Rutgers University and attended the Whitney Independent Study Program and the Skowhegan School.

His work has been shown at The Bronx Museum, MoMA P.S.1 and he has shown internationally in Germany, Brazil and China. He was featured in ‘The Radical Presence’ at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, The Walker Arts Center and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Other exhibitions include ‘The Shadows Took Shape’ at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and “(an)other” at Practice Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. In 2017, his solo project Skin Like Distant Stars, was shown at Hallwalls in Buffalo, NY in 2017.

Ann ‘Sole Sister’ Johnson 

Anne ‘Sole Sister’ Johnson was born in London, England and raised in Cheyenne, WY. Ann is a graduate of Prairie View A&M University in Texas, (where she now teaches) and received a BS in Home Economics. She has also received an MA in Humanities from the University of Houston-Clear Lake, as well as an MFA from The Academy of Art University, in San Francisco with a concentration in printmaking. In 2010 she received the Teaching Excellence Award at Prairie View A&M University. She was awarded Art teacher of the year in the School of Architecture in 2010 and 2017. In 2011 she received the distinguished Presidents Faculty of the Year award.

Primarily an interdisciplinary artist, Johnson’s passion for exploring issues particularly in the Black community has led her to create series’ of works that are evocative and engaging such as The Hoop Dreamin Collection. A series of decorative basketball goals that explore the social issue of a Hoop Dream. The series, It Is the Not Knowing That Burns My Soul, is an investigation of exploratory mixed media works that examine the “Black Indian”. The latter was included in an exhibition and catalog for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian titled: Indivisible.

Johnson has been invited as an instructor to teach at Tougaloo Art Colony in Jackson, MS in 2009, 2011 and 2015. She was a Prize winner in Houston’s “The Big Show” in 2004, and was the Mixed Media winner in the Carroll Harris Simms National Black Art Competition in 2007. Johnson was also included in the Texas Biennial in 2013. Most recently Johnson has focused on experimental printmaking, and in 2015 she was acknowledged as an “Artist to Watch” in the International Review of African American Art, and is a member of the Bearden 100 (honoring artist Romare Bearden. She is a cofounder of the organization PrintMatters and board member emeritus, and is an exhibiting artist and curator in the biennial PrintHouston. Her series Converse: Real Talk has been exhibited at Women and Their Work in Austin, TX, Deborah Colton Gallery in Houston, TX and The Community Art Center in Syracuse, NY, and was a part of the inaugural SculptTexas exhibition series. Johnson earned the name ‘Sole Sister’ because she paints portraits with her feet.  Ann ‘Sole Sister’ Johnson aspires to leave a legacy of challenging and thought provoking work that will entice the viewer and inspire younger artists.

Ricardo iamuuri Robinson aka La’ Vender Freddy

Ricardo iamuuri Robinson, aka La’Vender Freddy, is a conceptual sound artist. His works attend to patterns and forms of sound and space, using deep listening techniques and reproduction technologies as creative methods for engaging sonic influences and reforming social self awareness. He calls this artistic practice “Sonarcheology.” 

A creative art practice merging improvisational listening with environmental and digital archeology.  By way of this method his art attempts to re-listen to the interrelationships between sound and shape, sonic information and space…or what he calls “the ancestry of sound.” 

“The listener is always the composer.”

Ricardo iamuuri Robinson’s works have been featured in documentary films, Sustainability Pioneers, by Kirsi Jansa and East of Liberty, by Chris Ivey. Including one feature film, The Rehabilitation Of The Hill, by Demetrius Wren and a reality tv series, Reel Teens Pittsburgh.  Live performances Mars is Underwater, at the Pittsburgh Gallery Crawl and Afronaut(a) 2.0 at Wagman Observatory 2015, A Brand New World: Kill The Artist, at The New Hazlett Theater 2016 and sound installations THE STEEL-FONICS, at The Carrie Furnaces National Historic Landmark 2015, GEM Way, The Garfield Looking Glass Project 2016, The People Are The Light, Carnegie Museum of Art’s Hillman Photography Initiative 2017, Civil Rights & Civil Wrongs, at The Mattress Factory 2018, Streaming Space, at Market Square Art Public Art 2019, and What We Don’t Talk About, curated by Becky Slemmons, Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, at 937 Gallery 2019. He is currently the artist in residence with the RethinkVets coalition. A two-year initiative, collaborating with members of the post-9/11 veteran community.

Tokie Rome-Taylor

Tokie Rome-Taylor is an Atlanta, GA., based artist, who explores themes of time, spirituality, visibility and identity through the medium of photography. Portraiture, set design, and objects all are a part of Tokie’s photographic practice. She uses digital photography as her foundational medium, while also exploring cyanotype, and embroidery as a means to explore the layered complex relationship African Americans in the diaspora have with the western world.

Rome-Taylor’s series, “Reclamation”, was selected for PhotoLucida Critical Mass top 50. Her work has been featured in What Will You Remember and Feature Shoot Magazine.

Additionally, Tokie is a Funds for Teachers Fellowship recipient, studying photography in Santa Fe, New Mexico and in San Francisco, California. Rome-Taylor’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Her work has been a part of exhibitions at The Griffin Museum of Photography, Marietta Cobb Museum of Art, Stella Jones Gallery, SP-Foto SP-Arte Fair, São Paulo, Brazil, Gallery 1202, the Masur Museum, Zuckerman Museum of Art Lyndon House Art Center and the Dalton Gallery, Agnes Scott College, amongst others. She is a recipient of the Virginia Twinam Smith Purchase Award, adding her work to the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia as well as the Legacy Award, bestowed by the Griffin Museum of Photography. Her work is held in multiple public and private collections and was recently acquired by the Petrucci Family Foundation Collection of African American Art.

Alisa Sikelianos-Carter

Alisa Sikelianos-Carter is a mixed-media painter from Upstate New York. She has been awarded residencies at The Fountainhead Residency, Millay Arts for the Arts, NXTHVN, Vermont Studio Center, The Wassaic Project, and Yaddo.

Her current exhibitions include group shows at James Cohan Gallery, New York, NY; Kavi Gupta Gallery, Chicago, IL, and Fridman Gallery, Beacon, NY. She earned her B.A. and M.A. from SUNY Albany in Painting and Drawing.

 Quentin VerCetty

Quentin VerCetty is an award-winning multidisciplinary visual griot (storyteller) and engineer, educator, artivist, and an ever-growing interstellar tree. He is the recipient of the 2010 Governor General award and winner of the 2020 Joshua Glover memorial competition which resulted in Toronto, Canada’s first monument of a person of African descent.

With a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts from OCAD University (2017) and a Master’s in Art Education from Concordia University (2021), he is one of the world’s leading Afrofuturist a-r-tographers. VerCetty has coined the terms Sankofanology and Rastafuturism while creatively he engineers imaginative representation of African culture and Blackness in futuristic contexts.

 Quentin VerCetty is a founding member of the Black Speculative Arts Movement (BSAM) and created the not-for-profit organization BSAM Canada Institute to provide more support for regional emerging artists. 

VerCetty is also the co-editor of Canada’s first Afrofuturism art anthology, Cosmic Underground Northside: An Incantation of Black Canadian Speculative Discourse and Innerstandings (2020), which features works from over 100 Black Canadians and was one of the top selling African Canadian literature on Amazon for several months. 

Through his work, he hopes to engage minds, inspire hearts, and help to make the world a better place not only for today but for many tomorrows to come.