Jump to content

Talk | Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark, Dorian Sylvain and Family

August 05, 20232:00 pm - 3:30 pm

ASL and CART available.

About the Event

Coinciding with the career survey exhibition Gary Simmons: Public Enemy, a series of MCA programs activates Gary Simmons’s sculptural installation work, Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark. Inspired by the Black Ark—Lee “Scratch” Perry’s famous recording studio in Kingston, Jamaica, where he pioneered dub reggae—Simmons’s sculptural installation serves as a flexible stage for conversations, music, and performance.

For this event, Chicago-based multidimensional artist Dorian Sylvain graces Simmons’s stage with her artist-sons Kahari, Kari, and Katon Blackburn for a wide-ranging conversation moderated by Maira Khwaja on the meaning of art and family across generations. After the talk, join Experimental Sound Studio for the first activation of their Sun Ra Archive on the Black Ark stage.

About the Speakers

Dorian Sylvain is a painter whose color and texture explore ornamentation, pattern, and design as identifiers of cultural and historical foundations. She is a studio painter and muralist, as well as an art educator, curator, and cultural organizer. Much of her public work addresses issues of beautification inspired by color palettes and patterns found throughout the African diaspora, particularly in architecture. Core to her practice is collaborating with young people and community to elevate neighborhood aesthetics and foster shared understanding. Follow her @doriansylvain.

Kahari Blackburn is Chicago-born visual artist who loves both analog and digital visual mediums. He is currently obsessed with paper collage and simple, flat, round children’s book–style illustration. He is a part of both the Mural Moves Paint crew, which has designed and installed many large-scale murals over the city of Chicago, as well as an active part of Natty Bwoy Bikes & Boards, a free weekly youth program that leads and teaches skateboarding and basic bicycle mechanics to kids on the South Side. Follow him @kaharirastafari.

Kari Blackburn is an illustrator whose studio practice includes graphic design, children’s books, and public murals. Much of his work addresses today’s socio-political climate, the black ethereal, Afrofuturism, and color theory. As a core member and lead designer of Mural Moves (artist Co-op), Kari is focused on amplifying the voices of a new generation here in Chicago. Follow him @kariblak.us.

Katon Blackburn is a die-hard skate rat who is also passionate about photography and filmmaking. Over the past few years his love for community building and documentation has kept him busy working on a project called Natty Bwoy Chicago, a free weekly youth skateboard lesson in Kenwood Park. Follow him @katonblack21.

Maira Khwaja is writer, educator, and multimedia producer. Most recently, her research on the Chicago Police laid the groundwork for the curation of Remaking the Exceptional: Tea Torture & Reparations at DePaul Art Museum. Her writing has been published in the South Side Weekly, The Funambulist, and The New York Times.

Khwaja was named a 2021 Leader for a New Chicago and graduated with a bachelors in history, focusing on the South Side, from the University of Chicago. A daughter of Pakistani immigrants, she was raised in Pittsburgh and has called Chicago home for the past decade.


Lead support of Gary Simmons: Public Enemy is provided by the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris, Zell Family Foundation, Cari and Michael Sacks, Nancy and Steve Crown, Hauser & Wirth, The Joyce Foundation, and Karyn and Bill Silverstein.

Major support is provided by the Bluhm Family Foundation; Ellen-Blair Chube; Jack and Sandra Guthman; Susie L. Karkomi and Marvin Leavitt; Kovler Family Foundation; Liz and Eric Lefkofsky; Gael Neeson, Edlis Neeson Foundation; Carol Prins and John Hart; and the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Generous support is provided by Dr. Anita Blanchard and Martin Nesbitt; Diane Kahan; Cheryl and Eric McKissack; Stephanie and Neil Murray; D. Elizabeth Price and Lou Yecies; the Rennie Collection, Vancouver; Nathaniel Robinson; and Joyce Yaung and Matt Bayer.

This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Major support for Gary Simmons: Public Enemy is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

The Joyce Foundation logoTerra Foundation for American Art LogoNational Endowment for the Arts Logo

Lead support of Gary Simmons’s Recapturing Memories of the Black Ark is provided by Nancy and Steve Crown, the Harris Family Foundation in memory of Bette and Neison Harris, Hauser & Wirth, The Joyce Foundation, Anne L. Kaplan, Cari and Michael Sacks, Karyn and Bill Silverstein, and Zell Family Foundation.

Major support is provided by Liz and Eric Lefkofsky, Carol Prins and John Hart, and an anonymous donor.

Generous support is provided by Diane Kahan and D. Elizabeth Price and Lou Yecies.