Fragile Black Man

Size & Material

There are over 50 images printed on 110lb archival cardstock. Please call the Gallery for information on additional pieces.


Archival Cardstock

Dimensions: 18" x 24"

Material: 110lb Archival Cardstock, 4-color


All pieces are created by Shabazz Larkin for his exhibit, Fragile Black Man. The following is the Exhibition Manifesto:


"The image in this exhibition of the fashionable man holding a flower is a picture of vulnerability often unseen in the Black community. The original photograph of this fashionable man was taken by a West African Photographer named Saydou Keita. 


Keita liked to take photographs of rural African people dressed in the fashion of European imports from France and England. This is one of many from his archive to capture this gentrified version of West African culture.


Most people think this is a self-portrait - it’s not - he just looks like me. I just loved seeing a Black man holding a flower. It brought me joy. So I drew it. I like to draw things that bring me joy. 


Finding joy grew increasingly important as 2020 took a turn for the worst, watching murders of Ahmad Arbury, George Floyd and Elijah Mclain, it felt like Black Men (and women, like Breonna Taylor and Michelle Cusseaux) were being picked off by a very fragile system that has no conscious or commitment toward our existence.


Covid began to close the walls in around me. A book tour was canceled. And most other plans were too. Including my employment and this show.


The stress had me by the throat - so I returned to what brought me joy. I found myself drawing this image over and over again. The images presented to you in this exhibition is me working out how I felt about the world, with a process that brought me some release of what I’ve been feeling - and I suppose what many of us have been feeling in 2020.


More like the process of painting Mandalas, these drawings were more a meditation than a creative exercise. Inspired more by my mindfulness practice. But one day I stepped back from them all and I just saw this beautiful expression of the diaspora of Black Men.


This collection of images is a peek into the vast ocean of possibilities of who we are and can be.


But even with all the glory that comes from this diversity - a darker picture cannot be avoided. Every third of these portraits conveys this figure in an orange jumpsuit. An illustration of the uncomfortable and easily ignored and overly simplified-and-justified fact that every third Black man you meet will be inducted in the criminal justice system.


These images are printed and stitched on cotton linen, often with live and frayed edges making unapologetic references to its source elements. If America was a startup, its first venture capitalists were the backs of Black people. A down payment on American dominance - paid in cotton and slavery.


The flower in this exhibition, this picture of vulnerability seeks to subvert power in the same way 2020 has subverted everything we thought we knew.”