October 2, 2014 – January 4, 2015

Download the MATRIX 170 Exhibition Brochure.

Frohawk Two Feathers, the artistic alter-ego of Umar Rashid (born 1976, Chicago, Illinois), is a performer, writer, history buff and visual artist whose work since 2006 has focused on an epic narrative of the rise of “Frengland”―a fictitious union of France and England. Merged as one huge, colonial super-empire, Frengland’s complex international saga of exploration, colonization and world domination is documented in an ongoing project that commences in 1658 and will one day conclude in 1880. Frengland’s territories expand as Two Feathers participates in exhibitions in various cities around the world, where each new setting becomes part of the ongoing story. Combining real, imagined and conflated historical locations, the artist chronicles the paths of his characters from place to place.

For Two Feathers’ MATRIX exhibition at the Wadsworth Atheneum, his story picks up in December 1791 and follows the Connecticut River, or “Fresh River,” to Suckiaug—the Native American name for Hartford.

Hartford’s Native American history and subsequent colonization by the Dutch and English in the early 17th century dovetails perfectly with Two Feathers’ already-established narrative between two main global forces―the kingdom of Holland and Zeeland and the republic of Frengland. Through a fantastical series of official portraits, battle paintings, territorial maps and military paraphernalia, the artist compiles a tongue-in-cheek, alternative tale of the city, set in the late 18th century. The visual narrative is told through portraits of duplicitous royal family members, corrupt military leaders and rebel assassins, all coded with facial and body tattoos. They don tribal costumes, military uniforms and European fashions, supplemented with pertinent accessories. Intricate maps of expeditions and battle sites document the progress of the unstoppable superpower.

On errythang, the exhibition’s title, refers to the contemporary African American colloquialism that means “no matter what” or “going all out,” a stance shared by the dedicated participants in this epic narrative. A portrait of the saga’s main character, Bonnie Prince Johnnie, is titled, PONY1791. “PONY” stands for “Pharaoh of New York,” but the full title alludes to KONY2012, the recent campaign to stop African war criminal Joseph Kony, a comparable figure to Johnnie. References consistently cross cultures and time periods, distant past and present day, insinuating the cyclical nature of history.

Frohawk Two Feathers (born Umar Rashid Foster) earned a BA in 2000 from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. His artist pseudonym, which suggests his mixed heritage, is central to his revisionist, historical fantasies. The artist had his first solo museum exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver in 2012 and his second at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno in 2013. He has participated in group exhibitions at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art and Burlington City Arts in Vermont. The artist’s work is in the public collections of the Santa Barbara Museum of Art in California; Mount Holyoke College Art Museum in South Hadley, Massachusetts; and the 21C Museum in Louisville, Kentucky. In addition to the aforementioned venue sites, Two Feathers’ faux-historical saga (spanning 1658 to 1880) has integrated diverse international exhibition-specific locations including Basel, Switzerland; Berlin, Germany; and Cape Town, South Africa.

MATRIX 170 is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency, and is additionally supported by Jeffrey G. and Marcia Reid Marsted. The MATRIX program is also supported in part by the current and founding members of the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art’s Contemporary Coalition. Support for the Wadsworth Atheneum is provided in part by the Greater Hartford Art Council’s United Arts Campaign and the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development Office of the Arts, which also received support from the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.

IMAGE ABOVE: Frohawk Two Feathers, On the tragic folly of Holofernes, replayed at the American Ophir two millennia later. [Detail], 2014, acrylic on deer hide, 54 x 54 inches, Courtesy of the artist and Morgan Lehman Gallery, New York, © Frohawk Two Feathers