Baghead’s Wu-Tang Clan Tribute in Wood

Reared in the suburbs of Miami, native Floridian Josh Hall attended college for a few semesters before taking his art to the streets. Producing both commissioned and non-commissioned public works, Hall assumed the alias of Baghead, an identity meant to portray a sort of artistic everyman. Freed by this concept that Baghead could be anyone, lifting himself from the restraints of furthering his own name, Hall focused on letting each of his works of art speak for themselves. But even Baghead wasn’t completely free of wearing Hall’s influences, his creations steeped in the urban aesthetic that was at the foundation of his life, perfectly exemplified by how the artist recalls youthfully skateboarding in parking lots while listening to Wu-Tang Clan‘s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) debut album. And, in fact, Wu-Tang Clan play an important part in this particular story.
Emerging at a time when hip-hop music was dominated by the jazz-fused stylings of A Tribe Called Quest, the politically charged themes of Public Enemy, and the smooth melodies of Dr. Dre, the utterly gritty beats and free-associative lyrics of Wu-Tang Clan was a battle cry. Striking hard with their initial single, “Protect Ya Neck” (1992), this enclave of nine rappers had a plan to overtake the hip-hop world. Establishing themselves as a force with their 1993 debut full-length album, the focus wasn’t solely on building a collective brand but also on elevating each of its members into individual stars. And by turning the standard concept of a musical group inside out, encouraging countless spin-offs into solo careers and side projects, they revolutionized the way things work. All accomplished under a five-year plan masterminded by their de facto leader, RZA, this resulted in them becoming arguably one of the greatest and most influential rap groups ever. Even Baghead, back when he was a young boy, remembers feeling empowered by wearing the band’s logo on his shirt. And while Wu-Tang Clan have had their ups and downs over the following two decades, the release of their The Saga Continues album in 2017 gave Baghead a unique opportunity to pay tribute to them, artistically expressing the importance their music has had on his life.

Baghead’s Wood Cut Sculpture for Wu-Tang: The Saga Continues Exhibition

While Baghead had previously paid homage to Wu-Tang member Ol’ Dirty Bastard in the form of the Russell Tyrone Jones wood sculpture for Art Whino‘s Chambers exhibition in September 2016, it would be the following year that he’d revisit his reverence of the group sculpturally. Invited to participate in Wu-Tang: The Saga Continues, this exhibition was hosted by FootSoldiers during December 2017’s Art Basel in Miami Beach. Curated and produced by Studio INVCBL in association with 36 Chambers ALC, this event challenged its artists to create a visual representation of songs from the legendary hip-hop group’s most recent album. And, for this special occasion, Baghead opted to interpret the track “If What You Say Is True”, which his wood sculpture shares its name with.
Though tasked with a focus on Wu-Tang’s newest effort, Baghead wisely found a manner in which to honor their entire career. Selecting a song that is heavily inspired by “Bring Da Ruckus” from the group’s debut Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) album, the artist weaves timeless imagery eluding to the group’s existence throughout his form. A New York Yankees cap, denoting Wu-Tang’s Staten Island origins. An unsheathed blade, reminiscent of the “Wu-Tang sword style” remark made in both the “If What You Say Is True” and “Bring Da Ruckus” tracks. Even the tigerish design on the crisp bandana adorning this sculpture’s hip recalls “Aint Nuthing ta F’ Wit“, which utilizes the sample “tiger style” from the 1977 kung fu film Executioners from Shaolin. A blend of folk art and geometric abstraction, this 24-inch tall and wide work by Baghead merges biological beauty and urban aesthetic into one totemic form. And, ultimately, a totem is exactly what he created here: a symbol that serves as a representation of an entire group.

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