Visual Culture: Lord Blakely’s “Portraits of a Ninja” Exhibition

Words by Jesse Serwer, Images by Lord Blakelyโ€”

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Portland, Oregon-based visual artist Blakely Dadson, a/k/a Lord Blakely, caught our attention earlier this year with one of the more unusual dancehall-inspired art/fashion pieces we’ve ever seen: clog shoes bearing the likenesses of dancehall dons Ninjaman and Super Cat. Now, Blakely has taken his Ninja fascination further with an entire series of portraits of the Original Front Tooth Gold Tooth Gun Pon Tooth Don Gorgon. The show, “Portraits of a Ninja,” debuted Saturday at The Public Trust in Dallas, Texas.

“Ninjaman is a complex and contradictory individual,” Blakely says of his muse. “On one hand you have all the gun talkย lyrics, but in his interviews there’s a subtle compassion about him. This dichotomy providedย great structure for me to explore visual juxtaposition as well as to challenge the tenets of portraiture, which ended up as a sort of clash between the digital and the handmade.”

Blakely, whose previous shows have included portraits inspired by forgotten ’80s dancehall deejay Louie Lepki and Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Liner, created the images in Portraits of a Ninja through a unique mixed-media process meant to reflect Ninja’s status as a folk hero whose legend often blurs the line between fact and fiction. Starting with ink drawings on paper, Blakely then scanned those drawings, manipulating the scans in Photoshop, printing the images at a much larger scale using a Chromira printer, then using an airbrush and paint to manipulate them further.

So what does Blakely guess the Don Gorgon would think of this tribute?ย 

“I hope that he would see a connection between his music and these paintings,” Blakely guesses. “These pieces are my impressions of him, based on my connection and reaction to his music, and I hope he would find truth in them.”

Portraits of a Ninja will remain on view at the Public Trust through Jan. 18, so if you’re anywhere near Dallas, stop in and check out. Click here to scroll through a gallery of images from the show.

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