Emmanuel Massillon Standing next to his sculpture, (Jab) The Tuskegee Experiment. Photo by Noah Washington/The Atlanta Voice

This October, the UTA Artist Space debuted 24-year-old Emmanuel Massillon in his debut solo exhibition, Some Believe It To Be Conspiracy

The exhibition explores themes of conspiracy and gentrification, weaving together personal memories from Massillon’s upbringing in Washington D.C.

Comprising thirteen sculptures, each addressing conspiracies or hard truths that have within the Black community. The themes of each piece range from religion, street-life, and gang culture to mass incarceration, the influence of the drug epidemic, manipulation of Black music and culture, and the pervasive flaws in the judicial and medical systems.

Music plays a pivotal role in Massillon’s creative process. He draws inspiration from artists like Terry Adkins and Thornton Dial, who weave their own personal narratives into their art, “I was inspired by growing up in the inner city of Washington D.C., questioning my own existence and the world around me.” 

The materials used in the exhibit are made up of “found objects” including bullet shells, dirt, and wood all evoking African and African-American culture. 

Each of Massillon’s individual pieces is meant to be viewed as part of the broader conceptual ‘album,’ that flow into one cohesive narrative he cites. Massillon’s process and work derives heavy inspiration from diverse music genres such as Jazz, R&B, and Rap culture.

Self-Snitching, a sculpture that depicts a taxidermy mouse with a mic held to it’s mouth that symbolizes a commentary on the phenomenon of ‘snitching’ within rap culture. “I think my favorite piece probably will be Self-Stitching. It talks about how a lot of people from the inner city create violent rap music, in hopes of gaining economic freedom to escape their challenging circumstances,” Massillon told The Atlanta Voice

In discussing the purpose of his work, Massillon reflects, “I created this body of work to explore different conspiracies within the Black community so we can think about them in new ways and try to find solutions to the systemic challenges we face. My artistic practice is all about getting people to think differently.”

Emmanuel Massillon’s foray into fine art was shaped by his early experiences. The opportunity to explore the world of art museums, which were free in D.C., piqued his interest. He later developed his artistic skills during high school. “Seeing master artists create these works in these incredible institutions, and when I walked through those galleries, something moved me,” Massillon said.

Currently pursuing his B.F.A in Fine Arts at The School of Visual Arts in New York, Massillon’s other artistic contributions have a permanent home in the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Massillon’s mission extends beyond the canvas, as he also aspires wanting to create inclusive spaces within the world of fine art, highlighting the underrepresented voices and narratives that he feels have been absent, “I didn’t see black artists who looked like me- I want to fill that void within the art world where I didn’t see my community and people who were interested in rap music who grew up in the inner city. I wanted them to be represented in those world-class institutions,” Massillon told The Atlanta Voice

Some Believe It To Be Conspiracy is currently on display at the UTA Artists Space, until October 21st.