Abdu Mongo Ali
Words on Anon + Jonathan from Shikeith
The quest to revise oneself can be disorienting -the wreckage of the past can swallow you whole if not for the interference of love. Love transcends the bounds of our earthly bodies. In Jonathan Lyndon Chase & Abdu Ali’s “Anon + Jonathan,” the deepness of love can stretch out to hold you from far, far away dimensions. “Take me to the water; I gotta go to the water,” chants Anon, the embodiment of intergalactic intimacies, as they transport from portal Banjee into Chase’s “Wind Rider” exhibition. Within the Baptist-Christian tradition, it is in the water where the deemed sin-sick have their souls cleansed. Anon’s queering of the negro spiritual evokes the rhythms that arise from an underground club’s belly-where it’s hot as hell, and sweat-drenched queer bodies baptize themselves anew.
After many years of zero contact, Chase’s imaginary friend, Anon, has returned to engage in a kiki. We become witnesses to Chase’s testimony as they remember a childhood rife with beauty and times of sadness, the loss of their grandmother, and falling in love with their husband, Will. Chase’s artwork folds into the scene, speaking to the storied psychic architecture of the Black queer experience. Chase has built many homes for queer Black men and nonbinary people to thrive, where their tongues are untied from the lasso-like constraints of Christianity and hyper-masculinity. They have composed paintings and sculptures of a deconstructed North Philly neighborhood where caked-up cowboys can climb the backs of horses and ride ’til they can’t no more. And though buckets precariously cushion this new plane, the outcome of its past alienation, it is flourishing.
Anon + Jonathan is a call to care in the Essex Hemphill & Marlon Riggs’s tradition, demonstrating love opens doors you believed to be closed. Such as seeds, dispersed by dandelions to be carried long distances by the wind-love has a way of gently grounding your spirit following a wild ride. Though the body and psyche may bear the marks of that journey, Anon + Jonathan exemplifies how overcoming hard times builds resilience in all of us.