Is It Morning For You Yet?58th Carnegie International

James “Yaya” Hough

James “Yaya” Hough’s (b. 1974, Pittsburgh, PA; lives in Pittsburgh, PA) art practice includes drawings and works on paper that address topics of authority, confinement, oppression, and racial and political violence in the United States. The cultural and psychological traumas that these issues perpetuate are augmented by recurring imaginary characters and scenarios in Hough’s artworks.

As a part of the 58th Carnegie International, Hough has painted a mural titled A Gift to the Hill District in Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District, the cultural and artistic hub where Hough was born. As his first public commission in his hometown, this project expands on Hough’s practice of making art public to create common imaginaries.

To prepare for the mural, Hough, in collaboration with Carnegie Museum of Art, and the Hill District-based organization Nafasi, held community workshops to discuss the role of public art in participants’ personal lives and in their neighborhood, the types of representation they want to see, pressing issues, and challenges, and hopes and dreams for the future. In designing the mural, Hough was inspired by a quote by revered Pittsburgh playwright August Wilson that captured the desires expressed in the workshops. In preparation for the mural, the artist held community paint days in collaboration with BOOM Concepts to create the panels collectively before being mounted on the wall.

On Saturday, July 30, the mural was dedicated during a public ceremony where Hough spoke about the process and intention of the mural, saying, “The title of the mural is a gift to the Hill District, and that’s exactly what it is. This is, in true spirit, a gift, and right now, you are all part of that process of giving this gift to this community.”

James “Yaya” Hough, A Gift to the Hill District, 2021–2022, photo: Sean Eaton

About the artist

James “Yaya” Hough has been heavily involved for more than a decade with Mural Arts Philadelphia, creating more than 50 works that have been installed at the State Correctional Institution–Graterford and the State Correctional Institution–Phoenix. In 2019, as part of a program supported by the Art for Justice Fund and Fair and Just Prosecution, Hough was selected to be the inaugural artist-in-residence at the Office of the District Attorney of Philadelphia. His work was included in Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, curated by Nicole R. Fleetwood, which opened at MoMA PS1, New York, and traveled to the Abroms-Engel Institute for the Visual Arts, Birmingham, and the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, Cincinnati.

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