Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Miss Manhattan Hangs Out...with Rhasaan Manning and Lara Vallance

“I could never be with someone who was…a dentist,” Lara Vallance says. She flicks her wrist, a lithe hand extending in explanation.“Oh man,” says Rhasaan Manning, who jokes later that "she is the woman whose husband I am. “I was gonna take up dentistry.” They laugh.
When I meet them at The Good Fork in Red Hook, they are easily two of the coolest people I have ever encountered in real life, calm and collected, thoughtful and worldly, tall and lean and wearing interesting pants, jackets, and hats. We eat eggs and biscuits and pork dumplings and drink coffee and they tell me about their work.

Lara and Rhasaan have been married for a couple years now. Both of them are multidisciplinary artists and they live in Brooklyn, regularly collaborating on different projects that intersect their interests. For example, they recently screened a series of short films for which Lara illustrated the visuals while Rhasaan produced the music, and developed a short film and installation called Pocket Brain, about a woman addicted to her cell phone.

Lara is an illustrator and artist whose work lives in the space between digital and analog. She will draw on top of images in a really amazing and colorful collection of work, part of which lives on her
Instagram, but she also draws on clothing, develops comics, animates her work, produces illustrations for publications, and is working on a children’s book. Rhasaan is a musician (as DJ OYASABA and with his band OYASABA; he also recently returned from touring with Deerhunter, for whom he does percussion and electronics), photographer, writer, director, and more. He has a zine he’s been working on called Behind the Stick, which features images of friends and bar denizens from the last 10 years. “Not to be lame,” Rhasaan says, but working together as collaborators has taught them how to be better partners, simultaneously respectful of and inspired by each other.
After brunch, they roll and smoke cigarettes as we walk to Record Shop on Van Brunt Street. While sifting through soundtracks and protest albums, Lara finds a vintage Italian phrasebook and Rhasaan procures a stack of records, one of which includes Voices of the Civil Rights Movement. We then head over to PioneerWorks for Anthony McCall’s Solid Light Works exhibition. A series of horizontal and vertical installations that press light into varying corners of darkness for a kind of living light sculpture experience, simultaneously cinematic and inviting. Rhasaan and Lara weave their way through the exhibition, pausing to absorb the light and take pictures. We meander upstairs for Kathleen White’s Spirits of Manhattan and Nan Goldin’s Kathleen. As Rhasaan and Lara walk through the gallery, it feels like they’re living a life so many people aspire to: consuming and making art with the person they love. Afterward, we will stop in at Fort Defiance for Bloody Marys topped with lemons and pickled green beans, and they will look at each other and I will know I am right.   
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