Infinite Desire #17, Watercolor (Photo courtesy of Sherman Fleming)
Infinite Desire #17, Watercolor (Photo courtesy of Sherman Fleming)

It is summer, and the heat of a hot, sticky Washington day leads to the reduction of clothing. And that reduction of clothing, and tendency towards the spare, the slinky and the skimpy naturally leads to thoughts of sweaty sex.

“The Black Overlay: Infinite Desire,” currently on view and being performed at DCAC, a collaboration between two artists, Sherman Fleming and Holly Bass, takes an unfiltered look at the Black body and its perception through Fleming’s abstract watercolor series, “Infinite Desire,” and Bass’ performance art in which she will reenact some of Fleming’s pieces.

“The Black Overlay” is the result of the artistic intersection between Fleming and Bass which began in 2015, and is in its first incarnation at the current DCAC show.

The visuals are new works by Fleming, curated by Bass and Terence Washington and a restaging of two of Fleming’s performance art pieces, played out by Holly Bass, the multimedia artist whose oeuvre also includes training in modern dance.

“Something Akin To Living” opened the exhibit on June 1, where collaborator Wilmer Wilson, measured, sawed and fit together 40 pieces of wood slats between the performer (Holly Bass) and two support columns so that the performer had to use her body to literally hold everything together.

It looked like bondage, and those images of nontraditional sexual practices are mirrored in the watercolors that show disjointed bodies in odd, but overtly sexual positions. Some are collages of different bodies woven together at strange angles. But the message is clear. The Black body is a sexual tool.

Fleming’s watercolors are collage-based and stem from a 2012 series of abstractions that draw loosely from Japanese Edo woodblock cuts, also known as Ukiyo-e, or the “Floating World.” His performance pieces, of which two will be performed by Bass during the show, running from June 1-22, examine Black masculinity but Bass will take on Fleming’s role, throwing the entire piece into a quandary about sexuality, gender and the body.

The title comes from conversations between Fleming, Bass and Washington where all three artists shared their experiences in which “the public assumed that their respective creative or scholarly work was about Blackness, regardless of whether the artist, or curator, said or implied such and even when they said it was not about Blackness, but about some other concept or idea. That is to say, no matter what each of them creates, there seems to always be an overlay of Blackness imposed by the public imagination.”

Fleming’s other works “explored notions of Black masculinity.” But when he included white women performers, the perceptions changed to be construed as a statement of “interracial sexual dynamics or about whiteness.” According to the curators, this did not happen when the collaborator was a white male or a Black female.

The 10 paintings by Fleming on view are all numbered and titled “Infinite Desire,” and create a more mellow view of the activities in his performance pieces.

His second performance piece, “Pretending to be Rock,” will take place on June 20 at 6:30 p.m. with Bass, guest artist Wilmer Wilson and Maps Glover. The two- to three-hour performance will be held in the DCAC Theater.

At the end of the exhibit, Fleming will engage in a conversation with Bass on June 22 from 3-4:30, moderated by co-curator Washington.

All events are free and recognize the 30th anniversary of DCAC (2483 18t Street NW in Adams-Morgan). Gallery hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 2-7 p.m. For more information, call 202-462-7833 or email

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