NCMA Recommends: Black Magic (It’s Fantastic)

Andr© Leon Gray, Black Magic (It’s Fantastic), 2005, acrylic, rhinestones, basketball, braided synthetic hair, street sweeper brush, shoelaces, headband, miniature clay pots, wood, and cowrie shells on wood ironing board, H. 67 x W. 31 x D. 9 1/2 in., Purchased with funds from the Friends of African and African American Art, and with additional funds provided by North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company

Using social, cultural, and economic issues as context, Raleigh-based artist Andr© Leon Gray presents powerful narratives within his works to raise awareness and elicit conversations. Much of Gray’s work consists of commonplace and found objects such as children’s toys, wooden chairs, and picture frames. Through these objects he illustrates the lived experiences of African Americans while critiquing the social and political structures have long enforced their marginalization. Gray refers to his works as “eye gumbo,” which he defines as “a visual meal for the mind, thickened with a roux of Black culture, marinated in social commentary, and seasoned with consciousness.” In Black Magic (It’s Fantastic), he commemorates a storied local event–the first racially integrated college basketball game in the South. This rare moment of racial collaboration and mutual respect, to many, felt magical: a combination of factors that collided to produce a truly memorable moment. Black Magic, indeed.

Video Visit with the Artist: Andr© Leon Gray

Artist Andr© Leon Gray recently spoke with Mellon Foundation Assistant Curator Maya Brooks about his creative process, which draws from jazz, basketball, and the individuality of the discarded objects that find their way into his work. He also offers a list of books and films that have contributed to the formation of his artistic voice.

Going for the Flow

Artists and athletes know about the magical state of flow, where skill meets challenge. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi says flow occurs “when a person, body, or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.” Through a dedicated practice, whether artistic or athletic, one’s abilities are honed to a degree that makes challenges exciting. Read about the nine dimensions of flow or watch a TED talk by Csikszentmihalyi to learn about cultivating the habits that lead to optimal performance, even to happiness itself.–Angela Lombardi, Director of Outreach and Audience Engagement

Film Club Features Hoop Dreams

If you enjoy watching and talking about films, join us on Friday, August 14, for the first meeting of the virtual NCMA Film Club! We’ll pair thought-provoking contemporary and classic short and feature films and include a Zoom discussion. Our first pairing, inspired by Black Magic (It’s Fantastic), features the 1994 documentary Hoop Dreams and the short film Game (2017). Natalie Bullock Brown, an award-winning producer and director and a teaching assistant professor at North Carolina State University, moderates the discussion.

Kobe Bryant on Books

In addition to his basketball career, Kobe Bryant was an avid reader and recommender of favorite books to his fellow NBA players. This list of Bryant’s recommendations compiled by the Los Angeles Public Library spans genres and provides food for thought on the way creativity functions, whether applied to athletic prowess, artistic exploration, or how the empathy gained through storytelling can unite us all.–Angela Lombardi, Director of Outreach and Audience Engagement

Family Activities

Create an animated flip book with drawings that show athletic bodies in motion. Find details of this activity, plus suggestions of books and read-along videos for the family to enjoy, at NCMALearn.–Courtney Klemens, Manager of Family Programs

 Audio Description 

This recording is an audio description of Black Magic (It’s Fantastic) that is written and read by Tamar Harris Warren of Arts Access. Audio description is narration for individuals who are blind or have low vision. It is a means to inform them about visual content essential for comprehension.

The Artist’s Playlist

Andr© Leon Gray selected 20 songs that are thought-provoking, poignant, defiant, inspiring, and humorous. This playlist complements his eye-opening visual commentary on power structures, race relations, and the Black experience.


Jul 31, 2020


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