I was lucky enough to be on the front row of Frank Ocean’s Lovebox headline this summer, where his intimate and detached set had me mesmerised but divided the opinions of critics and other fans. Was Ocean’s recluse personality and lack of crowd interaction really a suitable act to headline one of London’s biggest summer festivals?
As a diehard disciple, my answer was always going to be yes because to me, his talent goes beyond a hyped-up stage-commanding performance. Although he stayed mainly still with his headphones on throughout, a live video captured the attention of the audience on the screen behind him, swirling us in and out of reality and blurring the lines between auditory and visual art.
Frank Ocean’s new visual essay for i-D magazine was published yesterday in a captivating 32-image photo series and an accompanying letter, allowing readers to savour a rare glimpse into the mind of a genius, with not a Q&A in sight.
Striking about Ocean’s i-D project was more than just the unusual format of expression. Dubbed by the magazine as a ‘generation-defining’ artist, for me, his uplifting mind-spill on the importance of ‘saying yes’ marked a height of his artistic maturity and identity.
Through his music he explains a human struggle; coming of age, self-discovery and sexuality: emotionally extroverted and breathtaking in parts. Through his letter and uncut images, he continues to explore boundless mediums of art, just like with his 2016 Endless album, an hourlong visual, gradually released through a 19-day live stream.
In his i-D letter (“No is run of the mill. Yes is a gem”) he is unapologetic but gentle, not moving from solitude but hiding nothing: “Whenever I feel alone I watch live television, something about it being okay on their end makes it okay on mine.” He writes with a focus on looking forward, self-liberty and the excitement of possibility: ” If you want to make your 30s sound appealing just mention ‘sexual prime’.”
Alongside his letter, the images offer a look into his world famous career where, unremarkably, people still have to do their ironing. Featuring Spike Jonez, his orchestra, his friends and himself, the photos are obvious and impulsive while at the same time otherworldly, straight from a Tumblr feed.
Following a summer of scepticism and previous accusations of Blond(e) being anticlimactic after Channel Orange, and despite the disappointment that some fans felt, Frank ocean’s art remains consistent with soul-baring honesty and complete lack of bravado.
The visual essay for i-D confirms he is in his artist’s prime; whether it’s visuals, music or prose, he bridges the gap between art forms. “Issa Dreamworld,” he says. “If you liked two thousand and seventeen then you’ll love two thousand and eighteen.” And if that’s an indication for more Frank Ocean art in 2018, I definitely will.