The Alchemist’s Notebook:
The Satire, Remixes, and Haunts of Black Kirby


The Alchemist’s Notebook:
The Satire, Remixes, and Haunts of Black Kirby


Clinton R. Fluker, Ph.D.
Assistant Director, Engagement and Scholarship


Suspend your disbelief with me for a moment.

Imagine the alchemists at work in their lair. Watch as they use a set of rusty tools to handle raw, crude materials and melt them down to more malleable forms. As they carefully mix the isolated substances together, listen as they whisper a forgotten tongue from a dusty leather-bound notebook. When the ritual is over and the notebook has been cast aside into the shadows, you witness the substance start to stir. As it twists and turns in the immense heat, you smell the stench of a hot fusion that breathes life into a new creation, indeed a new element, that has never existed before.

This new element is the art of Black Kirby, and this exhibition provides a peek into their notebook of esoteric spells.

Black Kirby—the pseudonym assumed by the acclaimed visual artists and professors John Jennings and Stacey Robinson—are Alchemists. They take raw materials from black history, hip hop, and comic book mythology and remix them to create new universes, never-before seen technologies, and biting satires about the world we live in today. Each of the Black Kirby images serves as a funky rare artifact from an alternate universe, fully formed, and autonomous from its earthly origins.

However, sourced from the Archives Research Center collections, this exhibition investigates these origins by patching together the real-world historical influences eluded to in Black Kirby’s pieces. While the list of the full ingredients in Black Kirby’s cauldron remains a tightly guarded secret, a glimpse in the alchemist’s notebook will help illustrate the historical narratives and traditions in conversation with their work.


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Atlanta University Center Robert W. Woodruff Library