The Godfather of Harlem main title is an homage to the contemporaneous collages created during 1960s Harlem by African-American artist, Romare Bearden (1911-1988). He is best known for his photomontage compositions made from torn images of popular magazines and assembled into visually powerful statements on African-American life. We felt his art was appropriate to the show because it shared themes and portrayals of social inequality and the African-American experience that the show similarly explores. The tactile and tangible textures of collage as well as its ability to present and juxtapose different subjects from multiple sources within a single composition was highly influential to the main title design. “The cutting, fragmenting, and reconstruction involved in creating a collage provides apt metaphors for the trauma and violence of war and political oppression, the evisceration of the states quo, and the piecing together of new societal forms” (Rachael DeLue).
The main title INTENTIONALLY reflects many of the techniques, aesthetics, and themes of Romare Bearden, and is a purposeful design for the opening credits of the series not meant to stand separately from its cinematic purpose. Yet, much like how the show adds hiphop and other modern flairs that are anachronistic to the time period portrayed in the show, our main title also utilizes modern artistic principles for better readability by a modern audience. The complexities of Romare's collages, while appealing in its spellbinding intricacies, could prevent legibility of the credits or wouldn't read as well when only shown for a brief moment within the fast paced main title. Therefore, many of our Romare-inspired designs were simplified or redesigned in form and composition, from which similarities with modern and contemporary collages may have appeared in places. It is my hope that interest in the show and the main title will lead to a larger audience becoming newly aware of the artwork of Romare Bearden and other African-American artists.
It was a pleasure and honor to work on this project and give tribute to the fighters and activists of the past who fought for their American Dream, by any means necessary. As a minority as well as a child of immigrants, many of the societal issues and themes explored within Godfather of Harlem resonates with me. History does not repeat itself, but it often rhymes. Whether it is equal rights, income inequality, racism, or drugs—to name a few—the show reveals how similar and relevant these issues remain to this day. It reminds us that the fight for the American Dream is an ongoing struggle, and each new generation has a obligation to bring forth positive change.
My Role: Art Direction / Design / Animation / Compositing
Client: EPIX & ABC Signature
Studio: Digital Kitchen | Los Angeles
Creative Director: Mason Nicoll
Art Director/Designer/Lead Animator: Peter Pak
Animators: Cisco Torres & Giovana Pham
Producer: Jake Hibler & Michael Cates
Executive Producer: Cynthia Biamon
Music: Swizz Beatz track “Just in Case,” featuring Rick Ross and DMX