Installation series from ONLI STUDIOS presented at the DuSable Museum in Chicago.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Onli presented the intensely alluring "Acid Tongue" drawing at a major art convention in Chicago in 2010. Media: Prismacolor pencils on acid free board. Size: 24" X 18". This work is still in his studio portfolio.

"I love sharing my Rhythmistic works with folks. People make these immediate connections to the future-primitif familiarity in them."

"I have been doing
this for a long time."

Two Rhythmistic treatments by Onli.

Rhythmism found its way to be part of the highly successful "Cool Globes" traveling show that supported positive approaches to dealing with global warming issues. My globe is called, "Itz A Rhythmistic World".

The Afro futuristic elements along with the Rhythmistic approach adds to the universal impact of this work of public art.

"Life imitates afro futuristic Rhyhmistic fine art in the look of this woman who attended one of my exhibitions. Gallery goers thought she was the model for my "No Evils" canvas painting. This painting is part of my growing "No Evils" portfolio of fine art."

Gallery exhibitions are like going to a concert to experience quality music.

"I worked on this album cover and signed it on my caricature of the Ms America at that time, Ms Vanessa Williams. George Clinton and P-Funk are often listed as being Afro-futuristic. We made him look as good as he sounds!"

"I love giving themed exhibitions and focused lectures at the University of Illinois at Chicago. I have been fortunate enough to have given five presentations over the years, on the various aspects of the my Rhythmistic practices. The most recent one explored the watermelon as a transitional cultural object. "

"The cover illustration of my Rhythmistic super hero, character "Sustah-Girl, Queen of the Black Age" is included in this landmark book from Rizzoli and was included in the group exhibition of the same name, "Picturing The Modern Amazon", at The New Museum of Contemporary Art in Soho New York during the Spring of 2000. I really love and appreciate curator/organizer Ms Laurie Fierstein for her dedicated work to produce this amazing showcase of feminine power and beauty! I had a collection of female body builder inspired oil paintings however all but one was destroyed in a studio fire. "

"After meeting with former great Katherine Dunham dancers Lucille Ellis and her good friend Eartha Kitt in the Spring of 1977 I promptly went to France with a one way ticket, $200.00, not knowing a word of French to challenge the potential of my Rhythmistic concepts on the international level. This resulted in freelancing for major magazines, winning a national art contest, and having a solo Rhythmistic fine art show sponsored by the FIAP & The American Institute for Foreign Study in the summer of 1978. Kitt & Ellis felt I was ready to play on a bigger stage and had shared amazingly inspiring stories with me. This experiment confirmed Rhythmism as a force with immense fine and commercial art possibilities."

The Johnson Publishing Company, of Ebony Magazine fame, acquired this oil painting entitled "Family Group", from Onli when he was 18 years old. It is an early example of his Rhythmistic treatments and is still in the prestigious JPC Permanent art collection.

"I developed a bond with watercolors while in high school. This otherworldly painting was created when I was 17 and destroyed in a devastating studio fire as I turned 50. It opened the door to my Rhythmistic explorations."

"Here are my watercolor treatments of the "Year of the Hare" and the "Year of the Serpent"."

"This was a CD cover designed for the Akiboards techno house music band."

"My vision in this image was to show the legendary Zulu intensity and his challenge of retaining his culture while accepting industrialization and contemporary societal changes. This painting is in my collection of works."

"The creation and publishing of "NOG: The Protector of the Pyramides" in 1981 opened the door to a movement in the world of Graphic Novels called the Black Age of Comics.

Independent Afro-futurism arrived in graphic novel form in the 1980s:"

"Isis Eyes" was inspired by an unpublished album cover design draft for AKIBOARDS.
This 40" X 30" acrylics on canvas this Nubian influenced painting is part of Onli's spiritual portfolio of fine art.

This very personal vision driven Rhythmistic illustration was considered for an album cover by the late Miles Davis. However after a few presentations over a three year period Mr. Davis wanted to acquire the reproduction rights and ownership of it for free. This was unacceptable to Onli. It is now in the collection of Ms. Aki Antonia.

"I find the Chinese proverb of the Three Monkeys of the Hear No, See No & Hear No Evil wisdom very universal and practical in these times. I was experimenting with baldness to reflect a deeper spiritual context away from personal vanity. These are a few of the future-primitif images in that series."

"During one of my my Visiting Artists' exhibitions & lectures on Rhythmism at the University of Illinois at Chicago I was asked to be photographed with some of my work. I liked the chance to be at one with them."

The image below, "Together Alone" was featured as the lead illustration in the album covers' section of the landmark book, "Freedom: Rhythm & Sound". It was also featured on the rear outside cover of the book. This image was created by Onli in the early 1970s for Delmark Records and was used for its highly collectible album by the celebrated avant garde jazz greats Joseph Jarman & Anthony Braxton. It shows some unique aspects of Onli's personal vision for Rhythmism therefore influencing "Afro-futurism's" being later established and circulated in international fine art circles.

"Shorties" oil on canvas, 36" squared: This Rhythmistic painting explores various cultural sources to create a metaphysical triad about the passage of life. The lower left shows a crawling child, a standing youth, a middle aged man and a progression of primitif masques while the subjects cling to their life giving watermelons. This is in my growing portfolio of watermelon themed paintings."

"Reach" oils on canvas, 30"X 44" 2001, museum profile: This image dramatically shows a woman being effected by the life giving Sun. Or is she reaching for it as the source of life as we know it?? The Sun is faintly depicted as the Egyptian Ankh which symbolizes Life. I first created the image as an ink drawing when I was 20. Then I later processed it as an oil painting in my late 40s."This is in my portfolio of spiritual paintings."

"Dancer's Eye". Prismacolor pencils, about 18" X 24": "This is an image I created in 1983 of a life long friend, Thea Narissa Barnes. She was a featured dancer with the Alvin Ailey and Martha Graham dance companies. We shared 6th grade through high school together and flourished in the rich and diverse creative communities in Chicago. I had the good fortune of seeing her dance in the Wiz on Broadway and at the Opera in Paris with the Martha Graham Company. Life in the creative arts is a great way to live." ( In the Rebekah Younger collection).

"Year of The Monkey" Watercolors on acid free paper, about 24"X 28".

This image remixes the Chinese Zodiac in an Africanized futuristic context while remaining true to its vision. Flat patterning and graded washes give rise to this aesthetic cultural melange'. This is part of a series of twelve paintings.

The following presents links between some of Onli's creative practices, influences, graphic novel characters and Afro Futurism

Prepared by Professor Turtel Onli, MAAT



NOG: The Protector of the Pyramides” 1979 - 2009

Afro-futurism in comics and sequential art.


This is personal!!! I was not aware of the term "afro-futurism" until recently. As a creator and visual artist who due to being raised by a Pentecostal Pastor who created his own large scale visionary Biblical charts, I tend to function based on personal, social, cultural, intellectual, and even esoteric visions as my source for creation. I was very active in the Counter Cultural, Health Nut, Bucky Fuller, Black Cultural and Black Power movements of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. During the riots after the murder of Dr. King I had to sleep in downtown Chicago while the police were patrolling with shoot to kill orders. That evening I decided to dedicate a sizable portion of my gift's output to raising the level of overall positive consciousness of Black Americans to that of all Americans. I would become a visionary /creative soldier in the looming cultural wars for mindsets and success. I looked to fill voids. To create what was not being done in the name of Blackness or creativity. I conceived a term to best explain this effort and its goals. The term Rhythmistic and Rhythmism became my mantra. I looked to embellish that fantasy life and contemporary mythology of modern Africanized thought and creativity in an illustrated or fine art context. Keep in mind that I was 16 years old at the time of Dr. King’s death.

Chicago at that time was a hotbed of Liberalism, Pan Africanism, Black Empowerment, and cultural upheaval. I was a small factor in all of that. I formed an artist guild when I graduated from high school called BAG, The Black Arts Guild, with the goal to change the notion of watermelons and picaninies from insults to positive icons. I was fortunate enough to study for two years, simultaneous language and behavior dynamic therapy under the brilliant experimental psychologist Dr. Margret Creedon at the now defunct Dysfunctioning Child Center. I earned two degrees from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. A BFA in Art Education. A M.A.A.T. in Art Therapy. I even worked for twelve years as an art therapist in women's shelters and therapeutic day schools along with a few diagnostic settings. It was great to witness the healing properties of the visual arts. Next was to flow and express my genetic memories of all things Future-primitif into a cosmic construct as a fine artist. Hence Rhythmistic art. The guild, BAG, was my think tank. We included the goal to become professional artists as well. Our exhibitions were theme based and provocative. We were met with a lot of misunderstanding in Black and Mainstream circles. We attended the National Conference of Artist Convention at Howard University in 1973 with painted faces while wearing original garments designed from the industrial Senegalese inspired Dakkabar Collection that the great Robert Earl Paige had created for Sears at that time. We mentored in his One Of A kind Studio. I challenged the commercial world by looking to successfully freelance as a major market editorial illustrator on a national level using as many of my Rhythmistic innovations as possible. Let the revolution begin! I secured clients like House of Gemini Greeting Cards, Playboy Magazine, Ebony Jr. Magazine, Holt, Rinehart, & WInston, CNN, WGN TV, Miles Davis, Alice Coltrane, Delmark Records, National PTA Magazine, The Triad Radio Guide and many more. Those were exciting times and it still is very personal.


1. Onli’s artwork being accepted for FESTAC, the Second World Festival of Black And African Art and Culture in Lagos Nigeria in 1977. Then going to Paris and discovering a world view and the Bande Dessinee movement.

2. Onli’s living in Paris and meeting a variety of people, clients and creatives.

This resulted in a growth surge based on the passionate desire and opportunity to internationalize his work as an illustrator and fine artist.

3. Winning an international drawing competition and securing a solo exhibition called “Presenting My Rhythm” which put Rhythmism to a broader successful test.

4. Drawing in the subways in Paris and blending concepts explored by Jimi Hendrix to those of my own.

5. Being nicknamed "NOG" by one of my Jamaican roommates in Paris, France.

6. Returning to Chicago to secure my BFA in Art Education at the School of The Art Institute of Chicago and sharing my new found growth and purpose.

7. Being asked to create a comic strip for the Chicago Defender Newspaper and spontaneously creating"NOG: The Protector of the Pyramides"after they had turned down my other comic strips. This concept was to absorb my cosmic Rhythmistic design ideas and mythological concepts. I used the French spelling to honor how so many French people accepted me on a social and artistic level.

8. Collecting the strips into a comic book published by Onli Studios in 1981 during the Black and White Comic Book Boom launching the Black Age of Comics. The follow up book, “NOG: IS BACK!!!” was published in 1994 at the peak of another Comic Book Boom.

9. Exhibiting at the Funny Papers and the Younger Gallery in Chicago during the 1980s and teaching about the Rhythmistic art movement later at Columbia College, Harold Washington College and as a Visiting Artist at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

10. Being recognized in formal art circles, traditional Black Art circles, and schools for my Rhythmistic explorations.

11. The term afro-futurism is pioneered, while later introduced to me by the late Art Critic, Nate McLinn and used to cover some of the same territory I had been exploring as a by product of major Africanized cognition instead of the being a minor “step child” of creativity. Rhythmism and Afro-Deco plus the Black Age were offered and explored by my advocacy.

12. NOG’s ironically being omitted to participate in the Sun Ra Afro-futurism exhibition a few blocks from my home and the birthplace of NOG. Years earlier and image of NOG was censored from a mural created by the National Conference of Artists donated to the Institute for Positive Education on its 25th Anniversary in 1982. This is a tribute to NOG’s controversial and innovative success in combining “high and low art”.

When I received a Life Time Achievement Award the presenter, Yumi Odum, had an original copy of “NOG: The Protector of the Pyramides” that he had found in a store in New York some years earlier. He went on to say the book, its concept, and its look impressed to move in the direction he did in founding the East Coast Black Age of Comics Convention at Temple University.

13. Planning for the 30th anniversary of “NOG: The Protector of the Pyramides in 2009.

This will include a rebooting of the original book leading to "NOG NU!!", 'NOG IS BACK!!!" and ending with "THE WAR FOR PLANET NUBA!!" This will be a hot series for the first Rhythmistic character.

You can order a copy of "NOG NU!!" from ONLI STUDIOS' online store. Be sure to email him after you place your order for a free lesson plan and poster.

Turtel Onli, M.A.A.T.

773-536-0755 Cell: 773-726-1610

Onli Studios #468

1448 East 52nd Street

Chicago IL. 60615