To commemorate the connection between George Floyd and DJ Screw, University of Houston Libraries Special Collections commissioned an artwork by Robert L. Hodge, a notable artist from the Third Ward. His collage titled 8:46 will be displayed at the MD Anderson Library in Special Collections.
Houstonian George Floyd rapped on a handful of the underground mixtapes created by DJ Screw, whose archival collection is part of the Houston Hip Hop Research Collection at UH Special Collections. Following Floyd’s death in 2020, Julie Grob, curator of the collection, invited Hodge to create one of his signature collages in a way that would honor Floyd. 8:46 is a vibrant layering of figures reclaimed from old record album covers, anchored by Floyd’s gaze.
The faces in 8:46 represent the various perspectives and reactions to Floyd’s death. What emerges from the work is a tale of two Americas, Hodge said, and how we are all interconnected. “It’s the story of a flawed man who, no matter what you thought about him, is a human being who didn’t deserve to die.”
Like Floyd, Hodge was raised in the historic Third Ward neighborhood where UH is located. He has exhibited in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including Slowed and Throwed: Records of the City Through Mutated Lenses, an exhibition of artwork and archival material related to DJ Screw. Hodge also contributed label text to the UH Libraries exhibition Brothers in Rhyme: Fat Pat, Big Hawk, and the Screwed Up Click.
Of the Third Ward as inspiration to his work, Hodge said, “The people make the community, and the people are so diverse. From a jazz musician to a mailman to an addict, each has a story. This keeps me grounded in reality, in my work.”
A few of Hodge’s artistic influences include Romare Bearden, David Hammons, David McGee, Rick Lowe, Jesse Lott, Frida Kahlo, Robert Rauschenberg, The Art Guys, Otabenga Jones, Jabari Anderson, Jamal Cyrus, Kenya Evans, and Robert Pruitt.
Hodge has been doing collage work for many years and it is an art form for which he holds great respect. His technique is organic and involves finding older, lesser-known soul, blues, and country records and using the album cover art to create a new image. “It’s a stress breaker for me,” Hodge said. “I love taking an existing narrative and making something new out of it. That’s a lot like hip hop, sampling older records and making something new while honoring the past. The layers represent life in collage; there are a lot of things you see and a lot of things you don’t see.”