Monday, December 22, 2008

Martin Puryear

"I want to make objects that somehow have their own history and their own reason for being and their own sense of themselves. … It's equally crucial that there exist in the work a recognition of the maker, of who I am," wrote Martin Puryear in 1978, when his career was just taking off.

Now at the peak of his powers, it is still instructive to ask who he is and what is revealed in his work about its maker.

An African American artist who deals with issues of racial identity only tangentially if at all, he was called "America's Best Artist" in 2001 by Time magazine critic Robert Hughes. In that same year a show of 12 of his sculptures organized by the Virginia Museum of Fine Art, which traveled to the Berkeley Art Museum, was declared the best Bay Area art event of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Having seen that show, which was one of the best exhibitions by an American artist I have ever seen, I looked with anticipation to viewing his current exhibition of 47 sculptures at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. I was not disappointed.

Including several of the works from the Berkeley show, it offers a survey of his career in depth that affirms Hughes' assertion and tells us more about who Puryear is without destroying the wonderful sense of mystery conveyed by his singular and stunningly beautiful work.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Thomas Miller: Pioneering artist honored for his stellar career

A room filled with people ate lunch at tables with white linen tablecloths. And they were all there because of Thomas Miller.

Looking sharp in his dark gray suit, Miller, 88, sat back in his chair in the dining room newly named for him and reflected on the day's event.

"This is quite an honor and I certainly appreciate it. Thank you, thank you, thank you," he said Tuesday at Smith Village, an assisted-living center at 2315 W. 112th Place in Chicago's Morgan Park community.

Miller has lived at Smith Village for several years. An artist since boyhood, Miller has created countless pieces of artwork, some of which now hang on the walls of the Thomas Miller Dining Room.

"It's unbelievable. This is one of the best things that's ever happened to me," Miller said.

One of the first black men to become a graphic artist in Chicago, Miller has a long history of bringing art to people's lives. And that's after he battled through racial discrimination often encountered in his life and career.

A display of his work can be found in the mosaics he created for the rotunda of the DuSable Museum of African American History. He helped design trademarks such as Motorola's M and a 7Up logo redesign, along with the trademarks for the Peace Corps, Second City, Hi-C and Quaker Oats.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fabrics: Birmingham Museum of Art

Two concurrent exhibits at the Birmingham Museum of Art trace the cultural influences of fabric design from West Africa to the American South.

Opening today, "Fabric of Life: African Textiles and Quilts from the American South" and "Kente in the Community" will reveal the vivid colors and strikingly original patterns of African textiles and how they made their mark on African-American quilt design.

Many objects in the exhibits are part of the museum's permanent collection, but are rarely exhibited.

"The Museum is fortunate to have a truly outstanding collection of Alabama-made quilts and textiles from Africa," noted Gail Andrews, the museum's director. "We are very pleased to offer this opportunity to see exceptional objects that, because of their sensitivity to light, are rarely on view."

In addition to the museum-owned works, the African textiles at the exhibit are lent from Birmingham families. Some are made from cotton, others from Kente cloth -- a woven fabric from Ghana that was worn by kings and chiefs of the Asante and Ewe people. The unique patterns, which range from brightly colored fabric to subdued tones, exerted their influence across the Atlantic.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.


James Spooner, like a lot of kids growing up in Southern California in the 1990s, was into punk rock.

But unlike most of the kids in the scene, he's black. Sometimes, this posed a problem.

"I was in this tiny desert town that was pretty much all white, and the punk scene was very racist," he recalled. "You would go to shows and it was blatantly white power, swastikas, all of that."

But when he moved to New York during high school, Spooner found "a gang of black kids" just like him. For the first time in his life, "I could be who I wanted to be," he said. "[They] made it OK for me, you know?"

The fundamental contradiction of black kids feeling left out of rock — which from its very beginning was based on black music — has played a large role in the creation of Afro-Punk. And while there have been many black artists who have been embraced by white rock fans, from Little Richard to Sly and the Family Stone to the Bad Brains, the Afro-Punk movement has found fans bonding and creating communities, organizing shows and shooting films in a whole new way.

Read the Rest ot the Story Here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sculptor Isaac Duncan III took an indirect path from Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, to Chattanooga. He completed a bachelor of fine arts degree at University of Notre Dame and a master of fine arts at the University of Kentucky. Between degrees, he worked for an economic development agency in Benton Harbor, Mich. Mr. Duncan came to Chattanooga in 2004 to work for sculptor John Henry.
The owner of Duncan Sculpture and Services on Watauga Street, Mr. Duncan commissions, exhibits and enters his art into competitions.
Q: Where does your art come from?
A: My sculpture comes from a whole bunch of places. I create nonobjective artwork, which is funny because they're very objective. They're based off of my own philosophy of creating and how I put things together. I like to challenge the fundamentals of sculpture. When I'm creating, I have a specific vocabulary I work in. I always create pieces that create a sense of motion; they're not kinetic. I used to create pieces that were just one simple unit, but I've gotten into creating modular unit pieces.
Q: Which artists do you admire or want to emulate?
A: I don't want to emulate anybody, but there are people who I respect, such as Richard Hunt, who I consider a mentor or an "art father." I respect our local sculptor John Henry. You have people like Mark di Suvero in New York. You have the grandfather of modern sculpture, David Smith. There's Marcel Duchamp. I come from those lines of sculptors. The ones who are dead are the ones who paved the way for what I'm doing. The ones who are alive are the ones who are pushing the boundaries. They keep me honest.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Harlem Renaissance: Legacy and Beyond

Bakersfield is about to discover just how beautiful black is — at Harlem Renaissance: Legacy and Beyond, an exhibit of 1920s and ’30s African-American art that opens Thursday at the Bakersfield Museum of Art.
“As far as I know this is the first major Harlem Renaissance exhibit in California,” said Charlotte Sherman, director of Heritage Gallery in Los Angeles and the exhibit’s guest curator.
Running through Feb. 15, the exhibit features 40 paintings and sculptures together with relevant books, essays and other documents representative of the movement that highlighted African-Americans’ contributions to art, music and literature.

Chotsani Elaine Dean at the Hunterdon

CLINTON —This winter, the Hunterdon Art Museum will showcase ceramic artist Chotsani Elaine Dean. The exhibition, "Chotsani Elaine Dean: Clay Quilts/Post-Emancipation," opens with a reception on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009 from 2 to 4 p.m. The show will run through March 29.

Dean's bold, three-dimensional clay quilts consist of irregularly shaped ceramic tiles grouped as installations on a wall. The ceramic pieces are gathered into arrangements based on relationships of pattern, color, and meaning. Motifs include textile patterns, stripes, botanical forms, and a variety of symbols. Several of the tiles consist of colorful, loosely painted abstract compositions. Some have text embedded in the clay, a melding of the visual and historical traditions that have inspired the artist.
The exhibition title, "Clay Quilts/Post-Emancipation," reflects the artist's commitment to her African American heritage. She has studied the imagery and construction of African American quilts from the time of the Underground Railroad of the antebellum South to the quilts of today. She finds that such domestic, utilitarian arts often were, and are, records of personal and communal memory. "My intention is to salute and remember this powerful history and memory, to support and manifest the survival and legacy of my ancestry," said Dean. Chotsani Dean reconceives these traditions and their significance through the filter of her artistry, creating an unusual and highly personal body of ceramic art.
The artist studied at Hartford Art School of the University of Hartford (BFA) and at Washington University, St. Louis MO (MFA). She has received attention in a number of solo and group exhibitions, including mention in Ceramics Monthly, the major publication of the field.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Obama and the Black Male Image

Riverside -- “They strut through the world like some dusky colossus looming larger than life itself: a nightmare, a fantasy, an American original, feared, emulated, shunned and
desired. They are as complicated, as intriguing, as American history and in many respects, every bit as confusing. Nevertheless the Black man strives in the midst of progress and peril.”

When the great sociologist and scholar W.E.B. Du Bois penned those words more than 100 years ago little did he know a nation founded by slave owners, seared by civil war and generations of strife would elect Barack Obama the son of a Kenyan father and a white
mother President of the United States of America.

“Barack Obama’s victory will force people to look at race and equity differently only if we can get
past the narrow images that linger in the public mind,” says Melvin W. Daniels, Jr., 52 a self employed former Marine, handy man, painter, cleaner, and jack of all trades.

Even as he and millions of Black men celebrate Obama’s historic victory, many wonder if the President-elect’s astonishing ascent to power and consistent drumbeat of hope and change will help redefine America’s attitudes toward Black men.

“I wish my mother and father were alive to witness this moment, they would say without hesitation ‘all things are possible’. Black people can accomplish anything they set their minds

Over the last 100 years, perhaps no segment of the American population has been more marginalized.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

B Sides

Just as psychedelia had its look and disco had its look, so did house party music, and through March, Aljira, A Center for Contemporary Art, is hosting a show just for that glittery, befeathered, identities-in-a-blender subculture.

Called "The B Sides," the exhibition features work by 28 artists and collectives, and it's strong on photography and video, as you might expect. But it also features a remarkable amount of painting, sculpture, and elements of installation art, since most house parties of the early '80's to mid-'90s naturally evolved into sprawling environments.

Take, for example, Weehawken artist Howie Keck's big "Disco Stars" (2005), made of Mylar on a foam core with fluorescent enamel, or Carlo Quispe's black and white painted gallery columns, decorated with black Smurfs and other floating symbols.

There appears to be a fine line between creating an artist's environment and decorating your gallery to convey a sense of what the house party scene was like -- after all, the scenery is only a small part of what you look at when you're dancing.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Masimba Musodza

Whilst the deterioration of Zimbabwean political, social and economic landscapes has seen many Zimbabweans flee home, most Zimbabweans in the Diaspora have exploited their long absence from home in advancing and sharpening their various skills.

One such is Masimba Musodza, a Zimbabwean Rastafarian and Artist. Born in 1976, Musodza’s artistic muscles stretch as far back as during his primary school days during which he made worthy contributions in the school magazine. This culminated in his written works appearing in The New Generation; a youths newspaper run by a Jamaican born Ben Hanson.
On Musodza’s education and career belts hang his degree in Media Studies in addition to other qualifications and experience in Screen Writing and Directing, Filmmaking and Research work , which he earned from reputable institutions like Edgar Langeveldt’s Nexus Talent Agency, the African Script Development Fund, the Zimbabwe International Film Festival and the Raindance Institute in the United Kingdom.

Musodza is now a reputable author and has so far given birth to a collection of short stories written between 1997-2000., a must read for all Zimbabweans. Entitled ‘The Man Who Turned Into Rastafarian’, Musodza articulately reveals the typical life of a Rastafarian in Zimbabwe. The book is available for sale online. A brief outline of the book is available on Musodza’s website;

He also has a number of upcoming novels and screenplays. To be published soon is his ChiShona language novel that explores the perceived connection between Zimbabwean mythology and that of ancient Mesopotamia while drawing attention to the rise in incidents of child sexual abuse.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Bonnye Brown

When Bonnye Brown (née Chamberlain) was a young girl, her older brothers and sisters chipped in to buy their mother a house in what Brown describes as a “Beaver Cleaver” neighborhood. But as Brown grew into a young woman, the neighborhood grew into something else.

“What I thought was the best neighborhood in the world became infested with drugs and drug dealers,” Brown said. “And we were angry.”

Brown decided to put her emotions into her art and painted “4:30 Appointment With the Mayor,” which portrays 10 neighbors sitting on folding chairs, waiting to have a word with the mayor.

Closer to allegory than irony, to social idealism than realism, “Appointment” depicts the hope of community empowerment and improvement. It’s something that Brown knows about, having channeled her artistic emotion not just onto canvas but also into the community.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Ulysses Davis at the High: Atlanta

ATLANTA — One of Ulysses Davis' granddaughters has said the artist used to sit in front of the television on election night, a block of wood in hand, ready to start carving a bust of the winner once the election was called.

Until his death in 1990, Davis added each new president to the collection of 40 busts that has become his best-known work. The works are part of an exhibition called "The Treasure of Ulysses Davis" that opens Saturday at Atlanta's High Museum of Art.

Davis, a barber and self-taught woodcarver from Savannah, Ga., carved more than 300 wood figures, reliefs and pieces of furniture in his spare time between haircuts and in the evenings. Born in 1914, he started whittling as a child, and his works were nationally recognized by the late 1970s.

But most of them have seldom been seen outside his home state because Davis felt the collection, which he called his "treasure," should be seen together.

He sought to ensure this by asking that his family arrange for the King-Tisdell Cottage Foundation, an organization devoted to the preservation of African-American culture and history in Savannah, to acquire a majority of the collection after his death.

"He understood that the body of work was important as a teaching tool and as an indication of what an African-American man and someone without many resources could accomplish," said Susan Mitchell Crawley, curator of folk art at the High. "It was especially important to him that children see it."

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Where are the Obamas on TV?

Long before he set out for the White House, Barack Obama sought to adjust the colors on America's TV sets. Four years ago, fresh off his star-making keynote address at the Democratic National Convention, Obama challenged the television industry to live up to its responsibility as the country's "most powerful media" and accurately reflect the nation's population.

"TV ought to reflect the reality of America's diversity and should do so with pride and dignity, not with stereotypes," he told the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. But as Obama prepares to move into the White House in January, he and his family will be hard pressed to find blacks like themselves represented on any of the major networks -- ABC, NBC, CBS or Fox.In fact, not only will they have great difficulty locating any black family in a leading role on the networks, they also will see it's nearly impossible to find a scripted comedy or drama that features a young person of color in a central role.

What do you think?

Carl Hess: Knoxville, TN

Carl Hess began painting when he was 5 years old.
But art was merely a childhood hobby until his sixth-grade teacher noticed his talent. Now the 21-year-old's artistic ability is giving him the opportunity to paint portraits of nationally recognized figures like Barack Obama.
"I've always been motivated to paint the next big person, and I feel like I've reached it," Hess said.
The University of Tennessee senior has painted two portraits of Obama and has had the opportunity to personally present both to him. Hess presented the first portrait, which depicts the president-elect against the backdrop of the American flag, to Obama at the NAACP's July convention in Cincinnati.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

SMH: Birth of the Cool

I’m not sure if Barack Obama’s election had anything to do with it, but upon entering “Birth of the Cool,” the Studio Museum’s survey of eminent African-American painter Barkley L. Hendricks, I found myself marveling incredulously at the art world’s myopic view of its own recent history, and thinking, not for the first time, that here was a long-overdue show. It’s almost embarrassing that this survey of Hendricks’s work is the first big retrospective for a figurative painter who has clearly influenced—and who in many cases outshines—so many of his peers. Political questions aside, Hendricks needs to be recognized as a pioneer, and “Birth of the Cool” is an important initial step in that direction.
Let’s begin at the beginning, with his first self-portrait, made after a trip to Europe when he was college-age. Hendricks, who was born in 1945 and grew up in Philadelphia, had observed that the halls of the museums he’d visited were lined almost exclusively with the faces of white men (and occasionally women). He returned determined to paint a world he did not see reflected there, which is to say his own community, and to bestow on that community the same art-historical importance. In effect, he was imagining something that did not yet exist, resolving to create it from scratch—which is, after all, the impulse that underlies the making of all art. But in Hendricks’s case, the challenge must have been especially daunting, because that one thing he could not see was a part of his own self.

Forbes: Why Black Art is So Hot

Hanging in Robert Johnson's den is an oil from the 1930s by an African-American artist named Palmer Hayden. The painting depicts a black American businessman getting his shoes shined.
The subject is nattily dressed in suit and spats, a little like Johnson himself, who is sporting a crisply pressed blue shirt and a shiny yellow tie.
"That painting represents pride and dignity," says Johnson. "I identify personally with this work."
Johnson may be known for the low-budget comedy routines and booty-shaking music videos that drove the success of BET, the cable channel he founded that turned him into America's first black billionaire in 2001.
But in his private moments he is moved by art that documents the struggles and achievements of black people in America. Since the early 1980s Johnson, 62, has assembled some 250 pieces by 19th- and 20th-century African-American artists.
Though Johnson's collection is probably worth only a couple of million dollars, it includes some of the most famous names of the genre: cubist-inspired collage artist Romare Bearden (1911-­88); modernist Harlem painter Jacob Lawrence (1917­-2000); and Henry Ossawa Tanner (1859­-1937), who studied under Thomas Eakins in the 1880s and was the first black painter to gain international acclaim.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Swann Galleries Sets 13 Records At African American Fine Art Auction

Many auction records for works by African American artists were achieved at Swann Galleries' October 7 auction of African American fine art. Most notably, Norman Lewis's untitled abstract expressionist oil on canvas, circa 1960-64, sold to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) for $312,000 — the highest price ever realized at auction for an abstract painting by a Modern African American artist and an auction record for any work by the artist.

The MFA also acquired Walter Augustus Simon's "715 Washington Street, Greenwich Village," an abstract oil on canvas, 1947, for an artist record $36,000; and Hughie Lee-Smith's "The Juggler #1," oil on canvas, circa 1964, for $90,000.

Nigel Freeman, director of the African American fine art department at Swann, said, "Especially in light of the current economic situation, we are thrilled with the results of the auction, the fourth conducted by our new department in less than two years. There was an unprecedented level of participation by museums, indicating a recognition of the scarcity and quality of the works now coming to sale at Swann."

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

McKissick Museum: This Far By Faith

In the black-and-white photo, a boy of about 10 peers into a rustic building through a slot between weathered boards. He may not know it, but that narrow opening is a window on a century of history.

That history and how it continues can be seen in “This Far by Faith: Carolina Camp Meetings, An African-American Tradition.”

The photo and video exhibition at USC’s McKissick Museum is the culmination of a dozen years’ work by Minuette Floyd, an associate professor in the USC art department. But for Floyd it really began much earlier, when her family began taking her to the weeklong gatherings of faith, family and food.

“I could have been 3 or 4,” said Floyd, whose family lived near Charlotte. “I grew up going to several of the campgrounds.”

After moving away from North Carolina for school and work, she came to USC in 1996. Since she once again was close by, her brother asked her to come to a meeting.

“I was really just amazed how the grounds looked the same,” she said. “There were many of the same people. One lady was there selling snow cones who had been there since I was a little girl.”

The 42 black-and-white images, plus two videos, were taken at seven of the camps, including Camp Welfare in Fairfield County, St. Paul near Harleyville and Shady Grove near St. George. The others are in North Carolina. All were started between 1870 and 1880, just five to 15 years after slaves were freed.

At first the campers put up tents for the gatherings. Although they’ve been replaced with wooden buildings, cement block structures and in some cases travel trailers, they’re still called “tents.”

“I started going to all seven in 2001 and have been going back ever since,” Floyd said.

She still knew people who were at the North Carolina camps she attended as a child and was welcomed easily there — after all, she was part of the family.

At some of the other camps, she’d find someone who would introduce her and show her around. As they grew comfortable with her, the camera was little obstacle.

“I didn’t just drop in,” Floyd said. “Now I know them, and they know me.”

Reach Day at (803) 771-8518.

WHEN: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday, through March 14

COST: Free

INFORMATION: (803) 777-7251 or

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

African American Masters

LINCOLN, NB.- Sheldon Museum of Art at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln acquired significant works by 20th-century African-American artists in auctions and sales last month in New York. The purchases include works by Charles White, Alvin Loving, Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence, Elizabeth Catlett, Charles Alston, Lois Mailou Jones and Aaron Douglas.

Sheldon Director J. Daniel Veneciano said, "Sheldon is successfully competing with the top museums in the country in acquiring coveted works in the 20th-century African-American art market. We now celebrate these acquisitions to the African-American Masters Collection at Sheldon. As our participation in the auction clearly indicates, the Sheldon Museum of Art collects great American art in all its important and multifaceted manifestations. We will continue to collect aggressively from the vital and sometimes under-represented history of American art."

Sheldon will present these works in an exhibition, "New Acquisitions: African-American Masters Collection," Dec. 16 through March 2.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

White Lies: Black Noise

The subculture and subtext explored will feature the works of artists Ricky Day, Latoya Fazier, Anthony Fuller, Shani Peters, Amin Rehman and Philip Robinson.
Also Opening, LIVE! From New York, the work of Cacy Forgenie.

Rush Arts Gallery & Resource Center, founded in November of 1996 is one of the two main arts exhibition and education facilities that are apart of Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation - a New York based arts foundation established in 1995 by brothers Russell, Danny and Joseph "Rev Run" Simmons. Rush Arts Gallery & Resource Center is committed to fostering an ongoing dialogue that reflects the diversity of ideas and issues relevant to emerging artists and audiences. Since its inception, Rush Arts Gallery has exhibited the work of over 600 hundred artists and serves a growing audience of educators, students and individuals. Rush Arts Gallery & Resource Center remains dedicated to providing disadvantaged urban youth with significant exposure and access to the arts through its arts education programs. The gallery also creates opportunities for artists who are not commercially represented by galleries or private dealers. Rush Arts Gallery assist artists careers by providing an inclusive not-for-profit exhibition space in the heart of Chelsea's art district.

Rush Arts Gallery and Resource Center

Raed the Rest of the Story Here.

NCCU African American Modernists

North Carolina Central University Art Museum will display the "African-American Modernists Series: Eric McRay" from Nov. 16 to Dec. 19 at the Fine Arts Building on campus at 1801 Fayetteville St.

The art museum is across from the Farrison-Newton Communications Building. Every effort is made to make all museum events accessible to the handicapped. For general information or assistance, please call 530-6211. For group visits, please call in advance. The museum is open Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m.; and Tuesday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free.

Lovell @ Hudson River Museum

Large-scale tableaus with drawings from the past decade by the well-regarded New York City-based African-American artist Whitfield Lovell are the subject of a powerful exhibition at the Hudson River Museum. It is the excruciating consciousness of the weight of history that makes these works so memorable, along with the fact that they are really beautiful.

Born in the Bronx in 1959, Mr. Lovell focuses on the lives of black Americans from about the end of the Civil War through World War II. History and memory ooze from his assemblages, which evoke for viewers ideas and feelings linked to the period’s societal and political changes. They are sort of sweet and scary, uplifting and depressing at the same time.

Dominating the artist’s assemblages are exquisitely detailed life-size charcoal portraits based on historic photographs of anonymous people whose biographical details are now lost to time. Mr. Lovell imagines a new life and a world from scratch, posing them in domestic interiors or homemade settings using furniture picked up in flea markets, tag sales and salvage yards.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Monday, November 3, 2008

Emory Douglas in the UK

The first UK exhibition of the works of Emory Douglas, official artist of the US Black Panther civil rights activists of the 1960s, kicks off at Manchester's Urbis gallery this autumn.

Previously unseen in the UK, Douglas' work from the 1960s, including posters, cartoons and campaign pamphlets, will appear in a provocative new exhibition at Urbis in Manchester, from 30th October 2008 to April 2009.
Emory Douglas, campaigning artist of the Black Panther Party and its first and only Minister of Culture, created a compelling, motivational graphic style. His Black Panther salute is an unflinching reminder of the mood of the late 1960s, and his art from this period, documents growing civil unrest and rapid change.
'Black Panther' will show how Douglas' visual messages helped to encourage a largely illiterate community to challenge the police brutality, economic inequality and social injustice they were experiencing, against a backdrop of growing civil disobedience and the assassinations of Malcom X and Martin Luther
King Jr. Working alongside Urbis, Manchester, and with support of lender and Black Panther historian, Billy X Jenkins, Emory Douglas has helped to select the materials to relive the story for British audiences.

Exhibit highlights watercolors

By Melanie Vignovich For The Almanac

When people describe artist Ruth Richardson's watercolor paintings, they use phrases like "wonderful" and "amazing" to describe the colors, layers, and depth of the landscapes and billowing flowers that have become signatures of her work.
But they could also be describing Richardson and her life as a woman and an African-American pursuing her talents, education, and career throughout the social changes of the twentieth century.
Richardson's latest work, including a series of abstract watercolors, can currently be seen at an exhibit called "Autumn Lights," presented by South Arts, at the historic Schoolhouse Arts Center, Bethel Park, through Nov. 7. South Arts is a nonprofit organization offering membership and educational opportunities for amateur and professional artists as well as any interested community members.
Born in Washington, D.C., in the 1920s, Richardson showed artistic talent at an early age; she recalls painting a picture when she was five that was chosen to be featured in the lobby of her school. She continued to take art classes throughout high school, experimenting with oils, acrylics, ceramics, and sculpture.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

From Hope to Hero: Political Art In Election 2008

Check out this discussion about visual imagery from the 2008 campaign, From Hope to Hero: Political Art In Election 2008 from one of my favorite shows, NPR's News and Notes.

What will a new president do for the arts?

Michelle Obama recently took some relatives to see a revue at a Chicago theatre. Her husband did not accompany them. He'd already been to see a production of The Color Purple a few nights before, and anyway, it probably wasn't appropriate: the show was called Between Barack and a Hard Place, and it made comedy of the last days of the primaries as Hillary Clinton fought vainly to knock down a man who, the show suggested, somehow managed to be black, white, Jewish, Latino, gay and, if needs must, a soccer mom too. He was something to everyone, and a liberal's dream.
Liberals may or may not see their dreams come true tomorrow, but whether Obama or McCain is elected the 44th President of the United States, we might wonder what will unfold in the arts in the coming years. Won't many writers and artists lose their muse - along with their enemy - when Bush disappears? We've had countless Bush-era movies, from Kimberly Peirce's Stop-Loss to Oliver Stone's W.; we've had books such as Nicholson Baker's Bush-assassination novella Check-point and Curtis Sittenfeld's roman à clef, American Wife, wondering at how Laura Bush turned from a liberal-leaning librarian into the Republican First Lady.
The past eight years have also produced a flourishing of political art, so much so that when a Los Angeles print publisher decided to produce a portfolio to be sold in aid of the Obama campaign it managed to extract designs from the likes of Jasper Johns, Richard Serra, Ellsworth Kelly and Ed Ruscha, and raised $3 million.
No, creative liberals won't be sorry to see the back of Bush. But might an Obama presidency be just too much of a good thing? Happiness writes white, after all. John Lahr, the theatre critic of The New Yorker, says: “Historically, in times when there is change or hope, there is much more protest and wideranging opinion and activity in Broadway's experimental theatres. People feel that someone will listen. What we've had for the past eight years is a kind of torpor and resignation, and that's made theatre lose a lot of heat. I think there will be a lot more political, polemical stuff.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Studios of Black American Artists

"Did anybody throw paint brushes or jars of paint at you, try to cut off their ear? Your ear?"

Thost are some of the questions I asked Dennis Forbes, only partly in jest, this week when I interviewed him about his latest book on artists and their studios.

In the popular imagination and sometimes in fact, artists are perceived as being temperamental, volcanic or reclusive. The more talented they are -- think Van Gogh cutting off his ear and presenting it to his favorite prostitute -- the more temperamental.

The artists in Forbes' book, "Studios and Workplaces of Black American Artists," are among the most talented in he world, which means he must've seen a lot of diva-ish or prima donna behavior, right?

Not exactly. "I didn't pay any attention" if there was weird behavior, Forbes said. "I overlooked it because I had a job to do. I was with each of them on average only about three hours."

Forbes, a New Bern native now living in Virginia, has written and put together a remarkably colorful coffee table book introducing readers to 84 artists who produce often magical works and the places where the magic happens.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Stars and Stripes

The American flag is more than a symbol this political season; it has become a necessary prop.

Each presidential speech comes in front of at least a dozen flags on poles; the more the better. Attention is paid to whether candidates are wearing their flag lapel pins (last debate: Barack Obama, yes; John McCain, no; Sarah Palin, a real glittery one).

At a McCain rally this week, country singer Lee Greenwood wore a flag jacket that would have been blacked out had it been worn by, say, Abbie Hoffman on a TV talk show in 1970.

Artist Sheila Pree Bright knew the volatility of the symbol when she asked a group of young people aged 18 to 25 to pose with it. Her subjects were from her hometown of Atlanta, as well as in colleges at Winston-Salem, N.C., Irvine, Calif., and in Hartford.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

This Photo Gives Me Hope

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Two Giants at Sumter Gallery: Portsmouth

Not one, but two major figures of 20th-century African-American art are currently featured in separate exhibits at the Sumter Gallery of Art. The concurrent exhibits — Romare Bearden: Prints and Benny Andrews: The John Lewis Series — are on view through Nov. 1.

In art, the 20th century was marked by a struggle for supremacy between form and content. Romare Bearden and Benny Andrews were among the earliest postmodernists to strike a balance between the two.

Bearden is most well known for his collages, but he was a versatile artist with a great deal of facility in a variety of media. During the last 20 years of his life, up until his death in 1988, he explored the range of possibilities in printmaking.

Romare Bearden: Prints is a modest exploration of his graphic work. The 27 pieces included in the show were executed in silkscreen, lithography, monotype, etching and a variety of combinations of the above.

It is in his prints that Bearden synthesizes the formal qualities that characterize his paintings and his collages. The flat planes of color and surface that comprise his collages blend with the loose gestural marks of his paintings to create a strong visual language.

He uses that language to describe subjects such as the social and political issues associated with the civil rights movement, reinterpretations of stories drawn from the Bible and mythology, memories of his Southern childhood and the world surrounding the American jazz scene.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Milton Hinton Exhibit in Chattanooga

African American Museum Has Reception For New Jazz Exhibit
posted October 22, 2008

The Chattanooga African American Museum will host an opening reception Thursday, Nov. 6, at 6 p.m. for the museum's newest jazz exhibits.

Playing the Changes is a collection of photographs taken by the legendary jazz bassist Milton Hinton. Hinton began this collection in 1936, when he first went on the road with Cab Calloway. Hinton took photos of his musician friends and colleagues including Billie Holliday and Duke Ellington at work and at play from New York City to Tokyo, in bars, bus stations, and recording studios. Playing the Changes is a major retrospective of Hinton's work.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Struggling Free

Fashioned out of stainless steel and bronze, the sculpture stretches upward almost 25 feet.
Figures clamber, scramble up the side of the piece - shaped roughly like a long, tapering pyramid - as if scaling a cliff. At the bottom of the sculpture, a woman surges out of a rickety wooden boat, her outstretched arms gripped from above by a man in work clothes, standing on the shore. Far above, a fleeing figure, carrying a stick with a bag tied to the end, emerges briefly from a tangle of branches and leaves. Even farther above, a woman and a man drag themselves up a rocky face, the tension palpable in their straining arms, legs and torsos.
But near the center of this new sculpture by Peoria artist Preston Jackson, which will be unveiled Friday at the Civic Center, are two figures that neither strain nor flee. One is an elderly man, who wears a hat and a bow tie, and who looks below at the man and woman emerging from the boat. He offers the struggling fugitives a ladle full of water from a bucket he is clutching. A woman stands next to the man, gazing at the viewer with a curious look of gentleness and defiance.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

MFA Boston Acquires African American Paintings

BOSTON, MA.- The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), recently acquired three paintings by leading African-American artists of the 20th century at the African-American Fine Art Sale at Swann Auctions (NY): Untitled (about 1960–64) by Norman Lewis; The Juggler #1 (about 1964) by Hughie Lee-Smith; and 715 Washington Street (1947), by Walter Simon. The MFA purchased the Lewis for $312,000—the highest price ever realized at auction for an abstract work by an African American artist, and an auction record for any work by the artist. The Simon, which also set an auction record for the artist, was purchased with Museum funds raised by the MFA’s Heritage Fund for a Diverse Collection—an art acquisition fund established in 2005 for the purpose of diversifying the Museum’s collection of American art. “These recent purchases are in keeping with our commitment to deepen the MFA’s collection of 20th-century African-American art,” said Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. “We are particularly delighted to have acquired works by these three noteworthy artists, which will find a permanent home in the Museum’s new American Wing when it opens in late 2010.” Untitled by Norman Lewis (1909–1979), is an exceptionally fine example of the artist’s abstract style of the 1950s and 1960s. The expansive composition and masterful rendering of color in a range of vibrant and ethereal passages evoke Lewis’s sophisticated contribution to the Abstract Expressionist movement, which he experienced first hand in New York City. Clusters of small figures created by calligraphic strokes of paint convey the artist’s concern with broader issues of individuality and society. Unlike many of Lewis’s works that suffered neglect, this pristine canvas was formerly owned by the important modern art collectors, Judge Edward R. and Rae O Dudley. Among his many accomplishments, Judge Dudley was the United States Ambassador to Liberia, the first African-American to hold the title of ambassador, and later Justice of the New York State Supreme Court. His wife Rae was a painter and connoisseur, who knew the artists whose works she collected and championed their careers. This Lewis was never publicly exhibited until it appeared at Swann Galleries. Lewis’s work is represented in major museums including the Museum of Modern Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The MFA, Boston has one early work by Lewis titled Harlem Jazz Jamboree (1943, Wein Collection), an energetic and expressionist painting that reflects a transition from Lewis’s earlier interest in Social Realism to his later abstractions incorporating multiple figures. Untitled represents the Museum’s only example of Lewis’s abstract work.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Jones Donates Collection to UA

TUSCALOOSA -- After more than two years of courtship, Paul R. Jones donated his vast collection of African-American art to the University of Alabama.
The new stewards of the $4.8 million collection plan to display pieces on campus and loan works to other universities and museums.
"It's significant beyond measure," said Robert Olin, dean of the Colleges of Arts and Sciences at a news conference Tuesday. "We've only begun the possibilities this gift brings."
With more than 1,700 pieces, it is considered one of the largest collections of African-American art, and was coveted by more than Olin and UA. But Jones said he picked Tuscaloosa for several reasons, chief among them is Alabama. Though he lives in Atlanta, he was born in Bessemer.
"This is my way of coming back home in wanting to give a gift to the state of my birth," he said. "This is a gift to Alabama and Alabamians."


PARIS—Senegalese artist Iba Ndiaye, 80, a highly influential painter of 20th century African modernism, died on October 5 in Paris, reports the New York Times. The cause was heart failure after a long illness. Ndiaye was born in Senegal, leaving in 1949 for a ten-year stint in Montpellier and Paris to study architecture, moving back in 1959, and a making a final move to Paris in 1967. After Senegal’s declaration of independence in the 1960s, he created a department of plastic arts at the National School of Fine Arts in Dakur and taught there until 1966.

At the same time, he and a number of other artists founded a Senegalese art movement called École de Darkar. He was known for straying away from the movement's primitivist, non-colonialist bent with semi-abstract canvases that referenced the School of Paris style. He was featured in several international exhibitions, including “The Short Century: Independence and Liberation Movements in Africa, 1945-1994” and “Africa Explores: 20th Century African Art.”

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Seeking the Self

This month, the Cultural Foundation of Broward found an innovative way to promote the arts while introducing audiences to a vast array of cultural experiences. Seeking The Self - The Art of Jonathan Green Festival, Oct. 17 - 21, celebrates the work of an important African-American painter through visual and performing arts. "Jonathan Green is a passionate artist with a drive to educate and create, and there will be more than a few unique elements about this multidisciplinary festival-an eclectic and dynamic array of dance, music, film, lectures, receptions, art for children, poetry and gatherings, as Green and the Cultural Foundation bring the term 'festival' to new heights," says Melanie Camp, committee chair for the event."Reaching out to numerous cultural organizations to create a broader experience - expanding on a wide range of workshops, lectures and awards programs, the Foundation has created a way to commemorate Green's artistry," explains Roberta Young, president of the Cultural Foundation of Broward.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

See It Before It's Gone!

DURHAM - It was only 20 years ago that 19th-century African-American still-life painter Charles Ethan Porter was discovered and belatedly ranked highly among his peers in the genre.
But he still hasn't been widely exposed -- underlined by the fact that an exhibition that opens today at the N.C. Central University Art Museum is only the second time he has been exhibited.
That makes "Charles Ethan Porter: African American Still Life Artist" a very big deal at the university.
"We're tickled," said museum director Kenneth Rodgers. "Without question, this is one of the more important exhibitions we've had here."
The museum, while exploring neglected and contemporary African-American artists, has presented mostly 20th century works.
This show, which runs through Nov. 2, includes dozens of still-life paintings that have never been seen in the South. Several recently discovered landscapes are also included, as well as some trompe l'oeil images of insects that have only surfaced in the last few years.

Douglass Sculpture at Hofstrsa

( - Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY – Hofstra University in conjunction with the Hofstra University Museum will dedicate a new sculpture, "Frederick Douglass Circle" on October 29, 2008 at 11:15 a.m. at the Monroe Lecture Center Courtyard, South Campus. The sculpture, designed by artist Vinnie Bagwell, was chosen from five other finalists by a selection committee including President Rabinowitz, Museum Director Beth Levinthal, Provost Herman Berliner, students and Hofstra community members.

"The drive for this sculpture came from a student referendum several years ago encouraging the University to invest in artwork that reflected the diversity of our campus," said President Rabinowitz. "Several individual students also came to speak to me to express their concerns over the statue of Thomas Jefferson on campus and the lack of any on-campus sculpture that celebrated diversity.

"In response to these requests a committee was formed to select a sculpture that should be added to the campus to address diversity and the accomplishments of people of color. The committee as part of its year-long process recommended a national competition that produced 26 submissions, resulting in five strong sculptural works by nationally recognized artists whose works were displayed in the Axinn Library for comments by the Hofstra community.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Call to Artists!!!

CALL FOR ARTISTS: 2-DimensionalCall to Artists for the Chattanooga African American’s Museum’s exhibit, The Candidate on the Canvas. This show is not about supporting a particular candidate, but is about the historical significance of an African American being chosen to run for President on a major party ticket. OK, right, um humm.

Artists are encouraged to submit works for inclusion in the exhibit which will run from November 4 to January 9, 2009. Pieces must be no larger than 36x36. To submit art, you must email a .jpg of your work by October 20.

Please limit to two submissions. All submissions must be sent to jhmckissic at gmail dot com. Please include the title, dimensions, medium, price of the work and short description of how your work reflects the candidate in the body of the e-mail. The subject line should read The Candidate on the Canvas Submission.

Artists will be notified of their acceptance into the show, via email on October 22. If your piece(s) are accepted, they must be delivered to the Chattanooga African American Museum on October 24 by 4:00 PM.

`Boxer' Basquiat Up for Sale

Oct. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Lars Ulrich, the drummer for the heavy-metal band Metallica, is selling a nearly 8-foot wide Jean- Michel Basquiat portrait of a boxer at Christie's International in New York on Nov. 12.

Christie's said the 1982 painting is estimated to sell at about $12 million.

``Untitled (Boxer)'' was among the highlights of a 2005-2006 Basquiat retrospective that toured several museums, including the Brooklyn Museum.

Basquiat's fighter, with a black skeletal face topped with a white crown, raises his gloves in victory.

``It's a proxy self-portrait,'' said Brett Gorvy, Christie's international co-head of postwar and contemporary art. ``The black artist as defiant hero.''

Pittsburgh: New Director for Multicultural Arts Initiative

Robert A. Reed, the new executive director for the Multicultural Arts Initiative, has traveled the globe as a musician and an administrator for various symphony orchestras.
But it's a trip he took as a fourth grader in Louisville, Ky., that may have made the biggest impact.

Stepping onto a school bus in his best dress clothes, the excited 10-year-old was on his way to hear the Louisville Orchestra on a field trip that for him was more about getting away than it was about the arts.

But as he listened to the orchestra from his seat in the balcony, he was struck by the music.

"The impact was just so strong, I knew immediately as a fourth grader that that's what I wanted to do," Mr. Reed recalled. "When I got back to school I went that same day to the band director and said I wanted to be in the band."

He asked for a clarinet and he's been involved in music ever since.

Mr. Reed, 44, took over the helm of Initiative about a month ago, coming here from Arizona where he was the former administrator and orchestra manager of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra.

The Initiative is a funding and advocacy organization that supports culturally diverse arts programming with an emphasis on African-American programs. "I've always wanted to be able to give back to my community, the African-American community, because the community has always been good to me," Mr. Reed said.

He called his position at Initiative a combination of giving back and doing something in the arts that is just "an intoxicating opportunity."

Nashville Museum Delayed

With fundraising stalled just a year before an expected groundbreaking, organizers of a planned African-American museum in Nashville have started talking to state officials about extending their deadline.

But backers of the Museum of African American Music, Art & Culture say they remain confident about their eventual success.

Kevin Lavender, chairman of the foundation behind the museum, said he has asked the state about adding 90 to 120 days to the Oct. 8, 2009, deadline to start construction.
"But we'd love to hit that date," Lavender said.

The African American History Foundation of Nashville Inc. has a 30-year lease on three acres of state-owned land at Jefferson Street and Rosa L. Parks Boulevard, on the northwest corner of Bicentennial Capitol Mall. The agreement started in 2004, three years after the museum was conceived.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

New Jersey AA Museum Celebrates 5 Years

BUENA VISTA -- The African American Heritage Museum of Southern New Jersey will celebrate its fifth anniversary from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 18, at the museum in the Martin Luther King Center, 661 Jackson Road, Newtonville. The event will feature a display of works by 24 emerging local and regional artists who helped fulfill the museum’s mission of helping local talent enter the world of museum displays.The celebration will include a retrospective of past exhibits, events and programs along with items from the museum’s permanent collection, which includes more than 9,000 artifacts and documents.

The museum will formally recognize those who have lent corporate, civic and individual support for its endeavors. The Borgata Heart and Soul Foundation; Anthony and Rita Mack of A & R Enterprises; Mayor Chuck Chiarello and the Recreation Committee of Buena Vista Township; The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey; the Senior Citizens of Newtonville; Dennis Levinson, Atlantic County Executive; Joyce Hagen, director of the Atlantic City Aquarium; and the Rev. David Mallory of the First Baptist Church of Richland will be among the honorees.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Art & Soul at the Telfair

Artist Richard Mayhew traces his fascination with painting landscapes to his African-American and Native American heritage.
"The connection to the land is very important for both cultures," he explained. "There's a sensitivity and concern for nature. My paintings are based on the spiritual feeling in nature."
"Landscape of the Spirit: Paintings by Richard Mayhew," on display at the Telfair's Jepson Center for the Arts through Jan. 4, showcases 14 original paintings by this contemporary color master. The works, which are on loan from Mason Murer Fine Art in Atlanta, range from 1983 to the present and underscore Mayhew's lifelong passion for nature.
"He takes the landscape as a loose inspiration," said Holly Koons McCullough, curator of fine arts and exhibitions at the Telfair Museum of Art. "He sees landscapes more as spiritual and emotional manifestations, rather than actual places."
Emphasis on color
In January, Telfair board member and African-American art collector Walter O. Evans suggested that the Telfair feature an exhibit of Mayhew's work and invite the artist to Savannah as a speaker for the Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Lecture Series. The series is organized by Friends of African American Arts, a volunteer organization devoted to promoting diversity at the Telfair.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Through the lens of a legend

South Loop gallery unveils photos by Chicago Defender photographer


Robert Sengstacke had always been artistic. In kindergarten, his teacher showed off his talents to his parents. The revelation that he could shoot photographs came a bit later, in eighth grade, during a class trip to Washington, D.C.

"It was in the spring, there were colorful flowers," Sengstacke, 65, recalled. "I took this picture, I took another. When I got through, it kind of blew my mind. I went through the whole cycle."

By age 16, he had his own studio in the basement of his house, and was snapping shots of teenagers and publishing them in the Chicago Defender, the daily newspaper owned by his family, serving as a touchstone throughout his career as he traveled in and out of Chicago, New York, Memphis and other cities.

Photographs from Sengstacke's vast portfolio chronicling Chicago's African-American communities and the civil rights movement are on display at Lusenhop Gallery, 73 E. 16th Street, in the South Loop. The exhibit concludes next Saturday, Oct. 11. The showcase marks the first time many of Sengstacke's works has ever been shown, said gallery owner David Lusenhop, who organized the exhibit.

"It was about showing a significant photographer whose work is under-appreciated. He was a fine-art photographer who came to photo journalism," Lusenhop said.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Bay Area Artist Looks At Obama

OAKLAND — The West Oakland studio of artist Githinji wa Mbire is 10,000 miles from the small mining town in Kenya where he was born. But through his art, the 45-year-old painter-sculptor has melded the two continents.

Tall and gaunt, Mbire uses materials from Oakland's streets to create works that are inspired by Africa, aesthetically, spiritually and conceptually.

His newest show opens Thursday at the Giorgi Gallery and brings the United States and Africa together through Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential candidate whose Kenyan and African heritage is celebrated throughout the continent.

If slaves originally from Africa built the White House, it makes sense one of their descendents should be in there, said Mbire, whose angular cheekbones reflect his dedication to being a vegetarian as well as his East African descent.

Featured at the Thursday show will be 25 sculptures and five canvases covered with the texts of Obama's speeches in the shape of the African continent to give the campaign, as Mbire put it, "some more juice and more vibrations."

Read the Rset of the Story Here.

African American Art Boosts Auction Sales

Christie’s evolving strategy of offering modestly priced postwar and contemporary art in specially marketed New York auctions is paying off. On June 30 the third installment of its biannual Open House sales netted $5,444,500, eclipsing the solid $3.7 million and $3.5 million achieved for roughly the same number of lots by the July 2007 and January 2008 editions, respectively.

Boosting the latest auction’s final tally were two collections of African-American art consigned by Washington, D.C., arts patron Peggy Cooper Cafritz and L.A. gallerist Alitash Kebede. The cover lot, Jacob Lawrence’s 1967 gouache Flight #1 (Walking in the Rain), sold just above its $150,000 high estimate, and examples by Betty Saar, Carrie Mae Weems and Glenn Ligon—whose flashe-paint and silkscreen Malcolm X (Small Version I) #2 (est. $20–30,000) brought $80,500— also performed well. But leading the pack were two 1960 untitled canvases by the Turkish abstractionist Orhon Mubin. Estimated at $10,000 to $15,000 each, they fetched $374,000—an auction record for the artist—and $200,500, from two European buyers. Records were also set for the American Abstract Expressionists Edward Dugmore, whose 1957 Blue-Black (est. $10–15,000) brought $116,500, and Beauford Delaney, whose Untitled, 1961 (est. $30–50,000), pictured, made $104,500, both going to U.S. dealers.

"House Proud" originally appeared in the October 2008 issue of Art+Auction. For a complete list of articles from this issue available on ARTINFO, see Art+Auction's October 2008 Table of Contents.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

I Am A Man Photo Re-created

It was the ultimate Kodak moment.

Two hundred men and boys of African descent standing tall on the steps of the Hanson Place 7th Day Adventist Church in Fort Greene . . . all looking straight ahead . . . all wearing T-shirts proclaiming, "I Am A Man" . . . to recreate a famous 1968 photo, and celebrate at the opening reception of the "I Am a Man" exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA).

The original "I Am a Man" photo was taken in Memphis, Tenn., during a strike by black sanitation workers, who held signs declaring they were men, not boys or buzzards. The men were demanding union recognition, plus better wages and benefits.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Check out this Bi-lingual Art Exhibit

In a world with a global economy, having two languages is better than having one. That's one message of "Bi-Lingual," a new exhibition at Spaces gallery focusing on works by 11 black and Latino artists from across the United States who explore the idea of having a dual identity.

Organized by Angelica Pozo, a Cleveland ceramic artist who describes herself in the show's catalog essay as "a Caribbean Latina with African roots," the exhibition is energetic and engaging, despite the presence of several installations that lack focus and concision.

The strongest works confront the viewer sharply and immediately with the challenges of straddling two cultures and translating ideas and experiences from one to another.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Bembo's Zoo

I found this cute website. I think you'll like Bembo's Zoo.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Preserving African American Art and Culture

Hundreds of years ago, when our African ancestors were brought from their native land to America, they brought with them certain customs, ideals and beliefs that soon became the African-American way of life.

Dance, religion, food and music are among the richest sources of African-American culture and sadly, they have become so mainstream that people no longer identify them with the struggles of slavery and the adaptation to a new way of life.

Since many of our customs have transformed American culture, it has always been a good time to be black. But today it is necessary for us to reclaim what has always been ours. Yes…we are proud to be American and we know that it is a privilege to live in the land of the free. However, we are also a people of rich history and we should not continue to the sell out our entertainment companies, exploit of our women and victimize of our communities.

African-American fashion, music, food, art and religion are cornerstones of black tradition. Slaves were forced to assimilate to the American ways of life but somehow maintained their practices and integrated them into American culture. Today, the preservation of this history is overlooked and oftentimes referred to as "ghetto" or "unpatriotic."

The dashiki has become a fashion statement. Purses, shirts, jackets and other items of clothing and jewelry bear this pattern. Yet, many of those who wear it are unaware of its origin and importance. Soul food is enjoyed by all races and is a product of the inexpensive resources that slaves were afforded after emancipation and economic oppression.

In order to maintain our significant position in the advancement of our country, blacks must be able to reclaim what our ancestors began and identify with our culture.

Although we have made great strides and have overcome the many setbacks of racism and discrimination, there is still much more to be done.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

RIP Brother Luke

'Brother Luke' Alexander, artist, activist

Philadelphia Daily News 215-854-5573
MANY A Philadelphia politician who needed a snazzy poster or brochure, button or banner to promote a candidacy turned to Luke Alexander Jr.

"Brother Luke," as he liked to call himself, never failed them over a 40-year span. He also did artistic promotional work for churches and numerous local civic and charitable organizations.

His creations, which also included T-shirts with cogent slogans, helped them get their messages across in a forceful manner.

Brother Luke died Thursday of a heart attack at age 67. He lived in West Philadelphia and maintained an office and studio in North Philadelphia.

In addition to promotional work, Luke did his own artwork, employing many mediums, which he exhibited across the country. In the late '60s, his paintings on black velvet were in great demand.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Slow Posting

I'll be in Louisville at a conference this week, so posts may be a little slow.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Obama portrait to be unveiled at exhibit

Chicago-based photographer Dawoud Bey will unveil a new portrait of Barack Obama on Saturday at the 2008 "African American Fine Art Show Chicago" in Bronzeville's Parkway Ballroom, 4455 S. Martin Luther King Drive. The color portrait shows the senator and presidential candidate at home. Bey will speak about his work from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday. Among the other exhibiting artists are painter Abiola Akintola, sculptor Elenora "Rukiya" Brown, painter Turtel Onli and photojournalist Robert Abbott Sengstacke (who also will speak Saturday). Admission is $8 each day, or $12 for a two-day pass. For further information, call 773-531-4313.

Banned Books Art Exhibit

An order by Burlingame schools Superintendent Sonny Da Marto in 2007 to take books out of the hands of schoolchildren landed him on an infamous list maintained by the American Library Association.

That list is an electronic compilation of book challenges and bans. That same year — when Da Marto stopped 116 eighth-graders in four English classes from reading "Kaffir Boy" by Mark Mathabane because a parent objected to a passage on Page 72 — there were 420 known attempts to remove books from classrooms and library bookshelves across the nation.

Today, the first day of Banned Books Week, American Library Association officials want the public to pick up a banned book — perhaps "Kaffir Boy" — and read it. Read it because it's available. Read it because our nation's First Amendment allows even the most painful and disturbing passages to run from an author's mind onto the printed page.

"The things that are challenged or banned are materials that say something," says Judith Krug, director of the office for intellectual freedom at the American Library Association, based in Chicago.

In Oakland, Banned Books Week is being observed with an art exhibit and public programs called "Banned and Recovered: Artists Respond to Censorship." The exhibit at the African American Museum and Library is one of two displays in the Bay Area that feature work by visual artists on the subject.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Annual African American Art Fest: This Weekend

Even without money in your pocket, it's easy to enjoy MOJA. The annual African-American and Caribbean arts festival, which kicked off Wednesday and stretches through Oct. 5, will be serving up plenty of free entertainment.
"This year, we have more free events than we have paid," said program coordinator Elease Amos-Goodwin. "Everybody can't afford to buy expensive tickets and go to the theater, but we're still bringing art to them."
Amos-Goodwin and her staff of 40 volunteers are committed to sharing MOJA with the whole community.
Aside from orchestrating a long list of free events, the planning committee has given more than 1,500 free tickets to local students.
"We want to make sure kids are exposed to this," she explained.
In its 25th year, MOJA's schedule is bursting with a sprinkling of nationally known artists and plenty of local and regional flair.
Dr. Renard Harris, an education professor at the College of Charleston, will perform Oct. 2 at the Harbor Grille as part of the free MOJA Storytelling Series.
"I'll play harmonica and tell stories in a rhythmic, lyrical way," Harris said of his upcoming performance. "I call it storytelling blues because the chords and the words intertwine."
Harris says he's excited to share folk stories from the African-American perspective with the Charleston community. His craft is inspired by blues and history, with a focus on the culture of black Americans at the turn of the 20th century.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Black Womanhood @ Wellesley

“Black Womanhood,” the exhibit at Wellesley College’s Davis Museum and Cultural Center, must have seemed like a sharp idea when it was being put together. It examines the ways in which “contemporary artists are challenging historic and often stereotypical images that present black women as the alluringly beautiful Other, the erotic fantasy, or the super-maternal mammy.” By now this is familiar, if still urgent, stuff; what makes this outing special is that it gathers more than 100 objects — traditional African art, Western colonial photos and postcards, and contemporary art — that connect today’s dissectors with the origins of the ugly stereotypes they’re working to take apart.

Barbara Thompson, who organized the show for Dartmouth College’s Hood Museum of Art in New Hampshire, does a good job of mapping the territory. But it’s an uneven show with a dour vision that leaves a mediciny taste in your mouth — and, I think, offers signs of a generation gap among curators.

Read the rest of the story here.