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

(Media-Newswire.com) - 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.