Friday, May 29, 2009

National Trust for Historic Preservation

As many of you know, one of my interests is historic preservation. You can help out the National Trust for Historic Preservation by checking out and bidding in their online auction. There are only a few more days left to bid. Visit the auction here. Luckily, their national conference will be in Nashville, TN this year. I hope to be able to attend.

The Trust is a great organization with many initiatives that work to preserve our nation's architectural and cultural history. Many of their projects focus on places of interest to African American history.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Art "Career" Update

Those of you who know me know that I've been a bit trifling with my art career lately. There's only so many times that I can get away with telling people that my painting is going fine, while glaring at them and daring them to ask a follow up question. I lost my Step Dad at the beginning of the year and them my Mom became very ill and had to be hospitalised for a couple of months. I had to really drop everything and help take care of her. She's fine now, and I'm ready to get going again.

So, I've been spending a lot of time (and a surprising amount -- I'm in the wrong business -- of money) on getting some of my prime pieces framed and photographed. But this weekend, I donated a piece to a local charity auction and it sold -- so that lifted my spirits.

I spend a lot of time posting on this blog about other African American artists, so I just thought I'd update you on one in particular -- me.
The piece above on the left is entitled Crown/Collar and is on display at a local TV studio.

Changing Art We Can Believe In

WASHINGTON, D.C.— The Obamas are revamping the White House art collection, and to make room for modern works by African-American, Asian, Hispanic, and female artists, they’ll be doing away with many of 19th-century still lifes, pastorals, and portraits that are currently on view. The art world is paying close attention to the process, as the Obamas’ decisions could affect the markets for chosen works and artists. Last week the First Couple installed seven pieces on loan from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in their private residence, including ones by African-American abstract artist Alma Thomas. The National Gallery of Art has also loaned the family works this year, by Jasper Johns, Richard Diebenkorn, and Edward Ruscha, as well as Robert Rauschenberg and Louise Nevelson.
Read more at The Wall Street Journal.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Musical Interlude

Michelle Obama Supports the Arts

"Nearly 6 million people make their living in the nonprofit arts industry," First Lady Michelle Obama reminded everyone yesterday during her remarks at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she cut the ribbon for the re-opening of the American Wing. "Arts and cultural activities," she continued, "contribute more than $160 billion to our economy every year." Those are big numbers, and it's good to see the First Lady emphasize them. They should make clear to anyone that the arts is as legitimate an industry as any other when it comes to government support in this recession. Those numbers should also make clear that $50 million--the grand total given to the arts out of the $787 billion stimulus package--is nowhere near what the arts industry needs.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Online Documentary: Colored Frames

I learned about this excellent documentary from BlackLines.

“Colored Frames” chronicles the struggles of African American artists for visibility and acceptance over the past 75 years. The dark tales of racism and oppression in the art world from a variety of artists young and old, is counterbalanced by the vibrant imagery of their works, which range in style from impressionistic collage, to abstract surrealism. “It was important that rather than simply being a collection of nice pictures, the film at the same time explore the core of the African American experience both historically, and today. Only this way can the audience truly understand and appreciate these works” said Wilson. Ugbode added “I’m not saying good films haven’t been made, but I believe that there is room in the celebration of Black History for new interpretations of that history. If only because history up until recently has been documented by the same people.”

Check out the documentary here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

What do you think?

Craig Wilkins

As a graduate student in Cultural Studies at the University of Minnesota, Craig Wilkins was struck by how people define space at hip hop raves. In the midst of dance, human presence defines architecture, not the other way around.
An avid dancer, Wilkins hung out at raves in the Minneapolis area when Prince was rising in popularity. He was fascinated with how music and dancing creates an identity and function for space. "No matter how many different kinds of people come to a rave, there's a moment in that rave where everybody's on the same page. Everybody's in the same place, whether that place is in a warehouse, an open field… I'm like, man that's a phenomenal, wonderful thing. Are there any other ways that can happen? How might I be able to make that architectural? Basically what architects do is shape space. If music can help create space and can help create identity, what kind of identity would a hip hop space make?"Fast forward 20 years, Wilkins is in Detroit, a professor of architecture at the University of Michigan and the director of the university's Detroit Community Design Center. He dances less, but retains an appreciation of hip hop and the notion that human activity defines architecture, not the other way around.

Wiley World

Here's a great article from the latest Advocate magazine about one of my favorite artists.
His paintings might resemble portraits by Sir Joshua Reynolds or Thomas Gainsborough, but little else is traditional about Kehinde Wiley’s approach to urban male culture.
From The Advocate June 2009

Monday, May 4, 2009

Tracing the Threads

I’ll admit my expectations are pretty low when it comes to new architecture in the nation’s capital.
True, Norman Foster completed a pretty little canopy for the National Portrait Gallery’s central courtyard in 2007. But over all the crop of monuments and museums that have risen along the National Mall in recent decades have been so mediocre that it seems to be only a matter of time before this sacred strip of land becomes a national embarrassment.
So the first reaction to the announcement that the team of Freelon Adjaye Bond/SmithGroup has been selected to design the National Museum of African American History and Culture should be a big round of applause. David Adjaye, the project’s 42-year-old lead designer, is a rising star in the architecture world.
The design’s strong, somber exterior — a stack of zigzagging blocks clad in shimmering bronze mesh — could be the most important addition to the mall since I. M. Pei’s East Building at the National Gallery of Art opened three decades ago.
It is also a history lesson. Mr. Adjaye, who was born in Tanzania and lives in London, says that the museum’s form is based on late 19th- and early 20th-century tribal Yoruban sculpture.
The sculptural reference is an obvious attempt to express the frayed cultural threads that link black America and West Africa. Yet it also carries subtler cultural associations: the stacked wood blocks, which evoke an African version of the Parthenon caryatids, remind us that Washington’s neo-Classical buildings represent only part of a vastly more intricate cultural narrative. The new design’s ziggurat-shaped form evokes the work of Constantin Brancusi, one of many Western artists who were profoundly influenced by African tribal art.
This effort to broaden the narrative of Classical Washington — and to challenge how many Americans still view their history — continues inside. Two huge stone canopies extend out from the building to the north and south, fudging the boundary between the formal world of the museum and everyday life outside. The lobby floor, which slopes down from the Mall toward Constitution Avenue, is a reversal of the conventional grand stair. Instead of lifting art up onto a pedestal, it allows the public to flow right through the building.
For museumgoers, however, the design’s greatest strength lies in the delicate balance struck between the need to move crowds and the stillness that is so vital to the experience of viewing displays. A dense forest of wood columns is suspended from the lobby ceiling. The columns dip down at the center of the lobby, gently pushing the crowds toward the edges of the room. From there, visitors will climb a broad staircase to the main galleries, which are on the second, third and fourth floors.
In a cheeky inversion of Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Guggenheim rotunda, Mr. Adjaye clusters all of the galleries at the center of these floors. To get to them, visitors will follow a series of stairs, corridors and walkways that will spiral up around the building’s perimeter.
The layout allows Mr. Adjaye to isolate the main circulation route from the galleries, which should give them a wonderful calm. But it also lets him forge a strong relationship between the inner world of the museum and the city outside.
Big windows — reminiscent of the trapezoidal ones at the Whitney Museum of American Art — will angle out toward carefully framed views of the city’s monuments. Rather than puncture the building’s bronze mesh skin, Mr. Adjaye gently stretches it to allow people to see through it. At other points the pattern is denser, so that the light filtering in will have a mottled, bronze glow, as if it were streaming through a canopy of trees.
(The changes in the density of the bronze mesh should have a powerful effect on the building’s exterior at night, too, giving it an eerie, uneven pattern, like a lizard’s skin, when it is lighted from within.)
Still, expect plenty of nail-biting moments in the months and years to come. The design is still in the earliest stages, and the high degree of refinement in Mr. Adjaye’s work means that its success will depend on the kind of details that have yet to be fully worked out. These include the precise layout of the galleries and the position of a number vertical cuts through the building that will be used to bring light into the lower levels.
What’s more, Mr. Adjaye has never designed a cultural building of this scale. Nor has he ever worked with a bureaucratic culture as byzantine as Washington’s. Finally, he will have to find a way to work with a sprawling team of associate architects without diluting the power of his original vision.
It will now be up to the museum’s director, Lonnie G. Bunch, to ensure that he will have the kind of creative freedom necessary to thrive in this former swampland.