Friday, October 30, 2009

Roy DeCarava

Roy DeCarava, 89, whose intimate, often melancholy black-and-white images of Harlem life made him one of the most respected photographers of his century, died Oct. 27 in New York. His family declined to provide the cause of death.
Mr. DeCarava spent most of his career working near his birthplace in Harlem as he focused his cameras on lonely children, tired workers, expressive jazz musicians and bleak street corners. He collaborated with poet Langston Hughes on a highly praised book, "Sweet Flypaper of Life," in 1955 and received early encouragement from Edward Steichen, one of the formative figures of photography as an art form.
Mr. DeCarava (pronounced dee-cuh-RAH-vuh) chose African American life as his subject and photographed many high-profile black artists, including Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington and Miles Davis. Yet he fought against being stereotyped as a "black artist," once going so far as to withdraw his works from an exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Even so, he and Gordon Parks, with whom he had a long dispute, are often considered the foremost African American photographers of the 20th century.
His fellow photographers long recognized the eloquence of Mr. DeCarava's work, but he didn't gain broad public acclaim until a 1996 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The 200 photographs in that exhibition, which traveled to Washington and other cities, presented a world unto itself as Mr. DeCarava portrayed children with unnaturally aged faces, couples dancing in kitchens and sweat-stained men trudging home from work.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Questions on Diversity in the Arts

I have been spending a great deal of time thinking about the issue of diversity in the arts, specifically, the drive to diversify the programming and constituents of all arts organizations.

The more I consider this thorny issue, the less I am convinced that the arts world has worked hard enough to dissect the true costs, benefits and implications of recent diversity efforts.

Over the past 30 years, we were encouraged, primarily by foundation and government agencies, to become more diverse in every respect: we were asked to do works by minority artists, to bring diverse audiences to our theaters, and to diversify our staffs and boards. To justify funding, the argument went, we had to demonstrate our commitment to our entire community.

Having spent a great deal of my career working with arts organizations of color, I am as committed as anyone to the diversity of our arts ecology. I do not believe that we can have a truly great artistic community if all segments of our society are not represented well.

But I do not think I believe anymore in forcing Eurocentric arts organizations to do diverse works or to put one minority on a board.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Paul Goodnight


In 1963 Romare Bearden and fellow artist Hale Woodruff invited other artists to join a group. They later called themselves the Spiral group and meet at Bearden's downtown Canal Street studio to discuss political events related to the civil rights movement and the plight of blacks in America. Initially the group was concerned with logistical issues, such as obtaining busses to travel to the March on Washington in the summer of 1963. However, their efforts turned toward aesthetic concerns, rather than political. Spiral member Norman Lewis framed the question: "Is there a Negro Image?" To which group member Felrath Hines responded, "There is no Negro Image in the twentieth century—in the 1960s. There are only prevailing ideas that influence everyone all over the world, to which the Negro has been, and is, contributing. Each person paints out of the life he lives." Spiral sought to define how it could contribute to the civil rights movement and to what author Ralph Ellison called a "new visual order."
Woodruff suggested Spiral as a name for the group, alluding to the Archimedean Spiral, which moves outward and constantly upward. Spiral's First Group Showing was subtitled Works in Black and White. Bearden had suggested the exhibition's black-and-white theme because it comprised both socio-political and formal concerns.

Friday, October 23, 2009

So late last night I got great news. One of my paintings has been selected for the Out 100 Auction/Show in New York City. That's big news for me! The show curators selected 100 established and emerging artists from across the country to include in the show and my painting, His Little Soul Up to Heaven: For Ronnie Paris was selected.

More Information Follows:

The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), the GLAAD Board of Directors, our Honorary Committee and Arts Advisory Committee and this year’s Planning Committee invite you to join us for OUTAuction NYC - our eighth annual art event to celebrate established and emerging artists, while recognizing GLAAD’s Top 100 Artists.
Since 2002, GLAAD has produced this annual fundraising event to support our programmatic work. Part art auction and part glamorous cocktail reception, OUTAuction NYC is the must attend event of the fall season.
Come join us and bid on 100 unique pieces of art. Last year’s live auction featured work from Pablo Picasso, Herb Ritts, Steven Klein, and Marc Chagall. Past artists include: Ross Bleckner, Ryan McGinness, Patrick McMullan, Annie Leibovitz, Karim Rashid, Mario Sorrenti, Peter Max, Rosie O’Donnell, and many others. Celebrities who have participated in the past include: Tom Ford, Susie Essman, Patricia Fields, Eva LaRue and Junior Vasquez among others.

Leibovitz: Official White House Family Photo

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Selling Black Art: Swann

NEW YORK—In an era when black artists like Kara Walker, Glenn Ligon, and Barkley Hendricks command solo museum shows, top gallery representation, and healthy auction results, it's debatable whether a sale devoted exclusively to African-American art is necessary or even desirable.
But Nigel Freeman, director of Swann Galleries, which will hold its fifth such semiannual sale tomorrow, says it absolutely is, both for the opportunity to bring new artists to market and to achieve higher prices for those who are already established. This year's incarnation will feature works ranging from photographs from market newcomer Cornelius M. Battey, priced in the $1,000 to $3,000 range, to Hendricks’s painting Bid ’Em In/Slave (Angie), estimated at $60,000 to $90,000, and John Biggers’s lauded Shotguns (1987), expected to pull in a quarter of a million dollars.
Demand in the African-American market has been strong recently, says Freeman, with a marked increase in institutional interest. And it can't hurt tomorrow's sale that the art world is buzzing about the 40-some works that First Couple Barack and Michelle Obama have selected to install on the walls of the White House while they're living there, seven of which are by African-American artists (surely a better ratio than that at the average museum or gallery show).

David Taylor

David Taylor vividly recalls his reaction when a friend suggested in March that he consider running Charlotte's Afro-American Cultural Center:
"You're out of your mind."
As a former chairman of the center, he knew the challenges. And with more than 30 years in financial services, he knew it would be a daunting undertaking.
The center was in the midst of an ambitious fund drive in a sour economy.
It was preparing to move from cramped quarters at a 99-year-old church to a sleek uptown building.
It was struggling for a leadership vision after going through six directors in 10 years.
The organization was at a turning point, but the more Taylor thought about it, the more it appealed to him.
Taylor was at a turning point, too. He was mired in despair from the murder of his son and, at age 55, was looking ahead at the last decade of his career.
In July he took the job.
On Saturday the doors swing open on the $18.6 million Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art + Culture, expected to be among the leading black heritage cultural centers in the nation.

RIP Jenelsie Holloway

Jenelsie Holloway didn't allow her children to play with coloring books. She didn't want her two daughters to learn how to color inside the lines, to put hue to someone else' s creation.
She bought them plenty of paper, crayons, coloring pencils and other art supplies. Open your mind, she'd say. Draw your own figures and scenes.
Express yourself.
"She wasn't interested in us having a preconceived notion of what things should look like -- right or wrong," said her daughter, Charnelle Holloway of Atlanta. "She thought a lot about the things we would play with and the exposure she would give us."
It was the same approach Mrs. Holloway took to the performing arts. She exposed her girls to various styles of dance and theatre.
"She was an artist," her daughter said, " and that's how she decided to raise us."
In the late 1930s, Mrs. Holloway attended segregated Laboratory High, which was located at Spelman College. After the Spelman school closed, her class completed its studies at Washington High.
She eventually returned to Spelman, first as an undergraduate student and later as an arts professor. She taught at Spelman 38 years -- from 1952 until her retirement.
There, she influenced students like Lynn Marshall Linnemeier of Atlanta, a mixed-media artist. She remembers a final class project that required students to map out Africa, give an example of a regional style or artifact, then describe its characteristics.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Urban League Young Professionals

Support the Urban League of Greater Chattanooga Young Professionals Association by purchasing a ticket to Halloween at the Hunter: A Magnificent Masquerade.

OK, Not a Black Artist, But an Amazing Story

It's the flip side to the multimillion-dollar counterfeit. The art world is abuzz with the recent discovery that a portrait thought to be the drawing of an unknown 19th century German artist is now being attributed to the Italian master Leonardo da Vinci. And the way the revelation was made is straight out of a Sherlock Holmes novel: researchers traced the portrait to the artist using a 500-year-old fingerprint.

The 13-by-9-inch portrait, which has now been dubbed La Bella Principessa, is a delicate profile of a young aristocratic Milanese woman, drawn with pen, chalk and ink on an animal skin known as vellum. It was bought two years ago by an anonymous Swiss collector at the Ganz Gallery in New York for about $19,000. Experts now put the possible value of the artwork at upwards of $150 million. (See the top 10 most expensive auction items.)
The potential fingerprint wasn't a total surprise to everyone, though. Alessandro Vezzosi, a noted da Vinci scholar, stuck out his academic neck last year when he identified the portrait as one of the artist's in his 2008 book, Leonardo Infinito. He based his conclusion on artistic, stylistic and historic considerations. "There is some embarrassment out there," says Vezzosi, director of the Leonardo da Vinci Museum in the artist's hometown of Vinci, Italy. "Just looking at it, you know it isn't German."

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Invisible Man

Being invisible may be every child’s fantasy, but for many men and women of color in America, it has been a grim reality.
For more than 30 years, contemporary Boston painter Robert Freeman has wrestled with this issue, the same one that fueled Ralph Ellison’s landmark novel about race relations in America, “The Invisible Man.” Freeman approaches his subjects from the perspective of the educated and affluent black middle class, a group often ignored by the media. But with the election of the nation’s first black president, Freeman’s work seems more relevant than ever.
“The Obamas are the face of a black middle class that has been around and flourished for a long, long time,” Freeman said from his studio on Moody Street in Waltham, “even if it has really been invisible. With the first family front and center, attention is focused on the universal values they reflect, that define what it is to be a man, what it is to be a family. For a young black child, a black president is an enormous thing. I don’t think we have felt the full effect of his election yet.
“I think there are far more ripples going out right now that are going to turn into big waves,” he continued. “A new face of America is being presented to Americans and to the rest of the world, and it has made everyone think quite differently about what we look like and who we are.”
Freeman, 64, hopes that his two young daughters will benefit not only from the political change that Obama promises, but from a change in the white world’s perception of African-Americans.
“We should always have been seen as a beautiful, cultured, elegant people,” said Freeman, who grew up in Washington, D.C., and moved to Boston in 1967 to attend the School of Fine Arts at Boston University. “But it seems that we are just being discovered.”
Freeman, who lives in Jamaica Plain, has noticed an uptick in interest surrounding his work. According to the artist, gallery sales of his work are up 33 percent over last year.
He hopes that other black artists will benefit, too. The Clark Gallery in Lincoln has represented Freeman for years, but the work of few contemporary black artists are exhibited in the Boston area on a regular basis.
Freeman began painting the black middle class in the early 1970s. He drew on childhood memories of his parents: college-educated professionals who stepped out in black tie and chic cocktail dresses - images that would inspire his “Black Tie” series. But, Freeman says, at first they were painted with “scorn, scorn, scorn.” He, like many children of the ’60s, rejected the values of his parents.
The paintings feature black socialites in striking graphic compositions. They are aloof, self-absorbed and seem to resent the viewer’s intrusion. Their pretense, arrogance and materialism testify to an absence of substance and soul.
Over the years, Freeman returned to the “Black Tie” series. Today, 25 years after that first painting, it includes roughly 100 pieces. His work still focuses on the same subject matter: African-Americans in formal attire at social events. Freeman came to realize that painting the black, middle-class world of his parents was a means of understanding them and their values, as well as his own role as a parent and his place in the world.

Read the Rest of the Story Here.

Barthe in Mississippi

Sculptor Richmond Barthé was an odd sort. His neuroses often made him moody and solitary. His strange religiosity led him to believe he was the reincarnation of Michelangelo.
Yet the Bay St. Louis native was also a handsome and charismatic rover, adroit at charming others into picking up the tab when the bills arrived. It's a trait that served him well when, for example, he expatriated to Europe with hardly a penny to his name, explains scholar Margaret Rose Vendryes.
"He could talk himself out of anything," she said.
All was forgiven, it seems, because of the beautiful sculptures he produced. His works are noted for their naturalism and classical balance, as well as the frequent use of the male nude figure as subject matter.
Vendryes will lecture on Barthé in the presence of four of his works at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the University of Southern Mississippi Museum of Art.
The event marks the close of two related exhibits at the museum: The Last Years of Walter Anderson and the American Masters of the Mississippi Gulf Coast traveling exhibit, which, along with Barthé's sculptures, also featured the ceramics of George Ohr and paintings by Dusti Bongé and Walter Anderson.
Together, these four artists are considered pioneers of Southern modernism. Barthé, who was born in 1901 and flourished in the 1930s during the Harlem Renaissance, is today recognized as a groundbreaking black artist.