Tag: African-American Art

Angela Bassett and Band of Vices Gallery Curate Afro-Surrealist Art Show by Chelle Barbour

Angela Bassett (Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)

The ‘Black Panther’ star co-curates a new exhibition at Band of Vices gallery featuring Afro-Surrealist collages by artist Chelle Barbour.

by Jordan Riefe via hollywoodreporter.com

Artist Chelle Barbour’s first solo show, You Is Pretty!, at Band of Vices gallery in the West Adams district of L.A. through Oct. 13, is a photo montage series examining portrayals of African-American women in media. And if you look closely at the curator credits, one very famous name jumps out: Angela Bassett.

Longtime friend and fan of gallerist Terrell Tilford, Bassett, who serves as co-curator of Barbour’s show, frequented his gallery throughout the aughts when it was called Tilford Art Group. After closing in 2010, he rebranded as Band of Vices in 2015 and reached out to Bassett about playing a larger part. “I’ve been a lover of art for many, many years, so it was just a new venture for me. And when he introduced me to Chelle’s work, I was excited about it as well, about this young artist that I heretofore wasn’t familiar with but found her work to be really strong and really striking in many ways,” Bassett explains.

Barbour’s practice includes painting, digital video, photography, writing and curating. She collaborated on projects with Black Lives Matter at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in 2016; and has participated in a number of group shows. But to have Bassett play a part in her first solo show is just too much, she quips.

artwork by Chelle Barbour

“When I saw her name as a curator, I was like, ‘What?!?” Barbour explains. “I have been a fan of hers for years. I’m pleased that she likes the work, that she’s seen it. Her endorsement just leaves me speechless.”

With You Is Pretty!, Barbour poses questions about agency and beauty by layering visual metaphors over imagery of black women to evoke what writer and essayist Amiri Baraka called Afro-Surrealism. The women in her collages are alluring and confident, the opposite of more common depictions emphasizing a lack of economic value, or worse, irrelevance. By incorporating motifs like butterflies, flower petals and industrial machinery, she conjures archetypes of strength and potential.

“Chelle’s work explores that notion of the other or the alien or the marginalization, but she uses the black woman as her muse,” offers Bassett. “When I, as an artist, look out into the world, I find those voices, whether it be art or music or narration, that celebrate our beauty, our being different, as a strength, as something positive.”

Read more: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/angela-bassett-curating-afro-surrealist-art-show-celebrating-60th-birthday-a-list-friends-1140376

ART: New Exhibit in Chicago Gives Charles White’s Work and Activism the Attention They Deserve

“Love Letter III” by Charles White (via smithsonianmag.com)

by Amy Crawford via smithsonianmag.com

Born in Chicago in 1918, the artist Charles White always received inspiration from the struggles and triumphs of black people—major historical figures like Frederick Douglass as well as ordinary people like his own mother, who worked as a maid her whole life.

“Our Land” 1951 by Charles White

It was White’s mother who bought him his first box of paints, when he was 7 years old. He would go on to earn a scholarship to the Art Institute of Chicago, where a major retrospective of his work opens this month.

Among the pieces on display is the 1977 lithograph Love Letter III, which pairs a Madonna-like figure with a motif White often used to represent feminine life-giving and creativity: a conch shell.

A book on his work, Charles White: A Retrospective by Sarah Kelly Oehler and Esther Adler, will be available on June 19, 2018.

Source: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/new-exhibit-gives-charles-whites-art-activism-attention-they-deserve-180969007/#63kFiDTHT4RgRBZj.99

Sean Combs is Revealed as Buyer of $21.1 Million Kerry James Marshall “Past Times” Painting

“Past Times” by Kerry James Marshall sold for $21.1 million on Wednesday to the music mogul Sean Combs (image via Sotheby’s)

Ever since the sale at Sotheby’s on Wednesday night of “Past Times,” a monumental painting by Kerry James Marshall with a narrative centered on black experiences, many people have been speculating about which collector or museum might have placed the winning $21.1 million bid. The sale was an auction high for Mr. Marshall, and it was widely reported to be the most ever paid for the work of a living African-American artist.

On Thursday night, Jack Shainman, Mr. Marshall’s gallerist and dealer in New York, told The Times that the buyer was Sean Combs, the entrepreneur, fashionista, Grammy Award-winning record producer and subject of the documentary “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A Bad Boy Story.”

“I know that this work has found a home in a collection with purpose and an eye toward preserving legacy — that of Sean Combs, and that means a lot,” said Mr. Shainman, who has represented Mr. Marshall since his first show at the gallery in 1993.

The dealer said Mr. Combs was introduced to the painter’s work by a friend and sometime musical collaborator, the hip-hop recording artist and record producer Swizz Beatz. Swizz Beatz is also an avid art collector with his wife, Alicia Keys. Mr. Combs viewed the painting at Sotheby’s before the sale.

To read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/18/arts/sean-combs-kerry-james-marshall.html

Today’s Winning Google Doodle Invoking Black Lives Matter was Designed by High School Sophomore Akilah Johnson

“My Afrocentric Life,” by Akilah Johnson (courtesy of Google 2016)
“My Afrocentric Life,” by Akilah Johnson (courtesy of Google 2016)

article by Michael Cavna via washingtonpost.com

JUST LAST month, Akilah Johnson was “surprised and overwhelmed” when she learned that she was a national finalist in the “Doodle 4 Google” contest for grade-schoolers.

Akilah, a sophomore at Eastern Senior High School in Northeast Washington, has just been named Google’s big winner in the national contest, topping the 53 state and territory champions, whose work had been culled from about 100,000 student entries.

“It is really overwhelming,” Akilah tells The Post’s Comic Riffs, minutes after receiving the news Monday during a ceremony at Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif.  “I was so excited, I started crying,” Akilah says. “I didn’t even look at anybody — I was just looking at the framed copy [of the Doodle] they gave me.”

Akilah is the contest’s first winner from Washington, as D.C. was not eligible to enter the states-only competition in past years. (The Post’s Comic Riffs had joined the chorus of voices urging that the District be included.)

This year’s contest theme was: “What makes me…me.” Akilah drew a box-braided Doodle titled “My Afrocentric Life,” using color pencils, black crayons and Sharpie markers. The Doodle includes symbols of black heritage and signs representing the Black Lives Matter movement.  “Although it felt like forever making this picture, it only took me about two weeks,” Akilah told Comic Riffs last month. Continue reading “Today’s Winning Google Doodle Invoking Black Lives Matter was Designed by High School Sophomore Akilah Johnson”

ART: Toyin Ojih Odutola’s Stunning Ballpoint Imagery Explores Blackness and The Power Of Ink

Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Mineral Survey, 2015. Marker and pencil on paper. 14 x 17 inches (paper).

In the practical world, there are myriad shades of black.  For artist Toyin Ojih Odutola, this quandary doesn’t frustrate: It inspires.

In an August 2013 interview, the Nigerian-American portraitist recalled a moment of revelation: “I’m doing black on black on black, trying to make it as layered as possible in the deepness of the blackness to bring it out. I noticed the pen became this incredible tool. The black ballpoint ink on blackboard would become copper tone and I was like, ‘Wow, this isn’t even black at all!'”

Layering shades and types of black media, she realized, could bend how the colors presented in surprising ways. “The blackboard was like this balancing platform for the ink to become something else,” she said.

“Ballpoint pen ink is the reason I draw the way that I do,” Ojih Odutola told The Huffington Post via email. Though in the past decade of work she’s incorporated other media such as charcoal and marker into her repertoire, she’s continued to explore the themes of skin, blackness and perception in her portraiture.

“Growing up in America as a black individual,” said Ojih Odutola, who was born in Ife, Nigeria, and later moved to the U.S., “you can walk into any room and your skin is the first read. From this reality, I treat the skin of my subjects as an arena to expose contradictions — to expand and constrict.”

Her portraits, whether of white or black subjects, layer white on white and black on black, bringing out the texture and sheen of the skin rather than the shade or color we might typically perceive. “I build and build upon the surface various striations in layers,” said Ojih Odutola. “Some may describe them as anatomical, sinewy or aesthetically reminiscent of hair. This style is none of those things: it’s about texture, tactility and mezzanines.”

What does that say about identity, but more interestingly, what does that say about what we are accustomed to seeing when we see an image of a face or bodies? Toyin Ojih Odutola

By distorting the representation of a quality that silently governs so much of America’s social prejudices and injustices — skin color — her work pushes us to look at everything else about the subject.

“I became infatuated with this idea of filtering and transforming. Taking something concrete and very direct … and messing it up,” she explained. “It wasn’t about masking the source, but about stretching how an image can be transformed, what it can become, how it can be misleading and also revealing.”

Ojih Odutola found she wanted to question, more and more, how her work deconstructed our default views of identity, she said. She’d ask herself as she worked, “What does that say about identity, but more interestingly, what does that say about what we are accustomed to seeing when we see an image of a face or bodies?”

Toyin Ojih Odutola. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.

Unlike classical portraits, Ojih Odutola’s may not even be recognizable to the subjects. “I never looked at portraits as indicative of the sitters in any way,” she explained. “I looked at portraits as a means for the artist to create his or her own space to invent.” As a Nigerian-American immigrant, finding a space of her own has been particularly vital. “It helps me deal with that lost, powerless feeling of wandering around as a Nigerian-American kid not feeling like the ground I was stepping on could truly be mine … I wanted to create my own terrain.”

In the landscapes she’s created of her subjects’ very skin, Ojih Odutola has succeeded at creating her own terrain; but more than that, she’s found a way to help us all, slowly and deliberately, re-envision how we can see each other’s faces and bodies, without easy categorizations.

Toyin Ojih Odutola’s “Of Context and Without” will be on display from Dec. 11, 2015 through Jan. 30, 2016 at the Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City. Check out more from the show below, and find more from the artist at her website.

article by Claire Fallon via huffingtonpost.com

“Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks” Exhibit Showing at Brooklyn Museum Until August

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s notebooks are on display at the Brooklyn Museum. (Credit: Tseng Kwong Chi/Muna Tseng Dance Projects)

As a child, Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) was a junior member of the Brooklyn Museum, which he used to visit with his mother and where he got a globalist view of art history that would provide fuel for his own later painting. He’s back at the museum now, part of that global history, in “Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks.”

At the start of his career in the late 1970s, Mr. Basquiat was better known for words than for images: short, enigmatic, rap-rhythm phrases that he wrote on New York City walls and signed with a “SAMO©” tag. The phrases, like his Expressionist-style paintings, may have looked spontaneous, but the 160 unbound notebook pages in the exhibition show they were far from that. We see words tried out and scratched out, listed and rejected, sometimes accompanied by drawings. Some of the images are as avid and original as you would expect from this artist, but it’s the words that stand out. He was a poet who happened to find art first, and this is a poet’s show. (Through Aug. 23, 200 Eastern Parkway, at Prospect Park, NY, brooklynmuseum.org.)

article by Holland Cotter via nytimes.com

Bill Cosby to Loan African-American Art Collection to Smithsonian Institution

Bill Cosby
‘To me, it’s a way for people to see what exists and to give voice to many of these artists who were silenced for so long,’ Cosby said. (Photograph: Rick Cinclair/AP)

After amassing a private collection of African-American art over four decades, Bill Cosby and his wife Camille plan to showcase their holdings for the first time in an exhibition planned at the Smithsonian Institution.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art announced Monday that the entire Cosby collection will go on view in November in a unique exhibit juxtaposing African-American art with African art.

The collection, which will be loaned to the museum, includes works by such leading African-American artists as Beauford Delaney, Faith Ringgold, Jacob Lawrence, Augusta Savage and Henry Ossawa Tanner. The Cosby collection of more than 300 African American paintings, prints, sculptures and drawings has never been loaned or seen publicly, except for one work of art.

“It’s so important to show art by African-American artists in this exhibition,” Cosby said in a written statement. “To me, it’s a way for people to see what exists and to give voice to many of these artists who were silenced for so long, some of whom will speak no more.”

The exhibit, “Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue”, will open November 9th and will be on view through early 2016 in Washington. It will be organized by themes, placing pieces from African artists in the Smithsonian collection near similar works from African-American artists in Cosby’s collection. Curators said it will explore ideas about history, creativity, power, identity and artistry.

Some highlights include rare 18th and early 19th-century portraits by Baltimore-based artist Joshua Johnston, explorations of black spirituality in the 1894 piece “The Thankful Poor” by Henry Ossawa Tanner and Cosby family quilts.

“The exhibition will encourage all of us to draw from the creativity that is Africa, to recognize the shared history that inextricably links Africa and the African diaspora and to seek the common threads that weave our stories together,” said museum director Johnnetta Betsch Cole, in announcing the exhibit.

The exhibition of Cosby’s collection is part of the African art museum’s 50th anniversary.

article via theguardian.com

Artists Of The Civil Rights Movement Exhibit Comes to Brooklyn Museum of Art in March

witness
Benny Andrews (American, 1930–2006). Witness (detail), 1968. Oil on canvas with painted fabric collage, 48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm). © Estate of Benny Andrews/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photo: Matthew Newton, courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

Throughout the 1960s, a decade marked by an ardent civil rights fight that swept the American nation, many artists found themselves on the side of a burgeoning protest movement. From assemblage artists to Minimalist masters to Pop Art figures, those working in a wide breadth of media turned to art as an act of political defiance. They painted, sculpted, and photographed to comment on the social turmoil that surrounded them, creating visual symbols of resistance, liberation and empowerment.

An upcoming exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum of Art pays tribute to this period in U.S. history with “Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties.” The 103-piece show presents 66 artists of various races and ethnicities who created works informed by their own opinions of injustice and conflict 50 years ago.

The exhibition is organized according to themes like “American Nightmare,” “Black Is Beautiful,” “Sisterhood” and “Politicizing Pop.” Staged in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the artworks on display range from Jack Whitten’s “Birmingham 1964,” an assembled homage to the violence that rocked the Alabama town, to Norman Rockwell’s “New Kids in the Neighborhood,” a fictional portrait of two black children confronting their new white neighbors in the suburbs.

Many familiar images appear in the canvases and three-dimensional installations set to fill the halls of the Brooklyn art haven this March. Philip Guston’s pink-tinted painting of three members of the Klu Klux Klan will hang near Robert Indiana’s text-heavy indictment of the confederacy, featuring a loaded image of the American South. While these artworks conjure historical memories, other pieces — like Jeff Donaldson’s “Wives of Shango” and Emma Amos’ “Three Figures” — reference self-identity and blackness, many times using the striking image of the female form, reappropriating the reclining nude or the goddess stance as a visual for change.

Check out a preview of “Witness: Art and Civil Rights in the Sixties” below:

amos
Emma Amos (American, born 1938). Three Figures, 1966. Oil on canvas, 60 x 50 in. (152.4 x 127 cm). Collection of the artist. © Emma Amos / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photo: Becket Logan
indiana
Robert Indiana (American, born 1928). The Confederacy: Alabama, 1965. Oil on canvas, 70 x 60 in. (177.8 x 152.4 cm). Miami University Art Museum, Oxford, Ohio, Gift of Walter and Dawn Clark Netsch. © 2013 Morgan Art Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
lawrence
Jacob Lawrence (American, 1917–2000). Soldiers and Students, 1962. Opaque watercolor over graphite on wove paper, 22 7/16 x 30 7/16 in (57 x 77.3 cm). Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, bequest of Jay R. Wolf, Class of 1951. © 2013 The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
guston
Philip Guston (American, born Canada, 1913–1980). City Limits, 1969. Oil on canvas, 77 x 103 1/4 in. (195.6 x 262.2 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Musa Guston, 1991. © The Estate of Philip Guston

Continue reading “Artists Of The Civil Rights Movement Exhibit Comes to Brooklyn Museum of Art in March”

The Art of Being Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem

Thelma Golden. (Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders)
Thelma Golden. (Photo: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders)

If Thelma Golden didn’t exist, you would want to invent her. As director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, Golden brings her unique passion, commitment, style and laser-focus to every project she touches.

Being so good at what one does almost always stems from true love, and Golden has always been smitten with art. “When I was about 10 years old, a family friend gave my brother and I the board game Masterpiece, which involved figuring out who had stolen a great work of art,” the Queens-born Golden told theGrio. “The game included cards that represented the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago, and those deeply engaged me in the idea of a museum.”

However, it was her elementary teacher, Lucille Buck, who really brought her into the study of art history. “Mrs. Buck was an art aficionado and felt strongly that we should not only visit museums, but also learn about the art, artists and artworks we were going to see before our visits. She began my lifelong love of learning about art.”

Golden takes the art world by storm

Armed with a B.A. in Art History and African-American Studies from Smith College, Golden actually started her career at the Studio Museum in 1987, prior to joining the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1988. She spent ten years at the Whitney. Her first big exhibition as curator was the 1993 Whitney Biennial (always a provocative seasonal show), but she really made her mark in 1994 when she organized the controversial exhibition Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art.

The show ruffled the feathers of black and white viewers — and critics — alike, but opened up new dialogues. Golden says that in many ways, it was her dream show. “By having been fortunate enough to do that so early on in my career, it has really freed me to be truly curatorially curious. I had the great advantage to make an exhibition so wholly influential to my thinking and the ideas that I was engaged with that it has let me, in the intervening twenty years, follow my mind and my heart around the art and artists that I love.”

Continue reading “The Art of Being Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem”

Former Lover Reveals Wealth of Unseen Works by Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat's 'Museum Security (Broadway Meltdown)'
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s ‘Museum Security (Broadway Meltdown)’ painting estimated at 7-9 million GBP is displayed at Christie’s in February in London, England. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? More to the point, is a sound only a sound if someone hears it? Without delving too deeply into the metaphysics, this riddle offers an imperfect analogy for the philosophical conundrum more relevant here, namely – is art only art if someone sees it?  TheGrio interviewed Alexis Adler, a New York University embryologist and former romantic companion of iconic Haitian-American artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, these and other tacit questions about how we evaluate, share and make meaning of art played mysteriously in the background.

Adler, who lived with Basquiat before he was famous, recently revealed plans to share a previously unseen, thirty-year-old collection of art works and ephemera from the early career of the tragic and prolific creator. Produced during their relationship in an East Village apartment — some pieces on the apartment — these pieces have never been seen by the art world or the public.

“This is allowing the people who knew Jean to tell the world more about him, who he was, how I knew him, his warmth and interest as a person,” Adler told theGrio about her plans. “There is a range of work from that time, and it offers a pretty intense snapshot of his beginnings as an artist.”

Continue reading “Former Lover Reveals Wealth of Unseen Works by Basquiat”