Originally published June 11, 2018 in Bmoreart.com
“Throughout his career, Jack Whitten was a consummate innovator who explored and refined new techniques to visualize what he called “symbolic abstractions.” Rather than subscribe to traditional narrative painting formulas, or the idea that a painting must illustrate a particular idea, Whitten focused on the materiality of the paint and the process of making the artwork to construct meaning. Using a unique style of cutting small acrylic fragments from larger acrylic slabs into “tesserae” or tiles, Whitten created dense abstractions that function like mosaics and expand the contextualization of Black portraiture beyond representational figuration. Although he graduated from Cooper Union in 1964 and taught painting there from 1974-95, he did not gain significant fame until near the end of his life. Whitten recently passed away, at the age of 78 in January 2018.
Whitten’s contributions broaden the purpose and modalities of Abstract Expressionism, a field most notably recognized for its white male icons like Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, and Jackson Pollock. He and other classical Black abstractionists like Howardena Pindell, Ed Love, AfriCobra, Norman Lewis, Sam Gilliam, Mildred Thompson, and Alma Thomas queried the intersections of abstraction and Black identity. Despite the prolific accomplishments of those artists, very few of them are still alive to reap the benefits of the art world’s new-found appreciation for Black abstraction. Contemporary abstract artists like Julie Mehretu, Adam Pendleton, and Mark Bradford stand on the foundation laid by their contributions.” CONTINUE READING
Originally published May 31, 2018 in Bmoreart.com
“God specting womens to lay down and gurd up. Womens have to take boots on ‘deir chest and dress shoes, sneakers and cleats too. Women like carpet—all kinds of shoes gotta walk on womens.” – from Bootprints
Latonia Valencia’s dramatic play, Bootprints, is an unsettling but familiar narrative about death, family secrets, and the revelations of those who survive. Bootprints unpacks Black memory and the frustrations of younger generations who grapple with the histories, traditions, and secrets they have inherited. The perpetuity of Black mourning, Black grandmothers, labor, lace and wide-brimmed hats. Silk and sore backs from working as housemaids, Gmama’s hands, Sunday mornings, all these memories come into focus when Gmama dies. Her granddaughter Myeshia is left mourning her loss and remembering the impact of her grandmother on her life.
The play opens on Myeshia in conversation with her alternate personality Gingel as they determine what outfit to bury Gmama in. Gmama had a vast collection of colorful suits and each marked a significant event in the women’s lives; miscarriages, molestation, wealth, abandonment, love, failed marriages, poverty. As Myeshia/Gingel and Gmama’s apparition sort through the suits, they share their memories aloud as epic choreopoems. Like Ntzoke Shange’s timeless homage, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, Bootprints uses color, fashion and domestic interiors as cues for the emotional and psychological states of its protagonists. The play honors and humanizes narratives about southern Black women. CONTINUE READING
Originally published on May 4, 2018 in Bmoreart.com
“Waller Gallery, a new Black-owned art space in Charles Village offers refreshing programming and curation that showcases local and international contemporary artworks. The galleries premiere exhibition, Drapetomania, presents photographs and film by Baltimore-based artist Nia Hampton.
“Art communities often ignore indigenous people, brown people,” Joy Davis, founder and curator notes,“But there are pockets of “blackness” everywhere. That’s why Nia’s show is important. It’s about starting conversations with people.” Continue Reading
Originally Published in BmoreArt on April 6, 2018
"Skeleton bones rape and drag a woman along the fragile glass back of another woman whose body elongates into a pistol. Ornately beaded bullets bare the initials of Black men who have been murdered by police. Ghostly lithograph images of children smile as they dangle upside down, muscles and bones exposed to the gaze of onlookers. The urgency relayed in Joyce J. Scott’s sprawling collection of works is palpable in Still Happening in 2018, a solo exhibit at Goya Contemporary.
The work of MacArthur Genius Joyce J. Scott, whose 40+ year career has engaged benign crafting traditions to bring attention to the persistence of brutality against women, children, and men of color, is distinctly disturbing, offering stark depictions of violence which are haunting yet somehow beautiful." CONTINUE READING
Originally published in Sugarcane Magazine on March 9, 2018.
"In the afterlives of partus sequitur ventrem what does, what can, mothering mean for Black women, for Black people? What kind of mother/ing is it if one must always be prepared with knowledge of the possibility of the violence and quotidian death of one's child? Is it mothering if one knows that one's – child might be killed at any time in the hold, in the wake by the state no matter who wields the gun? Christina Sharpe – In the Wake: On Blackness and Being
Sites of mourning are marked by familiar objects; deflated balloons and toys strapped to light posts. Flowers and liquor bottles. Candles and candy. These indicators dot city landscapes and remind the community that a tragedy has occurred; life has been lost. Countless misfortunes are remembered with similar memorials, and much more go unsung. It is easy to overlook the memorials that proliferate the city.
What does it mean to grow accustomed to trauma? In In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, theorist Christina Sharpe describes the perpetuity of traumas African American communities experience with nautical and colonial terminology– the wake, the ship, and the hold. The conditions Sharpe articulates reveal devastating implications. Each new iteration of violence against Black bodies builds on preceding violence that ultimately trigger and reaggravate trauma on a cellular, physical and psychological level. Discoveries about the residual impact and long-term effects of racist violence on the body and psyche of African Americans are emerging. Still, I cannot help but wonder if Black identities are doomed to endure a perpetual state of mourning.
T. Elliott Mansa's latest work, a series of untitled assemblages, is informed by the perpetuity and materialization of mourning. Previous works engaged figurative portraiture to explore familial and socioeconomic themes that incorporated Yoruba West African cosmologies and folklore. Mansa has exhibited at Prizm Art Fair, Art Africa Miami Art Fair, the David Castillo Gallery, and the African-American Museum of the Arts in Deland, Florida, among others. I visited Mansa's studio in Tribeca, NY to build with him about the new collection and his transition from 2D portraiture into 3D assemblage." CONTINUE READING
Originally published in Sugarcane Magazine on February 22, 2018.
"Giving Up the Ghost: Artifacts/A Study of Power and Solidarity Against White Violence in Modernity, a new group exhibition curated by Niama Safia Sandy at Rush Arts Philadelphia, offers broad critiques and diverse perspectives about the function of power and violence. Works by artists Lavett Ballard, Tasha Dougé, Sara Jimenez, Asif Mian, Tajh Rust, Rocío Olivares, and Lionel Frazier White engage the subtle and explicit ways that white violence and power have been weaponized historically and remain inextricably tethered to capitalism." CONTINUE READING
Originally Published in the CUE Arts Exhibition Catalog for Peter Williams: With So Little To Be Sure Of
"Huge amounts of medical and scientific scholarship have been devoted to the question (assuming it is a question) of what kind of species Black people are and what characteristics they possess.”
- Toni Morrison “The Origin of Others”
Painter and mixed media artist, Peter Williams unpacks troubling histories of white supremacy and systemic oppression to create revelatory collective narratives about the persistence of violence against Black bodies. The devastating trend of unwarranted killings of Black boys and men at the hands of police officers, most of whom escaped federal conviction, catalyzed a departure from Williams’s lighter, more spiritual and reverent figurative abstract-portraiture towards more traumatic motifs. His latest body of work, With So Little To Be Sure Of, interrogates the systems and industries that perpetuate and uphold operational practices, legislation, and ideologies that normalize the dehumanization, subjugation, disenfranchisement and belittlement of African Americans. In With So Little To Be Sure Of, Williams’s focus on Black identity centers on the most devastating and distressing depictions of subjugation: naked, pants around ankles, cannibalized, bullet-riddled, beaten, choked, molested, brutalized, castrated, lynched, decapitated. At the core of the work, beyond the artist’s cathartic and obsessive need to reinterpret such vicious violations, is a call to action, a call to bear witness and awaken from what he believes is “an overwhelming cultural apathy.”" CONTINUE READING
Originally published in Bmoreart on January 15, 2018.
"Viewing Magnetic Fields at the NMWA by Mildred Thompson feels like freedom. Bright streaks of red and blue orbit an unknown source, fracture into dashes, and dot a beaming yellow universe. The movement of the lines is both erratic and orchestrated, broad strokes that shift and resound like musical compositions, like the frenetic combustion and reformation from which galaxies are born, the booming screech and coo of ‘Trane’s horn, Alice’s transcendent harp solos, or FlyLo’s auric soundscapes.
Standing before Alma Woodsey Thomas’ Orion, 1973 made me feel like an astronomer surveying an undiscovered star system. Thomas employs a technique she developed called “Alma Stripes” to flood a large canvas with thousands of red strokes. By leaving a small space between each stroke, Thomas creates a hypnotic pattern that recalls West African textiles or astral landscapes." CONTINUE READING
Originally published in BmoreArt on December 13, 2017
"Valerie Maynard is one of the most significant contemporary artists of our times, a legend who has always walked among legends. Many of her predecessors, like Charles White or Elizabeth Catlett, and her contemporaries, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, and Amiri Baraka among others, who have contributed to the canon of Black creative genius, have become gods for my generation, sanctuaries whose sacred books and visualizations I return to again and again for affirmation and critical discourse.
Long before the BLM movement affirmed the acute necessity for America and the world to acknowledge that black life matters, Valerie Maynard’s extensive catalog of sculptures, woodcuts and lithograph prints documented the humanity of African American experiences in Harlem New York, and Baltimore Maryland." CONTINUE READING
Originally published in DIRTDMV.com on December 11, 2017
"Heroes, on view at Kravets|Wehby Gallery in West Chelsea New York, features an intimate and inspiring posthumous exhibition of welded chrome and steel sculptures from former Washington, DC based artist, Ed Love. The eight-works displayed, all produced in the 1970s, reflect a period of extreme productivity for Love. In 1976 the artist exhibited a solo show of his sculptures at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and served as a faculty member at Howard University from 1969 to 1987. Studying and teaching at “The Mecca,” facilitated opportunities for him to be mentored and work alongside many other prolific, world renowned artist-scholars; Elizabeth Catlett, Alma Thomas James D. Herring, Valerie Maynard, James A. Porter, Lou Donaldson, Sam Gilliam, David C. Driskell, Lou Stovall, and Sylvia Snowden, among others. The works created by Love and his peers left an indelible mark, a defining proclamation that not only made black aesthetics more visible, but also widened opportunities for contemporary art institutions to consider the relevance of radical, affirming and challenging representations of the black experience. Without the contributions of those artists, and many others unnamed, who each expanded the visualization, inclusion, and canonization of black aesthetics, there would be no Kehinde Wiley, Amy Sherald, Ebony G. Patterson, Derrick Adams. No Sheldon Scott, Wangechi Mutu, Nate Lewis, Tsedaye Makonnen, or Adrienne Gaither. The struggles of earlier generations against the omission of black creatives from art markets is integral to the dynamic representations of contemporary art makers we see globally exhibited and celebrated today." CONTINUE READING
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