“American African American, the latest selling exhibition from PhillipsNew York auction house presents an extensive collection of over 60 postwar and contemporary works from well-known and emerging African American artists. Phillips Senior Advisor, Director Emeritus of the Brooklyn Museum, and curator Arnold Lehman believes now is the perfect time to bring more attention to African American artists. “There has been a great history of African American art, certainly starting post World War II” Lehman noted during a brief phone interview. “It’s great momentum in 2018, but it started 70 years ago in 1950, and it’s been working steadily towards this moment… We could have gone back even further.”
“Sistrunk-A-Fair, a new week-long festival in the Sistrunk community of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, endeavors to make local Black creative histories more visible. Sponsored in partnership with cultural initiatives Art n Soul, C.R.E.A.T.E., Fort Lauderdale Art & Design Week (FTLADW) and The Art Fort Lauderdale Art Fair, Sistrunk-A-Fair will feature visual arts, performances, and historical archives about unsung visionaries from Fort Lauderdale, Pompano, Dania, Pearl City, and Hallandale. “We need something transformative, community-driven, and creative,” co-producer Emmanuel George shared. “This event feels special because it’s something that is more than just art, it’s to create a dialog through art.”
“Think about the main characters of films you recently viewed. How many of them were black women? How many had black female actresses as lead protagonists? How many were directed by black women? One or two may come to mind. Try to name 10. Are you having difficulty?
In response to the blatant inequity black women creatives face, filmmaker and writer Nia Hampton founded The Black Femme Supremacy Film Festival. The festival aims to promote dynamic cinematic efforts from Black female/femme identified filmmakers as well as “shake up the notoriously elitist culture of film festivals.”
“I found a need to have a ready tool to report unsafe building structures to the city. There was a lack of community developed solutions to remediate blight that wouldn’t result in significant displacement of communities. Community development in Baltimore and many other old industrial cities—Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis—results in total gentrification of neighborhoods, which is traumatic.
A lot has to do with communities having access to data about blight to create solutions that will be most impactful, sustainable, and least damaging to the people. It isn’t just that the buildings look bad; it makes you sick, exposes you to crime, raises rent. If you think of it as it just looks bad, you can’t think of the root cause of the issues. - Nneka N’Namdi
“t’s a way to allow the process to be shown just so it can have a dialogue with what it is to be human, continuing to be vulnerable, being okay with the process, and figuring out a way to allow the undertone to function. To pay homage from where you come from and how you’ve allowed those things to mold and shape you into the being that you are. It’s bigger than just showing it, there is a function, a reason for how it operates within each piece. It’s not necessary for every painting, but when it necessary I know when to incorporate it.” - Jerrell Gibbs
“Martin’s unorthodox approach to portraiture and distinctive aesthetic cleverly juxtapose myriad printmaking techniques with drawing, painting, sewing, and her own symbolic flourishes to create fantastical, spiritually intoned black figures. Martin uses grand embellishments, dense layering of geometric patterns from relief or callograph prints, decorative papers, and hand-stitching to realize intimate scenes of black women’s encounters with ethereal realms.
The worlds Martin illustrates are startlingly beautiful, meditative, and reveal the artist’s ever-expanding mastery of the mediums she engages. We recently talked to the artist about her latest work, spirituality, and the impact of the collection on the canon of portraiture.” CONTINUE READING
Arch Social Club
“A placard hangs in the foyer of the historic Arch Social Club that reads: “We are strong, moral men who believe in service to our community, preservation of our culture, friendship, and brotherly love.” Founded in 1905 by African-American professionals Raymond Coates, Samuel Barney, and Jeremiah S. Hill, the club is one of the oldest b men’s social clubs in the U.S., and one of the few remaining black-owned organizations to have operated while Pennsylvania Avenue was still nationally recognized as a hub for arts, culture, and entrepreneurship.
The club—which continues to serve as a cornerstone of culture, civics, and commerce for African-American communities in Baltimore City—recently won a $118,000 financial award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to restore parts of the building back to its original grandeur.” CONTINUE READING
Atomic Banana: Emotion and Hierospliffics at Waller Gallery
“Mak invokes a hallucinogenic aesthetic that remixes familiar iconography associated with American and Chinese nationhood— sports cars, flags, stealth fighters, space shuttles, weed paraphernalia, among other imagery, unpack his concerns about the irreverence of nationalism, capitalism, and patriarchy. The artist created “hierospliffics,” a stoner riff on the Ancient Egyptian writing system to deconstruct academic socio-political discourse into easily recognizable, but densely weighted symbols that confuse and disrupt their intended use as propaganda.” CONTINUE READING
“Africa Umoja—The Spirit of Togetherness is a beautiful musical about the history of South Africa told through the musical traditions that have shaped the country. “Umoja,” a Swahili word for unity, is a fitting title for a vibrant and culturally expressive theatrical work.
“Before Maya Arulpragasam became the genre-bending rapper M.I.A., she dreamed of being a documentary filmmaker and hoped to chronicle narratives she rarely saw, like those of her family, Tamil people, and other marginalized communities.
Now, viewers can get a glimpse of that world with new documentary Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.by director Stephen Loveridge, which premieres at the Parkway Theatre on Friday, October 19. The film offers new insights about the life, trials, and activism of an artist whose sound ruled the early 2000s.” CONTINUE READING
Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Celebrated in New Exhibit
“This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass, a pioneer whose tireless efforts to abolish American chattel slavery and demand equal voting rights for women and black men laid the foundation for longstanding legislative reforms. Douglass, a renowned orator, abolitionist and author was born a slave in Talbot County Maryland in 1818. Though the exact date of his birth remains unknown, Douglass adopted February 14 as his birthday.
On Thursday, October 18, the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Museum will celebrate the opening of Frederick Douglass Bicentennial, an intimate art exhibition that honors his life and legacy. Curated by Kibibi Ajanku, the exhibition features a broad selection of imaginative portraits rendered by accomplished illustrator Ed Towles.” CONTINUE READING
Afro Punk Ballet is a Sci-Fi, Futuristic Opera Like Nothing You've Seen Before
Originally published on October 4, 2018 in Baltimore Magazine
“The Afro Punk Ballet, an Afro-futurist opera written by composer Scott Patterson and Eric T. Styles and choreographer Preston Andrew Patterson, imagines a post-apocalyptic future where the lush blue green of our world is scorched dusty red by the heat of two suns. “There used to be a river here” General Levi (played by Jarrod Lee) bellows with lament over the devastation wreaked by his greatest invention, the creation of a second sun. His miraculous discovery threatens to destroy all life in the galaxy. What compels a man to generate a second sun? His daughters Corfazsia (Jocelyn Hunt) and Jakub (Alicia Wiliams) are charged to answer that question. We, the audience, watch to see if the world will collapse before they can.” CONTINUE READING
Story Behind One of the First African American Millionaires Highlighted in New Documentary
Originally Published on October 2, 2018 in Baltimore Magazine
“The Sara Spencer Washington Story, a short documentary from Baltimore-raised, New York-based filmmaker Royston Scott, is one of nearly 100 films from 16 countries screening this week at the Fifth Annual Baltimore International Black Film Festival. Scott offers a compelling glimpse into the vast accomplishments of his grandmother, Sara Spencer Washington, one of the first African-American millionaires.
In 1920, Sara Spencer Washington, notably recognized as “The Madame,” founded Apex News and Hair Company, a black-owned-and-operated beauty brand empire. Apex capitalized on the absurdity of American segregation by targeting consumers white beauty brands refused to acknowledge. Apex advertisements centered around black aesthetics and showcased the style and humanity of African-American culture.” CONTINUE READING
Helina Metaferia Refiguring the Canon at Hamiltonian Gallery
Originally Published September 5, 2018 in BmoreArt.com
“Helina Metaferia lies on her back in the middle of the floor of the National Gallery of Art. Robert Motherwell’s monumental abstraction “Reconciliation Elegy” (1978) hangs ominously above her. Many patrons, most older white couples, quickly pass by. Others sit or stand at a distance to watch for signs of life. Few stay long enough to ensure that she is, in fact, alive and well. In the rare moments when Metaferia does move, the shifts are deliberate; she turns heavily from a position on her back to her stomach, then resumes her paralysis on the museum floor.
How ironic I thought, to be a black mass on the floor of a largely white institution–the proverbial fly on the wall, where the mass is reduced to a speck no one deems worthy enough to consider. In Metaferia’s latest solo exhibition, Refiguring the Canon at Hamiltonian Gallery in Washington, D.C., documentation from this performance, “The Mother,” and others accompany elaborate collage installations that incorporate imagery and text from contemporary Western artworks, art archives, and classical antiquities.” CONTINUE READING
Abstract Truths: A Studio Visit with Contemporary Artist Gregory Coates
Originally published August 2, 2018 in Sugarcane Magazine
“The artist, a consummate innovator, investigates the ways simple forms can embody and illicit and empathetic response from viewers. Coates considers his creations to be “social abstractions”, deeply personal works that are informed by the artists lived experiences, memories or familial encounters, but comment on broader political or cultural issues.” CONTINUE READING
Black Portraiture: Fabric, Face, And Form
Originally published July 26, 2018 in Bmoreart.com
“The contemporary art world is experiencing a renaissance in Black portraiture. A new generation of master realist painters like Kehinde Wiley, T. Eliott Mansa, Jas Knight and Ronald Jackson build upon a foundation laid by earlier figurative artists like Charles White, Augusta Savage, John Biggers, and Elizabeth Catlett. Their figurations not only visualized black identities with agency and humanity, but exuberantly revised histories of portraiture that uniformly presented non-white representations as submissive props. In those historical portraits, Black subjects were often painted in acts of service and relegated to the background of elaborate renderings of white nobility. Jackson’s portraits counter these histories by rendering Black subjects in imaginative and layered narratives that he calls “collage portraits” or oil paintings that incorporate stylistic approaches of collage.
Profiles of Color III: Fabric, Face, & Form, Ronald Jackson’s latest collection currently exhibited at Galerie Myrtis, references Arkansas rural culture and violent racist history, the fantastical elements of Magical Realism and the emotional and psychological tropes of Romanticism to offer a stunning appraisal of Black aesthetics. Floral and geometric prints and vibrant fabrics are harmoniously incorporated in large expressive oil paintings.
Masked and fashion forward subjects confront your gaze, peer into the heart of the matter with unabashed directness, as if they were proclaiming, “You will see me and know that I am beautiful, powerful, and worthy of representation.” The collection is breathtaking, incredibly inspiring, and exquisitely executed.
Ronald and I conducted a FaceTime interview to discuss his process, the characters he depicts, and the importance of Black figuration.” CONTINUE READING
Jack Whitten: Space, Time, Mythology and History
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
“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
Nia Hampton, Drapetomania and New Artists at Waller Gallery
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
Still Happening in 2018: Violence and Catharsis on Exhibit at Goya Contemporary
"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
T. Elliott Mansa: I Can't Breathe -- The Perpetuity of Mourning
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
Giving Up the Ghost: Artifacts/A Study of Power and Solidarity Against White Violence in Modernity
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
Histories of Violence
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
Abstract Freedom, Spiritual Emancipation: Expanding American Abstraction 1960s to Today at the National Museum of Women in the Arts
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
Valerie Maynard’s Solo Exhibit Devotion at New Door Creative Explores the Human Condition through Printmaking
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
Ed Love Heroes at Kravets|Wehby Gallery NY
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
Black Adaptation, Resilience and Innovation: Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of The Swamp
Originally published November 27, 2017 in Sugarcane Magazine
"Like the lotus, a flower that thrives in unfathomable environments, seventy-three artists offer critical and whimsical explorations on present and historic instances of resilience and imagined futures for communities in the American South, Global South and beyond. The fourth iteration of its triennial art review, Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp, is situated in fifteen venues off the coast of the Mississippi and a host of satellite locations at smaller galleries around the city. As the title suggests, Prospect riffs on mythologies associated with the city, and considers water as an environmental element and a signifier for reflection, transit, and transformation. Water and associated themes like Maafa, globalization, colonization, and climate change also recur as major points of inquiry." CONTINUE READING
Envisioning and Embodying Freedom
Originally Published November 16, 2017 in Bmoreart.com
" Wh every brave #METOO declaration, every future reduced to a tally of Baltimore’s rising death toll, every lie told in defense of white supremacy, I am reminded how fragile freedom has always been for so many. We, the ones who are sexualized, silenced and shamed, surveilled and arrested, murdered and brutalized, humiliated, appropriated and blacklisted walk with the weight and residue of institutionalized inequity, patriarchy, racism, classism, and incomprehensible ignorance.
In the face of an overwhelming persistence of local, national, and international disparities, corruptions and assaults on basic civil liberties, it is telling and timely that Dr. H Corona and Dr. A. Pinkston chose freedom as an explorative prompt for participants in LabBodies‘ annual Performance Art Review at SpaceCamp this month, where a collection of immersive installations and live performances have transformed the gallery into a site for critical discourse on freedom. Freedom Free-Done examines all of this and more, but also offers reflective affirmations visualizing freedom’s potential, and how collective and individual imaginings about freedom can dismantle the decrepit and exclusive systems that threaten to destroy the world." CONTINUE READING
Tell the Truth About Me: The Rated PG Black Arts Festival
Originally published on November 1, 2017 in Bmoreart.com
"The Rated PG Black Arts Festival is the first event of its kind in the region hosted by Prince George’s African American Museum and Cultural Center (PGAAMCC), a historic institution nestled in the small community of Brentwood. Curated by artist Yaya Bey, the festival is a collaborative mashup of contemporary visual and performance artists based in the DMV who visualize and celebrate the contributions of Black women.
“It’s about reclaiming the Black aesthetic,” Bey explains. “When you see us in the media, [we are] presented as monolithic. I wanted to show us as dimensional.” The exhibition, Tell the Truth About Me, spans three galleries and features the work of Lakela Brown, Alanna Fields, Nakeya Brown, Shan Wallace, Adrienne Gaither, Monique Muse Dodd, and the cast of the short film series 195 Lewis.
Whiteness, and more explicitly, the aesthetics of white women, has set the standard for beauty around the world. Straight rather than kinky hair, thin rather than broad nose or lips, light or pale skin instead of dark complexions; the proliferation of white beauty standards has catalyzed unsettling trends. Women of color are more prone to depression, low self-esteem, and the purchase of products or medical procedures to more closely resemble white women. According to the World Health Organization, 25% of Malaysian, 77% of Nigerian, 27% of Senegalese, 35% South African, 59% Togo, 61% of India, and 40% of women surveyed in China have purchased skin lightening products. The implications of this data reveal the devastating power of advertising, and the resultant isolation and Othering that women of color encounter." CONTINUE READING
Championing Inclusivity: Melani N. Douglass on her new role as Director of Public Programs at the NMWA
Originally published on October 18, 2017 in BmoreArt.com
Melani Douglass has long been a champion for inclusivity. The programming she curated through the Family Arts Museum while an MFA Curatorial Practice Graduate student and as a Fellow in the inaugural cohort of the Urban Arts Leadership Program, facilitated numerous collaboration between community members and local arts institutions. Douglass’s curatorial efforts have consistently explored intersections between art, race and environment.
The power of her engagements is encapsulated in the principles that found their creation: in fostering healthy and sustainable pipelines between artists, arts institutions and communities. Douglass expounds on this mission in her new role as Director of Public Programs at the National Museum of Women in the Arts. Douglass and I talked about her position, upcoming exhibitions she is excited about, and collaborations between artists and institutions in Baltimore and DC. CONTINUE READING
Black Magic: AfroPasts/AfroFutures at Honfleur Gallery
Originally published on September 15, 2017 in Bmoreart.com
"Black Magic: AfroPasts/AfroFutures mines the Afro-diasporic visions, dreams and psychedelic premonitions of eight visual artists: Pierre Bennu, Jamea Richmond-Edwards, Ivan Forde, Adama Delphine Fawundu, Adrienne Gaither, Charles Jean-Pierre, Tariku Shiferaw, Danny Simmons, and also includes a literary contribution from Chlöe Bass. The collection at Honfleur Gallery in Washington DC assembled by Anthropologist/Curator Niama Safia Sandy is situated in distant, contemporary and future worlds that channel Afrofuturist and magical realist theory and literature. It harkens back to the exhibit of the same name Sandy curated in Brooklyn in 2016, but features different artists from DC and Baltimore instead." CONTINUE READING
The Residue of Representation: Adam Pendleton
Originally published in Bmoreart.com on September 11, 2017
"Adam Pendleton’s Wall Works, a term he coined to describe his massive floor-to-ceiling collage installations, are subtle, subversive, and saturated with obscure and purposefully convoluted content. On display at the Baltimore Museum of Art’s expansive lobby wall and in the Front Room Gallery, Pendleton codes his work with bold black and white iconography. Although they resemble graphic design and industrial printing methods, Pendleton’s iterations evade clarity, questioning about the role of language in social resistance movements.
Unlike the lobby, where Pendleton’s designs fill one two-story wall like wallpaper, the exhibit in the Front Room is completely immersive, with Wall Works on all sides. I wasn’t sure how to respond to the work when I first encountered it, and could not help but play the chorus from Erykah Badu’s classic anthem “… & On” in my head: What good do your words do if they can’t understand you / Don’t go talking that shit, Badu. Badu.
Wall Works warrant deep consideration of languages, both known and unknowable, and offer a push and pull between the legible and illegible components of abstraction, the histories I could discern and the ones too obstructed to decode." CONTINUE READING
Reflections on Black Masculinities at Gallery CA in Baltimore
Originally published on August 25, 2017 in Arts.Black
t has been more than twenty years since the prolific scholar and curator Thelma Golden organized her seminal exhibition Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art at The Whitney Museum of American Art. Some critics praised the collection for its broad depictions of black masculinity, which included perspectives from artists that neither identified as black or male. Most critics, however, considered the collection as exploitative, problematic, and not reflective enough of everyday black male identities. When the show traveled from New York to UCLA’s Armand Hammer Museum of Art and Cultural Center, it was met with protests, and counter-exhibitions by those who felt the work did not reflect their ideas or lived experiences of black masculinity. Golden maintained that the exhibition was not intended to be a “survey on black men” or a “catalog of types” rather, the exhibition worked as a sprawling mirror, a museum of refracted perspectives and imaginaries about black masculinity.
The aroused, triggered, enraged and enamored responses Black Male evoked ripple into contemporary dialogues. We artists, curators, critics, and patrons of color, each persist in our struggles to complete works that are at once contemplative of black and brown, queer and non-gender specific, marginal and interstellar representation, but not singularly limited to racialized, gendered, sexually oriented or planar contextualization. One wonders if works created by black artists that feature black subjects, will ever be conceived beyond the identities assumed of the bodies portrayed; if black art can ever just be, art.
Gallery CA which rests in the gritty and quickly gentrifying arts enclave of Greenmount West in East Baltimore City is no Whitney Museum. The humble gallery resides on the bottom level of a low-income housing apartment complex that frequently opens its doors to Charm City’s emerging and established artists. Despite the city’s nearly 64% black population, it is still rare for art works created by regional black artists and other artists of color to receive solo exhibitions at major art institutions and museums. Rarer still for those exhibitions to be curated by black artists, and representation of people of color in arts administrator roles are abysmally deficient. And yet, Two Lanes Stories, an exhibition currently on view at the at Gallery CA, falls in line with the spirit and intention of Black Male and prompts similar queries towards deeper and broader black masculine identity definitions by resisting caricature. CONTINUE READING
Paintings, Ritual and Other Worlds. When Watching God at Gallery 102, Asha Elana Casey
Originally published August 9, 2017 on Bmoreart.com
"When Watching God, the sophomore solo exhibition from emerging artist Asha Elana Casey, curated by Gallery 102 Director Andy Johnson at The Corcoran School of the Arts & Design at GW, juxtaposes texturally dense black and white abstraction with figurative portraiture to visualize West African rituals and transcendental states of consciousness.
The metaphysical, meditative landscapes Casey invokes are derived from the ritual iconography of pre-Abrahamic spiritual systems that proliferated throughout the African Diaspora as a result of the Transatlantic Slave Trade; IFA, Akom and Haitian Voudoun. I sat with the artist at Gallery 102 to discuss her influences and intentions." CONTINUE READING
In Memoriam: Goodman's Girls
Originally published July 28, 2017 on Bmoreart.com
"The Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center presents Botany, the first solo exhibition of mixed media artist Clare Elliott. “My artwork is about highlighting the relationships and the love that I have and how they are important to me,” Elliott offered during our brief interview.
The direction of the show changed when Elliott learned that her godmother, Lori S. Goodman, an esteemed dancer/choreographer with Arena Players and award-winning instructor of Western High School Dance Team, passed away from lupus. Elliott grew up in Northwest Baltimore and attended Western High School. “I’ve known [Goodman] since I was 14 years old. You think fundamentally in the time that you mature; you become who you are. She was a huge part of that.”
In response, Elliott rallied her community of Western Alumni and members of Goodman’s family together to create a profound memorial. Goodman’s Girls, the prominent collection within the Botany exhibition, features twenty-eight small collaged portraits of women who were deeply impacted by Goodman’s tutelage and mentorship." CONTINUE READING
Mystical Bloody Magic. Bloodlines at Transformer DC
Originally published June 22, 2017 in Bmoreart.com
"Bloodlines at Transformer DC curated by Martina Dodd features fine and performance artists who work with blood as a medium and metaphor for the familial, feminine and/or spiritual experiences all women encounter. Artists Lisa Hill, Tsedaye Makonnen, Samera Paz, Iman Person and members of the aje collective, made up of queer Black trans-media artists, each honor, interpret and display their personal connections to blood, motherhood, women’s bodies and menstrual cycles." CONTINUE READING
This is the last week Bloodlines will be on display at Transformer DC (Closes June 24, 2017). Be sure to visit www.transformerdc.org for more info and visit the show before it closes this weekend.
"People of Color. People of Clay." at Baltimore Clayworks folds memory, history, and identity into the earth
Originally published June 21, 2017 in Baltimore City Paper
"For thousands of years people all over the world have used materials sourced from the earth to record and grapple with cultural histories, memories, and identities in the form of masterful ceramics, tiles, and tools. Baltimore Clayworks' latest exhibition, "People of Color. People of Clay.," features a vast collection of works by 30 contemporary artists who continue this human tradition, folding their own stories into the earth." CONTINUE READING
"People of Color. People of Clay." is up at Baltimore Clayworks through July 1. For more info, visitbaltimoreclayworks.org
Escape Artists: The 2017 Sondheim Finalists in Review
Originally published June 19, 2017 in BmoreArt.com
"Inspired by early American figurative painting, Mequitta Ahuja’s huge portraits critique and engage the tradition of painting and the greater art historical canon. By featuring masterly rendered images of black women, primarily self-portraits in classical poses, the collection produces what Ahuja terms, “meaningful fictions,” to make atypical subjects, and the typically unnoticed compositional and aesthetic conventions of early figurative painting more visible." CONTINUE READING
More Sondheim Info:
The Walters and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts are partnering to present the Sondheim Artscape Prize Finalists’ Exhibition, one of summer’s most anticipated events. On view at the Walters Saturday, June 17 through Sunday, August 13, the exhibition showcases the work of the seven finalists competing for the Janet & Walters Sondheim Artscape Prize, a $25,000 fellowship that is awarded each year by an independent panel of jurors to a visual artist or visual artist collaborators living and working in the Greater Baltimore region. This year’s finalists are all based in Baltimore.
The winner will be announced at an award ceremony and reception at the Walters on Saturday, July 15, at 7 p.m., with extended gallery hours from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. This year’s jurors are: Ruba Katrib, curator at SculptureCenter in Long Island City, New York, where she organizes exhibitions, educational and public programs, and publications, and coordinates program presentation; Clifford Owens, a New York-based contemporary artist who works in performance, photography, text, and video; and Nat Trotman, associate curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.
The Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize is held in conjunction with Artscape, America’s largest free arts festival, and is produced by the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts. Artscape runs from July 21 through July 23 along Mount Royal Avenue and North Charles Street. Additionally, an exhibition of the semifinalists’ work is shown in the Decker and Meyerhoff galleries at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) Friday, July 21 through Sunday, August 6.
Wilde Thyme: Food Accessibility, Art & Social Change
Originally published June 12, 2017 in Bmoreart.com
A new venture from Wilde Thyme Baltimore, a catering company based in Charles Village/ Remington, hopes to pair locally sourced, organically grown food with creative goods from local artists and artisans in Baltimore City. Taking a note from the brilliant model famously employed by the Taharka Bros—who provide delicious ice cream and radical literature to neighborhoods throughout the city—Wilde Thyme seeks to offer Mexican-Greek fusion treats and a diversely curated selection of visual art works. The company also aims to have accessible price points to those starved of organic foods and imaginative creations. CONTINUE READING
Rat Film and the Artistic Privilege of Representation
"Theo Anthony’s Rat Film is a nonlinear feature about rats and residential segregation in Baltimore City. I hesitate to call the film a documentary because the work is not always transparent about the people and events it depicts. Spoiler alert: the fishing rod rat killers are actors.
As such, it falls into an interdisciplinary category of hybrid films; films that combine traditional documentary aesthetics with fictional narratives to create or reinterpret a supposed truth. Footage captured by Anthony, the writer/director, is spliced with archival photographs and virtual worlds. The result is a hyperreal framing of the city and its residents, which is at times entertaining, but reveals issues around the artistic privilege of representation. A few days after the film screened at this year’s MD Film Festival, Anthony shared some thoughts with me about his intentions in making the film." CONTINUE READING
Oletha DeVane's The Other Side of Darkness at Project 1628
"DeVane’s works are revisionist histories that celebrate and activate the power and influence of colonially marginalized people; in her creations so called savages and pagan ritualists, are holy, her subjects are whole and fully realized humans, systems, and/or sciences." CONTINUE READING
Oletha DeVane: The Other Side of Darkness is up at Project 1628 from April 9, 2017 – May 21, 2017 (with a closing reception 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm)
Devin N. Morris creates imaginative spaces and softens structure in solo show, 'In A Dignified Fashion' at Terrault Contemporary
Originally published on April 26, 2017 in Baltimore City Paper
Like Baldwin's queries about constructions of masculinity, race, sexuality, and gender, artist/writer Devin N. Morris' solo show "In a Dignified Fashion," at Terrault Contemporary through May 6, expands and subverts conventional categories of identity both in content— queer subjects in flat, surreal environments—and in his technical style. CONTINUE READING
"In a Dignified Fashion" is up at Terrault Contemporary through May 6. For more information, visit terraultcontemporary.com
Mondawmin residents reflect on illumination and safety with light sculpture parade
Originally published April 5, 2017 on Baltimore City Paper
Think about the light that illuminates your community and how it makes you feel. When you see red and blue flashing lights, do you feel calm or anxiety? Do the light poles in your neighborhood bear blue flashing surveillance cameras? Have you noticed these cameras as you drive through other communities? Is a bright flood light installed at the end of your block? Do you have LED street lights? Are the lights in your community shattered or broken? Is your community devoid of light?
April Danielle Lewis created the Safe and Sound public art project with residents from the Greater Mondawmin neighborhood to answer these questions and examine the role of light in safety and community... CONTINUE READING
America's Team Decodes the Language of Patriotism
Originally Published on March 27, 2017 in BmoreArt.
"For many athletes, playing a sport is the gateway to success, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to pursue higher education, or a one-in-a-billion opportunity to make millions playing professionally.
Dr. Gregory J. Kaliss explains this phenomenon in his essay, Men’s College Athletics and the Politics of Racial Equality. “The notion of meritocracy, deeply embedded in American culture, seemed best realized in Athletic competition, an arena many hoped could be free from the racial prejudice that abrogated millions of American’s opportunities in business, politics, and social life,” said Kaliss. At Baltimore’s Platform Gallery, artist Abdi Farah explores the insidious pathology of American sports culture, especially racialization of sports in a solo exhibit of drawings, paintings, and fiber works in America’s Team." CONTINUE READING
"I Am Not Your Negro" examines James Baldwin's unfinished call to action
Originally published March 8, 2017 in Baltimore City Paper.
“I Am Not Your Negro” examines the idea of race, for people of color—who are given marginal identifications—and for those assigning the identifications: “white” people. Raoul Peck's documentary is not just a chronicle of Baldwin's memories, but a thorough historical compendium of America's morbid obsession with the idea of whiteness—a construct Baldwin states is “a metaphor for power, and this is simply a way of describing Chase Manhattan Bank.” Continue Reading...
What's A Whatchamacallit? A Group Exhibition at Gallery CA Explores America's Uneasy Melting Pot
Originally Published March 2, 2017 in BmoreArt.com
Whatchamcallit, the group exhibition and publication installed at Gallery CA includes contributions from Diane Kuthy, Joyce Yu-Jean Lee, Lawrence Lee, Olivia Robinson, Paul Rucker, Mandy Cano Villalobos, and James Williams II, the show’s curator. Williams declares Whatchamacallit, “a riposte to the superimposed cultural identities and labels that we individually find ourselves participating in, given to us by others. The artists in Whatchamacallit who are “obsessed over [their] identity” share an interest in challenging the cultural and social identities on both a micro and macro level.” Continue Reading
Whatchamacallit, curated by James Williams II, is on display at Gallery CA through March 10, 2017.
Artist Talk March 10, 2017 6-9 p.m.
Mickalene Thomas' Muse and tete-a-tete at MICA Offers Powerful Visions of Black Femininity
Originally Published February 22, 2017 in BmoreArt.com
"... Influenced by the intimate interior spaces of black women’s homes, the fabulous clutch of black women’s fashion, Muse offers refreshing perspectives. Mickalene Thomas’ portraits are living muses: installations, large high-gloss photographs, pocket Polaroids, and collages inspired by women from her community of family members, lovers, friends, and artistic contemporaries.... Continue Reading
Mickalene Thomas’ Muse and tete-a-tete is on display at the MICA Meyerhoff Gallery, January 27, 2017 – March 12th.
Congratulations, Its A Man! Ruminations on Black Boyhood, Mortality and the Murder of Trayvon Martin
"The great success of Peacock’s “museum” is its determined and persistent visualization of Trayvon not as a victim, but as a teenager. His life, his joys with family and hobbies are highlighted and remembered. Peacock’s exhibition stressed the importance of not just looking, but seeing Trayvon, and acknowledging that his life is reflected in all of our lives. Peacock considered him a brother, because he could be his brother, and is in many ways a little brother, nephew, or cousin to us all. Continue Reading
The Museum of Trayvon Martin: A Meeting Before Labor at Terrault Gallery- Malcolm Peacock February 11, 2017 – March 4, 2017
Colonizers at the center of "Shifting Views" at the Baltimore Museum of Art
Originally Published February 15, 2017 in Baltimore City Paper
"Shifting Views" is the Baltimore Museum of Art's first exhibition of contemporary African art. Works by Senam Okudzeto, Diane Victor, Julie Mehretu, William Kentridge, Gavin Jantjes, Robin Rhode, and David Goldblatt include photographs, prints, and drawings that center a variety of local and global African diasporic issues: Migration and globalization, apartheid and state-sponsored surveillance, public and private space, segregation and stereotype are all on display here. Continue Reading...
Sister Outsider:On the limits of protest and white feminism at the Women's March
Originally Published January 25, 2017 in Baltimore City Paper (print and online)
"I conducted a poll among some of my friends, all young professional women of color, to see how many of them planned to attend the Women's March on Washington. Crickets. Of the dozens of women polled, one or two seriously considered attending the march. The major consensus of my local community—and the greater black social media cadre—planned to sit out and give a glaring Michelle Obama side-eye to the whole event..." Read More
About Face at the Creative Alliance
Originally Published January 4, 2017 in Baltimore City Paper (print and online)
"About Face," at Creative Alliance through Jan. 28. Amy Sherald, Tim Okamura, Ebony G. Patterson, and Rozeal make conscious decisions to break from the exclusive traditions of portraiture, which center European subjects, and instead affirm marginalized populations in regal, empowered, and humanizing ways.
Kerry James Marshall Radical Joy and Decolonization
Originally Published December 22, 2016 in BmoreArt.com
The Re-Education curated by Melissa Webb is on display at School 33 Art Center until January 21, 2017.
Check out the Artist Talk on Saturday, December 3rd or visit Baltimore’s Gifted vendors at School 33 Art Centers Holiday Shop 12pm-5pm December 10th and 11th.
On February 25, 2017, Baltimore’s Gifted will coordinate its first Pop-Up shop at the Great Blacks and Wax Museum. Baltimore’s Gifted products will also be available at future Women’s Exchange and Baltimore Women’s Makers events.
Erick Antonio Benitez Esta Tierra Es Tu Tierra at Current Space Gallery
Orginally published November 17, 2016 in BmoreArt.com
Esta Tierra Es Tu Tierra is on display at Current Space Gallery thru November 19th. Visit the Closing Reception on November 19th 7-10pm to view additional video footage, installations and hear the artist talk by Erick Antonio Benitez.
Collaborating Organizations: Border Angels, Sacred Hearth Church, Amiredis (Association of Migrants Returned with Disabilities), El Desayunador, Casa Del Migrante
Stephen Towns takes on Myth and Martyrdom in Nat Turner's rebellion for his solo exhibition
"Take Me Away to the Stars" is on display at Galerie Myrtis Nov. 5-Feb. 18, 2017. Opening Reception Saturday Nov. 5. from 3-6 p.m.; artist talk Jan. 28, 2017; Tea with Myrtis Feb. 18, 2017. For more information, visit galeriemyrtis.net.
Aziza Claudia Gibson-Hunter ruminates on the pain of gentrification through mixed media abstraction
Originally published October 5, 2016 in Baltimore City Paper.