Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Selective Recap of the National Black Arts Festival 2010

The National Black Arts Festival (NBAF) 2010 in Atlanta was particularly special for me this year considering that a small group of long-standing friends decided to meet and use the Festival as the backdrop for that reunion. A few days were devoted to activities centered around the NBAF, and selected highlights follow. Our journey began at the SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design) in the Woodruff Arts Center to view Chakaia Booker's solo exhibition, Sustain
Chakaia Booker, Sustain, ACA Gallery of SCAD, installation view.
Photography by Dane Sponberg, SCAD visual media department.

Because I was particularly pleased with the 2009 exhibition at SCAD that featured Whitfield Lovell, my expectations for the 2010 were high. I was not disappointed at all; Sustain was all that one could have expected, and it was an added treat to have had an opportunity to actually meet Chakaia Booker in her colorful red and extremely large headdress which was a sculptural piece itself. The exhibition included a series of photogravures that captured the artist searching for found materials (tires) in the industrial landscape. It was my understanding from senior curator, Melissa Messina that this new series of photogravures were recently created by Booker at SCAD Atlanta, and they are featured in Sustain with the artist's signature abstract sculptures made from tires.  

The ladder sculpture, in the photograph above, was one of my favorites  in the exhibit. It was dramatic yet simple in its presentation, but complex as it's visual image seemed to change when viewed from different angles. In Booker's hands, it is obvious that the tires are as malleable as clay with their intricate, patterned designs, consisting of folds, and cascading layers of rubber arranged in uniform patterns. In my estimation, Booker's work falls into that category of "green art," and I have always been a fan of her work, respecting both the medium and her artistry. It is genius to take such a functional piece as tires and transform them into a sculptural piece of beauty. The following two images are other examples of Booker's work as it appeared in the exhibition, Sustain.

Chakaia Booker, Sustain, ACA Gallery of SCAD, installation view.
Photography by Dane Sponberg, SCAD visual media department.

Chakaia Booker, Sustain, ACA Gallery of SCAD, installation view.
Photography by Dane Sponberg, SCAD visual media department.

As of yet, an exhibition catalogue has not been published, but one is forthcoming. When it is released, I will forward details to all readers. For more details on Booker and the exhibition, see:

Immediately after leaving the Booker exhibition, and lucky for us that we were already in the Woodruff Arts Center, we were able to secure last minute tickets for Brazil Fest Concert: The Best of Brazil (Atlanta Symphony Hall) with musician/composer, Ivan Lins and a host of Brazilian musical talent, and a modern ballet group. This already excellent concert was enhanced for me by the inclusion of two African American special guests, Cassandra Wilson and Rachelle Ferrell. Wilson and Ferrell were each so exquisite in her own right, and since I am a personal fan of both of artists, it was a delight to see them in a live performance. This was my first time seeing Cassandra Wilson on stage. However, I have seen Rachelle Ferrell in concert before, and yet again, her artistry took me to another state of being and consciousness...her voice is simply an instrument. This was an evening that one would have to experience, to truly appreciate... magnificent. 

On Friday, we visited the Sandler Hudson Gallery, featuring Sheila Pree Bright's exhibit, Girls, Grillz and Guns, in which Bright explores the concepts of beauty and power. Arriving about an hour before the artist talk began, the four of us that toured this exhibition were able to have a private talk with the artist. It was this conversation that put the images into some artistic perspective for us. It was particularly informative and enlightening to hear from Bright why and how the series came about. From that dialog, I learned that Sheila Pree Bright, through her photography was investigating a fashionable statement of a few years back among young African American males for gold-capped front teeth. These grills, as they were called, were considered adornment and expressed that the wearer was cool, but the fad aroused fear in older adults, particularly white people because the grills were associated with gansta rap. As Bright explained, she defused fear with the images by adopting a scientific approach of shooting the portraits in black and white, posed each of her subjects in the same way with their eyes closed and mouths open. The exhibit will be on view through August 14, 2010. For more information see:  
(photograph: Sheila Pree Bright, Terrence from the Gold Rush II Series)

Nestled  in a backdrop that featured fine and decorative art galleries and antique shops, the Hagedorn Foundation Gallery provided an excellent setting for its featured exhibition, REPRESENT: Imaging African American Culture in Contemporary Art. This is a group photography exhibition dealing with the "roots of black culture and thus personal identity." The artist talk that featured Donald E. Camp was very well attended and was an especially strong presentation that offered explanations of his processes and techniques of creating his larger-than-life portraits, capturing the beauty and integrity of the average man, and revealing the subject's character. Camp places the camera within inches of the subject's face, moving into the subject's spatial comfort zone to capture the image while talking with the subject. Camp makes only one unique print of each subject. REPRESENT will be on view through September 3, 2010; for more information and images, see: and

Another gallery visit took us to Mason Murer Fine Art. This 24,000 foot gallery space has a central main gallery and a series of medium and smaller galleries or pods within the larger space. The overall space is open, free, and inviting with a positive industrial feel. When we arrived, the gallery was being prepared for a large fundraising function for later that evening, but staff allowed us freedom to walk through the various exhibits on display and were available to answer questions as needed. 

The final small pod that we entered featured a selection of works by African American Masters, and as I entered I was immediately struck by  the number of works, approximately 23 in total and the names of the artists represented: Duncanson, Bannister, Tanner, W.H. Johnson, Lois Mailou Jones, and Charles Ethan Porter. We learned from Mark Mason Karelson, the director of the gallery, that the historical works were owned by a New York collector who started collecting in the 1960s; and these pieces were from the owner's warehouse of works. Seeing this number of works together in a small space was breathtaking, and it was obvious that the collector took care in assembling this collection of landscapes and still lifes. The visual representation of African Americans were not visible in the images, strictly landscapes and still lifes. As I viewed them, my hopes were that some institution could buy them in mass, whereby, the images would become available for a larger audience to appreciate, particularly our young art historians, critics, and artists. Since this is such an excellent collection of historical works that I wanted to share with a wider audience,  Mason Murer Fine Art was generous enough to sent me the following images to post.

   Robert Scott Duncanson, Untitled, 1850, Oil on canvas, 16"x25"

      William H. Johnson, Church in Oslo, 1935, Oil on board, 27"x24"

                 Henry O. Tanner, Gates of Tangier, 1908, Gouache on paper, 16"x13.5"

For details and to learn more of this historical collection, contact Mason Murer Fine Art:

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Call for Artists / Annual Black Artists of DC (BADC) Exhibit at District of Columbia Arts Center (DCAC)

FOCUS GROUP: Four Walls, Four Women, One Show is the theme for the 2010 annual exhibit sponsored by BADC and DCAC. This call for artists is open to female artists working in all media; its deadline for submission is Monday, August 30, 2010. The exhibition will run November 19, 2010 through January 9, 2011.

As stated in their announcement, "The Black Artists of DC is seeking to spark a visual discussion between artworks created by Black women, and a verbal dialogue between those that view and purchase them. The topic of discussion is material. What are you using? What materials do you feel yourself drawn to? And how does Black femininity affect or reflect itself in the materials you choose, if at all? How does femininity affect the delivery and/or reception of your message? What emotional relationship do you form with the objects and substances used to build your works?

In this exhibition, the voices of women artists will be spoken primarily in material form. Purposefully, only four artists will be selected to participate, in order to strengthen an intimate focus on each individual voice. From both visual and verbal discussion, we hope to determine how effectively our material languages are deciphered, valued, appreciated, or acquired by a universal audience and market."

For an application, submission guidelines, processes, payment, sales, and etc., contact Zoma Wallace at
Visit DCAC at:

Monday, July 19, 2010

Freedom of Expression: Politics and Aesthetics in African American Art

Freedom of Expression: Politics and Aesthetics in African American Art was one of the featured exhibitions in the third quarterly electronic Update to the Guide to Black Art Exhibitions in 2010. Freedom of Expression, which was on view March 4 - June 13, 2010, was organized and curated by Julie Levin Caro, Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in American Art at Colby College (Waterville, Maine) to support her African American art survey course as well as several other Colby courses.  

As mentioned in the Guide,"this exhibition considered a range of responses by African American artists to social, political, and aesthetic concerns. The artworks address racism and the legacy of slavery, document and celebrate African American culture and experience, and explore abstract and conceptual modes of representation."  Works were featured by the following artists: Edward M. Bannister, Romare Bearden, Allan R. Crite, David Driskell, Sam Gilliam, William H. Johnson, Lois Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Glenn Ligon, Alison Saar, Henry O. Tanner, James VanDerZee, Charles White, Fred Wilson, and others.”

Although the exhibition has ended, the process of its development is worth discussion and replication on a broader scale. Key in its development was the practical application of theory that was brought out of the classroom and into the gallery with student participation. The exhibition was featured in two of the Colby Museum of Art galleries, De Ferrari Gallery and Gourley Gallery. In addition, it was created as a student curated web exhibition. Class member Sally Klose built the Freedom of Expression Web site with Shaquan Huntt and staff members of the Colby Academic Information Technology Services Department. Ten students in Professor Caro’s African American art survey "researched and wrote the descriptive texts for the artwork displayed on the ARTISTS pages, and they participated in several exhibition-related events, including the presentation of their research in two public gallery talks."
In addition to having direct contact and a firsthand study of the art work, "the exhibition offered Professor Caro’s students the opportunity to reflect upon issues of the canonization of African American art, the formation of a black aesthetic, and the politics of museum display."

In Caro's words, additional highlights included:
  • "...having the collectors Toni and Fred Green visit the campus for the opening, where they spoke with students and faculty informally as they toured the galleries and viewed their works in the context of the exhibition. 
  • ...luncheon that Prof. Caro planned on the subject of African American art collecting for students in her African American art survey course as well as students and faculty participating in courses on race and visual culture, African American culture and African Diaspora experience. Approximately 25 students attended. Toni and Fred Green, who lent pieces by Glenn Ligon, Jacob Lawrence, and Mr. Imagination spoke about their collection of contemporary African American art, how it came to be, why they collected, and how they collected from galleries and visiting with artists at their studios. They also spoke in practical terms about buying on layaway and the fact that one doesn’t have to be wealthy to collect art and the value of having ‘real’ works of art not just reproduction in one's home, even if it’s a small drawing or a print and the value of getting to know artists especially when they are starting out.  
  • Colby College music professor, Eric Thomas, spoke about the two pieces he lent to the exhibition (a landscape painting by Edward Mitchell Bannister and a 19th century doll quilt by an anonymous artist from the South). Thomas' mother, Johnnie Lockhart Thomas, collected these works and many other art and historical works, a passion that grew out of her interest in African American history and her own family history of black cowboys and entrepreneurs, who lived in Montana since the 19th century."      
Freedom of Expression: Politics and Aesthetics in African American Art provided a full exhibition experience, including a Web site that provided a virtual museum exhibit experience, a Film Series, student gallery talks, gallery talk with Professor Julie Levin Caro, and gallery visits from local elementary and middle school students. My hopes are that this exhibition will serve as a prototype for curating annual professor-student exhibits for the coming years. I can only imagine that the collaboration, leadership, and team work contributed to the overall success of the exhibition. Congratulations to Professor Caro and her students.      

© 2010 Black Art Project... all rights reserved. For permission to reproduce contact:    

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Private Reserves, Personal Treasures: Art Exhibit

                    Preston Sampson, Blue Willie, Acrylic on canvas 

Leslie Pelzer, gallerist, has curated Private Reserves, Personal Treasures, featuring works owned by private collectors. The exhibit, featuring personal treasures from private art collectors, includes a "large variety and scope of art work ranging from rare vintage show posters, out-of-print reproductions to original paintings at all price levels. As Pelzer states, "many of these works are from 1970's 80's, 90's and have not been seen for sale a long time. 
The opening reception was Saturday and Sunday (July 10th and 11th) at 1100 Wayne Avenue, Silver Spring, Maryland in the street level suite, near Metro.

This exhibit will be closing on Sunday, July 25, 2010, and the scheduled gallery hours are Tuesday evening from 6:00PM - 9:00PM and Thursday evening from 6:00PM - 9:00PM this week. There is free parking in the evening at the Montgomery County garage directly behind the building. For further details or questions, including opening and closing hours or to make an appointment, call Leslie at 301-593-0598 or send her an email:

This is a great opportunity to see works that have been in private homes and not available to the general public. It should prove to be a positive experience for collectors, artists, and any individuals with an interest in African American art and artists. Keep in mind that this exhibit is in temporary space, so put it on your list of things to do over the next few days.

I was intrigued by the whole concept of using temporary space to mount an exhibit, having just read a recent article in the New York Times (June 22, 2010), "Pop-Up Stores Become Popular for New York Landlords." The thesis focused on pop-up spaces that emerge on the city's streetscape for a defined business purpose for a very short time. Pop-ups provide a vehicle for building owners to fill vacant space and for sellers they offer "a place to gauge the reception of a brand or product without a long-term commitment." In my mind, I immediately thought that this pop-up concept would be an ingenious use of vacant space as a temporary gallery. It is a win-win situation for both the building owner and the temporary gallery, showcasing the property with a short-term art exhibition.

Join Leslie for an engaging evening in the midst of Private Reserves, Personal  Treasures until June 22, 2010.  Remember, this is a pop-up gallery (temporary space), so its existence is short-lived. Enjoy and share widely.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Introducing Black Art Project (BAP) Logo

Black Art Project (BAP) presents its logo designed by Derek Horton of Hortfolio Graphics of Washington, DC, see: Derek listened, was sensitive and creative, as he delivered a product on time. For the past year or so, Black Art Project (BAP) has had a logo, waiting for an appropriate time to introduce it. This is an opportune time, as BAP moves forward with current and future-based projects that have included a redesign of the blog, and the eventual design of a Web site that should be introduced in the coming months; it is now more than appropriate that the logo become a recognized presence to represent the Black Art Project. The process of development, with the designer, was an  engaging and positive experience with lots of dialog, feedback, and interchange. For me, simplicity, color, class, and presence were crucial elements. Those elements had to have a strong, balanced image that would be easy to see and remember at a glance; as well as, easy to read and communicate clearly. Its tag line, "documents, supports, and promotes black art," will be that often repeated phrase associated with BAP.

In addition to its new look, the current redesign of the blog has some new added features. To the right of this post, you will see two of those features, Subscribe To  and Selected Black Art Exhibitions in 2010. Subscribe To offers the reader the option to receive email alerts about new posts or comments. Selected Black Art Exhibitions in 2010 provides links to further information on selected current exhibitions around the country. This feature will be updated as a current listed exhibition dates expire, and new exhibitions are identified.

Scroll to the bottom of the posts, and you will see other additional features: Share It and African American Arts Festivals in 2010. Share It allows the viewer to share the current page to Face Book or Twitter. African American Arts Festivals in 2010 provides links to festivals around the country that include a visual arts component. In all instances, the festivals are an annual affair. In some instances, the festival has occurred, but this list lets you chart a plan as the 2011 season approaches. When the final festival listed for 2010 has ended, this piece will be removed to welcome the 2011 season.

Other additions to the blog are planned for the near future.