Saturday, December 31, 2011

Artist Visit: Don Griffin

On a rainy, windy, and overall dreary day, I boarded a MARC train a couple of weeks ago for an undeterred, scheduled visit to Baltimore to meet with artist, Don Griffin and his representative, Diana Harris. The resulting visit in the artist's home/studio was a complete contrast to the weather; his space was filled with art, art supplies, warmth, and infused with jazz and lively conversation. This physical background was the perfect setting for spirited, stimulating, and engaging dialogue in which the three of us spent hours viewing and discussing some of the series of works that Don created over the past few years. The conversation vacillated between discussing the artist's creations, including interpreting and analyzing his art, to extended discussions about the art world with a focused interest on the art market. Expansive territory was covered as we pulled back the layers on the artistic process, marketing, galleries, collectors, museums, auctions, and the like.

Don Griffin, Paperworks 6.10 Vol 2 Plate 14,
 2010, Mixed media collage on paper,
18" x 18"
Don Griffin studied at the Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland. He has an extremely large body of work that falls into the category of abstraction. If he has to be categorized, he considers himself a "third generation" Abstract Expressionist. However, there were a number of works viewed that were figurative abstractions which happen to be productions created during his "off time," meaning that time that he is not engaged in his primary discipline, Abstract Expressionism.

Don's mixed media works incorporate found objects in many formats; there is a strong sense of recycling or green art. His works span the spectrum of subdued blacks, browns, and whites to his most recent incorporation of vibrant colors all guided by and in support of the theme of the series on which he is working. The recycled items include newspapers, pages from books, corrugated boxes, and peeled labels that serve as a substrate and background field of the work. According to Don, "a common thread between all the works are the Tracks or Ladders which are seen as sometimes subtle and other times predominant. Viewers see the icons as both Tracks and Ladders. In either case, whatever is seen represents a journey in some sense. To me, the Tracks represent a horizontal passage being connected to the earth, while the Ladder represents a vertical journey and more of a spiritual upward journey."


Don Griffin, Night Fall in Brazil
 (Nyte Life Series), 2011,
Mixed media on paper, 11" x 15"
The Nyte Life series is comprised of 10 mixed media works on paper, featuring the "Black Suited Man" as derived from the Passport to Equinox audio visual installation. In the words of the artist, "In Passport to Equinox, three black men were faceless with their backs towards the viewer and seeking knowledge through life's journeys. They ponder the vicissitudes of the black man, the isolated artist, creating and living in the real world, interacting and functioning productively despite conflict." The "Black Suited Man" experiences all phases of the Nyte Life. The variant colors represent the environs of the imagination with "the Man" being the constant... as he perseveres.  

Don Griffin, Nights on Broadway (Nyte Life Series), 2011
Mixed media on paper, 11" x 15"

Don Griffin, Concierto de Aranjuez
(Public Notice Series), 2011,
Mixed media collage on paper, 22" x 30" 
Another featured series, Public Notice, is the visual experiences of various techniques that the artist has explored. In this series, there is a predominant use of commercial labels from corrugated boxes, accentuating the artist's use of found and recycled materials that have been thrown away. According to Griffin, "The red line, featured in the series, is the continuity or the interconnectedness of all the pieces. Some of the works in the series are imagery inspired by visual artists like Basquiat or Twombly whose work I've studied in the past and others by my current contemporaries. Along with the artists, there are musicians and rhythm and blues vocalists' influences found throughout the series. The very first work evolved from a jazz composition entitled Concierto de Aranjuez, and it set the stage for the balance of the works to follow." 

Don Griffin, Acts of Dispensation (Public Notice Series),
2011, Mixed media collage on paper, 22" x 30"

Additional samples of Don Griffin's most current series of art work may be seen with accompanying descriptions at Baker Artist Awards. If you are interested in seeing more of Don Griffin's works or need specific questions answered, contact him at

Friday, December 30, 2011

ADDENDUM: African American Collections in Select Museums

Several additional museums, Akron Art Museum, Columbus Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), Chrysler Museum of Art, and The Philadelphia Museum of Art, have been added to the Museum Collections page; the additional collections are listed under ADDENDUM: Museum Collections. To access, simply click on the page section, Museum Collections and scroll down to the ADDENDUM.

The museums listed on this page, Museum Collections, were selected  from a list of accredited art museums affiliated with the American Association of Museums. The list features those museums that include a searchable database that provides online access to their collections using the search term, "African American" as a descriptor. Enjoy! 

Monday, November 14, 2011

African American Collections within Select Museums

This is a short post to introduce a new page, Museum Collections, to the Black Art Project blog. Museum Collections will be continually updated to reflect collections with an African American art focus that have been identified in Galleries and Museums across the country. These institutions represent simply a few that are committed to showcasing the works by Black artists who are included in their overall collections.

The goal of Museum Collections is to make these images accessible to students, scholars, and the general public in order to encourage research and discussion on aspects of Black art and artists. This list in not comprehensive and is a work in progress that will expand as other institutions with online access to their collections have been identified. Not only is accessibility a key factor, but being able to search the collection with African American as a descriptor is crucial.

The following link is a sample of what is included on Museum Collections:

Savannah, Georgia
SCAD Museum of Art
(Under the list of selected works at the Website, click "Load more" to see other works of art.)

Jacob Lawrence, Library Series, The Schomburg,
Gouache on paper, 26" x 20"

The Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art
(Under the list of selected works at the Website,
click "Load more" to see other works of art.)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Swann Galleries: African-American Fine Art, Sale 2255

Swann Auction Galleries' African-American Fine Art Sale 2255 on October 06, 2011 was the most successful auction over the past three years (February 2009 to present), bringing in $1,789,989 with Buyer's Premium, and selling approximately 75% of the lots. According to Nigel Freeman, Director of African-American Fine Art at Swann Galleries, “We are very pleased by the results of yesterday’s sale. We saw strong prices that reflect the quality and importance of the pieces featured in this auction, and a handful of new auction records for artists including Joseph Delaney and Loïs Mailou Jones.”

I was particularly pleased to see that Loïs Jones' "Marché de Kenscoff, Haiti", oil on canvas, 1962 which sold for $32,400, exceeding its high estimate of $18,000 set an auction record for the artist. This is an accomplishment that has been long overdue. Sale 2255 featured five paintings and watercolors from the estate of Loïs Mailou Jones, marking the first time works have been available at auction directly from her personal collection.

Also, it is worth noting that four lots in this Sale surpassed their high estimate and hit the six figure mark: Charles White, Work (Lot 61, crayon and charcoal on board, 1953, $306,00); Robert S. Duncanson, Untitled Landscape (Lot 1, oil on canvas, late 1850's, $120,000); Jacob Lawrence, two Untitled gouache paintings of Card Players, (Lot 30, panels from a folding screen, circa 1941-42, $108,000); and Hughie Lee-Smith, Desert Forms, (Lot 65, oil on masonite, 1957, $102,00). The price quotes reflect the buyer's premium. Images of these four lots follow:

Charles White, Work

Robert S. Duncanson, Untitled (Landscape)

Jacob Lawrence, Untitled  (gouache paintings)

Hughie Lee-Smith, Desert Forms
Although Sale 2255 was the most successful auction over the past three years, historically it has not been the largest nor the highest earning auction  over the period that Swann has sponsored the African American Fine Art Sale. Both in size of lots and earnings, the February 6, 2007 (Sale 2102) and February 19, 2008 (Sale 2136) were larger.

As I reflect on these Sales over the years, I am thankful that works by African American artists are more visible on the auction scene. This visibility has raised the awareness of African American artists to a larger audience in the artworld. Although some of the lots sold for prices below pre-sale estimates, offering buyers an opportunity of great deals, I wonder what impact the low selling prices will have on an artist's career? Even more so, what impact will a "no sale" have on the career of the contemporary artist? What are the factors that make the African American artists' works at auction seem to hover in the five figure range or lower when their contemporaries (non-African Americans) can more consistently command six figures and millions? If the aesthetic quality and content of a work between two artists are comparable, how much does patronage or curatorial sanction play in auction prices? What impact does low auction prices have on works of artists in existing private collections? How is African American art fitting into the larger auction-market trend? What are the lessons that collectors, artists, art historians, and art critics drawing from the current auction-market trends? The long and short of my queries focus on a value judgment; ...simply stated what makes an artwork valuable? 

Markets, and the art market is not an exception, are cyclical in nature and are determined by a number of variables, including prevailing public taste, supply and demand, quality, and the like. I remain optimistic that the monetary value of the work of African American artists will be realized over time; particularly,  as they become documented in major texts through comprehensive scholarship, become better known by curators and offered more opportunities for exhibitions in top-tier museums, and are included in more galleries that focus on representing and promoting their careers rather than simply selling their art. 

The artwork in these Sales are by important artists whose works are of immense value, even if that value is not consistently reflected in the realized prices at auction.  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Adrian Piper: Artist Talk

This post focuses on Cornered, an art installation, by conceptual artist Adrian Piper. For the purist, traditionally an art installation may not fit the definition of an artist talk; however, Cornered proves an exception to the rule, and fits appropriately into BAP's on-going series of "Artist Talks." 

As a conceptual artist, Adrian Piper introduces her ideas of race in  Cornered which is presented here in two parts of approximately 16 minutes. As Piper directly addresses viewers from a video monitor, many of them will probably begin to examine their values and behaviors relating to race. This examination may result in either self-defense or confession, questioning or affirming, agreeing or disagreeing, and etc with the ideas presented. 

"In conceptual art the idea or the concept is the most important aspect of the work...all planning and the decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes the machine that makes the art." Sol LeWitt

Further Readings on Conceptual Art:

Adrian Piper, Cornered, 1988. Collection Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. © 1988, Adrian Piper     

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Select Art Exhibitions: Highlights for Fall/Winter 2011

This post is part of a continuing series highlighting a few current and upcoming African American art exhibitions on view for the coming months. It is not a comprehensive feature, but does present an excellent overview of the depth, quality, and diversity of African American exhibitions that are on view around the country. For a more comprehensive list of exhibitions on view, see the right sidebar in this blog, featuring Select Art Exhibitions in 2011. This list currently includes over 40 exhibitions with an African American focus, and it is updated on a regular basis by either removing those exhibitions that have ended or adding new ones as they are identified.

As a follower or reader to this blog, you are invited to recommend exhibitions that you are aware of that are not included.

Charlotte, North Carolina
Mint Museum Uptown

Romare Bearden: Southern Recollections is on view through January 8, 2012. This exhibition celebrates the Charlotte born artist's centennial birth, and will include nearly 100 works of art, including collages, paintings, watercolors, and prints that span Bearden's career.

Romare Bearden, Carolina Morning,
Mixed media collage on board,
30" x 22", 1974. In Memory of Elaine Lebenbom
and Dr. Miriam Mansour. Photography Courtesy
Franklin Riehlman Art © Romare Bearden
Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

 The exhibition and subsequent national tour will underscore not only Bearden’s artistic mastery, particularly in the technique of collage, but also his development of narrative and thematic explorations of his native South.  Southern Recollections "examines how the South served as a source of inspiration throughout his career. This important theme has never before been explored in any previous exhibition or writings on the artist."

Read more about the exhibition and view additional images, at the Mint Museum.

There is a full schedule of exhibition programs, including gallery tours, performance of jazz compositions written by Bearden, lectures, prose and poetry readings, and classes. See public programs.

A fully-illustrated catalogue accompanies Southern Recollections 

College Park, Maryland
University of Maryland
The David C. Driskell Center

Creative Spirit: The Art of David C. Driskell features 60 works completed from the late 1950s - 2010, representing Driskell's transition through a multiplicity of media in his artwork. The exhibition opens on September 15, 2011 and will be on view through December 16, 2011.

               David C. Driskell, Woman with Flowers, 1972,
Oil and collage on canvas, 37.5" x 38.5". Courtesy of the
Artist and DC Moore Gallery, New York. Photography
by Greg Staley. © David C. Driskell, 2011.


Creative Spirit "reveals the totality of Driskell’s artistic practice, celebrating a life lived in the service of what he often refers to as his 'priestly calling.' The exhibition highlights and explores seminal themes: Americana, Africana, nature, self-portrait as memoir, celestial music, and the figure."

An opening reception is scheduled for September 15, 2011 from 5 - 7 pm. In addition, there will be a program that includes an hour long conversation between Professor Driskell and artist, Carrie Mae Weems. For more extensive information, visit the Press Release and Exhibition Checklist/Images sections at The Driskell Center. 

A catalogue accompanies this exhibition.

Culver City, California 
Roberts and Tilton Gallery

Betye Saar: Red Time is on view at Roberts and Tilton Gallery from September 10 through December 17, 2011. Red Time, which is a site-specific retrospective installation, is Betye Saar's first solo gallery show in Los Angeles since 1998, and her first with the Roberts and Tilton Gallery.

Red Time examines Saar's past, present and future with those three categories expressed as In the Beginning, Migration and Transformation and Beyond Memory. As stated in the Gallery release, "In the Beginning includes works from 1960-1970, exhibiting Saar’s interest in metaphysics, the occult and magic. These works incorporate Euro-centric concepts of palmistry, phrenology and astrology in addition to Afro-centric concepts of voodoo and shamanism."

"Migration and Transformation (1970- 2010) focuses on works of strong social and political content. Subjects such as the Diaspora, slavery, racism, revolution and feminism are explored in varying mixed media Assemblages.... Works from Migration and Transformation are combative— these works are Saar’s own forceful yet thoughtful counter attack on racism in America—past and present."

Beyond Memory, selection of recent work from 2010-2011, highlights Saar’s quest for a new creative expression through the reinterpretation of language, objects and materials." Read more.

Opening Reception: Saturday, September 10, 2011, 6 - 8 pm. Roberts and Tilton is located at 5801 Washington Boulevard; phone: 323/ 549-0223. More information at Roberts and Tilton.

Hartford, Connecticut
The Amistad Center for Art and Culture
at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

The Amistad Center's exhibition, War Prizes: The Cultural Legacy of Slavery and the Civil War, "follows the Civil War's impact on performers, the arts, and humanities through the 20th century. Objects from The Amistad Center for Art and Culture's collection of 19th century prints, photographs, and ephemera will introduce slavery and the Civil War. The Amistad Center's documentation of the Lincoln presidency, Frederick Douglass-related objects, the Center's tintype and ambrotype series, and Harpers' Weekly newspapers will introduce the War and the reasons behind it.

Ellington, Waters, Koehler Arlen Mills Music,
Stormy Weather, 1933, Sheet music, The
Amistad Center for Art and Culture, Inc.;
Simpson Collection

The exhibition follows the trajectory of activists, religious leaders, entertainers, and others who committed themselves to tackling and transforming segregation, inaccurate depictions in popular culture, economic inequities and other difficult legacies of the Civil War.

A final section presents mid-late 20th century photographs and fine art emphasizing the relationship between art, celebrity, and the modern civil rights movement." Read a full overview of the exhibition from the Wadsworth Atheneum. 

War Prizes is on view from September 10, 2011 through February 2012.

Manassas, Virginia
Caton Merchant Family Gallery
Center for the Arts

Terry Dixon, Accusation diptych, Mixed media,
24" x 24" each
Terry Dixon: Re-Enslavement Revisited is on view at the Center for the Arts, September 8 through October 26, 2011. Dixon's research and subsequent body of work was inspired by Douglas Blackmon's Pulitzer Prize winning book, Slavery by Another Name, focusing on re-enslavement and segregation. The book sparked the creative genius of the artist as he undertook an aspect of historical documentation and interpreted it in the language of  visual art.

Terry Dixon, a native of Washington, DC and currently living in Chicago, Illinois, "presents a body of work depicting African-Americans being forced to work for free from 1865 to 1945. His work is created through abstract digital images with acrylics, oil pastels and inks." 

View select images from Re-enslavement.   Visit Center for the Arts.

Raleigh, North Carolina
North Carolina Museum of Art
North Carolina Gallery

Reflections: Portraits by Beverly McIver is the latest in a series of exhibitions dedicated to the art and artists of North Carolina. Reflections celebrates the last decade of McIver's work, and will be on view December 11, 2011 through June 24, 2012. 

McIver, a native of North Carolina, "is renowned for her expression-filled, emotive canvases that commemorate her life and the lives of those closest to her—in particular, her mother, Ethel, who passed away in 2004, and her sister, Renee, who is mentally disabled. The exhibition highlights these two subjects in McIver’s work, focusing solely on her self-portraits and on portraits of Renee and other family members." Read more about Reflections.

A catalogue accompanies this exhibition.

Washington, D C
Corcoran Gallery of Art and
College of Art + Design

Hank Willis Thomas: Strange Fruit is on view October 1, 2011 through January 16, 2012. This exhibition presents approximately 12 new photographs and video works by artist, Hank Willis Thomas. In this exhibition, Thomas "explores how the concepts of spectacle and display relate to notions of African-American identity."

Strange Fruit "examines two forms of spectacle – the historic culture of lynchings and the commodification that surrounds professional sports – and analyzes their impact on the presentation and the perception of the black body."

Strange Fruit is shown concurrently with the special traveling exhibition, 30 Americans, which highlights the work of 31 contemporary African American artists in the Rubell Family Collection.

30 Americans "consists of 75 works of art and includes painting, drawing, photography, video, sculpture, and mixed-media installations. The exhibition features both established and emerging artists and illustrates how a previous generation of African American artists has influenced the current generation."

30 Americans is on view through February 12, 2012.  See a full schedule of related programs, including lectures, workshops, and classes designed to enhance and expand upon the themes presented in 30 Americans. 

Monday, August 8, 2011

National Black Arts Festival 2011: Visual Arts Highlights

The official dates of the National Black Arts Festival (NBAF) in Atlanta, Georgia were July 07-17, 2011; however, some activities preceded those dates and others, such as art exhibitions, will last much longer. I always find the NBAF an exhilarating time because of the opportunity it provides to reunite with old friends and to meet new friends and acquaintances who have a deep passion and love for the black visual and performing arts. Having this opportunity to engage with like minds and to view and discuss the arts is the greatest benefit.

The strength of the 2011 Festival, as it relates to the visual arts, rested on a vast array of black focused exhibitions that were featured in and around Atlanta. The venues included museums, private and commercial galleries, and institutional galleries. This post will simply highlight four of those exhibitions.

Bill Lowe Gallery
Thornton Dial: Disaster Areas

The Souls Grown Deep Foundation and the Bill Lowe Gallery present Thornton Dial: Disaster Areas - "an epic look at destruction and regenerative forces of nature and how they impact our lives." The exhibition is a tribute to survivorship and the resiliency of the human spirit. 

Thornton Dial, Jesus Christ in the Coal Mine,
2008, Mixed media on canvas, 105" x 76" x 8"
This exhibition "examines works made by Dial over the past four years dealing with various disasters, natural and man-made. From the wreckage and rubble of destruction Dial constructs complex and beautiful assemblages that illustrate the fragility of the human condition but affirm the profound belief that we are all in this together." Dial's assemblages of found objects are monumental in structure and breathtaking as artistic documentation of tornadoes, floods, tsunamis, hurricanes, coal mining catastrophes, and terrorist attacks. The disasters and the resulting emotional impact featured in this body of work are not only local, but national and international in scope.

As mentioned in the Gallery overview statement for the exhibition, "the inevitable visual imprints left by these images are re-worked by Dial into compositions that tell the more complex stories of individual lives affected, the unequal hardships that the poor are forced to endure, and the role of the artist as documentarian."

Thornton Dial, Disaster Area, 2011,
Mixed media on canvas, 72" x 92" x 8"

Thornton Dial, Louisiana, 2011,
Mixed media on panel, 72" x 74" x 6" 

Thornton Dial, Japan, Mixed media on canvas,
108" x 79" x 9" 
Thornton Dial: Disaster Areas is on view through August 27, 2011. Read more on Thornton Dial, and visit Bill Lowe Gallery.

High Museum of Art
Radcliffe Bailey: Memory as Medicine

Radcliffe Bailey, Windward Coast, 2009-2011,
Piano keys, plaster bust, and glitter,
Dimensions vary, Courtesy of
 Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Radcliffe Bailey: Memory as Medicine, which is the most comprehensive exhibition of art by Bailey to date, is organized by the High Museum of Art, and is on view through September 11, 2011. The exhibition includes 37 works, ranging from intimate scale to heroic, that represent an array of media: installations, paintings, sculptures, mixed media, photos, and works on paper.

Memory as Medicine is organized around three underlying themes: Water, Blues, and Blood. "Water invokes the Black Atlantic Passage as a site of historical trauma as it highlights the fluidity of culture and traces Bailey's own artistic and spiritual journey. Blues includes works that point to the importance of music as a transcendent art form. Blood focuses on ideas related to ancestry, race, memory, struggle, and sacrifice." 

A brief explanation on the High Museum's Website speaks to the meaning behind Windward Coast (image above.) See HIGHLIGHT

Although I missed the artist talk, I was able to attend an enlightening and informative lecture by the curator, Carol Thompson. Listen to Carol and Radcliffe in this video which is the first of a four-part series that will be released throughout the run of the exhibition. A catalogue accompanies this exhibition.

ACA Gallery of SCAD
Woodruff Arts Center
Trenton Doyle Hancock: We Done All
We Could And None Of It's Good

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) presents a solo exhibition, Trenton Doyle Hancock: We Done All We Could and None of It's Good. 
Trenton Doyle Hancock, Torpedo Boy and
Heiren Hazo, 2010, Mixed media on paper,
10" x 6¼"
 "Hancock is best known for his ongoing narrative and theatrical installations that draw the viewer into his personal, idiosyncratic, dynamic and at times, heretical weave of words, characters and images. We Done All We Could And None Of It's Good signals a new chapter in Hancock's ongoing fictitious narrative that follows the lives of Vegans and Mounds, two species locked in an epic ideological struggle."

This exhibition will be on view at its current location through August 28, 2011, and will move to the SCAD Gutstein Gallery (Savannah, GA) on September 15 - November 15, 2011. For further information, see SCAD. To view other works by Trenton Doyle Hancock, see James Cohan Gallery.

AVISCA Fine Art Gallery
Freddie Styles and Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier:

Naturally, an exhibition featuring Freddie Styles and Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier, opened July 16, 2011 at Avisca Fine Art Gallery in Marietta, Georgia. It was exciting to be present and part of this well-attended opening reception. In addition to Freddie and Lynn, the reception guests included a number of other artists, both locally and from across the country, as well as an equal number of collectors.

The exhibition, Freddie Styles and Lynn Marshall-Linnemeier:
Naturally, presents current and recent works on paper by the two Atlanta artists. It "highlights the primacy of nature and the natural environment in the work of both artists, each working within different aesthetics and traditions."

Both artists will be featured in an Artists Talk on Sunday, August 28, 2011, 4 - 6 pm. View the online catalogue. For further information, call: 770/ 977-2732 or visit Avisca Gallery.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Swann Galleries African-American Fine Art Auction: An Upcoming Highlight

Charles W. White, "Work,"
Drawing, 1953
This exceptional piece, Work, will be featured  in Swann's October 6, 2011 sale of African-American Fine Art; and is the first large-scale drawing from Charles White's important 1950s period to come to auction.

Charles White created Work during the height of his New York career. The drawing is an excellent example of how, in the early 1950s, White gave a new beauty and dignity to his social realist subjects. White now depicted working men and women on a grand scale with an attention to natural gestures turning his subjects into heroic figures.

Charles White was featured in Ebony magazine's July 1967 issue in which Louie Robinson's story: Charles White: Portrayer of Black Dignity speaks to the artist's achievement and fame with works on black themes. Work was one of the featured images in that story; Robinson states that this drawing "typifies the way in which he captures underlying profundity embodied in the simple." Quoting White from the Ebony 1967 article, "My work strives to take shape around images and ideas centered within the vortex of a Negro's life experience." White further elaborates, "I have a total commitment to people, to art, and particularly my people. ...I take pride in the fact that being black gives me an identity and a source to draw upon. I'm never without something to say. I think it is because of the kind of relationship I have with people. My antennae are constantly out." To read the full Ebony article by Louie Robinson, visit Google Books.

A full list of auction highlights, including fine paintings by Charles Alston, Barkley Hendricks, Norman Lewis, Hughie Lee-Smith and Hale Woodruff, will be available later in July.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Betye Saar: Artist Talk

The theme of this post is the iconic image of Aunt Jemima in the work of Betye Saar. The first interview focuses on Saar's signature piece, The Liberation of Aunt Jemima (1972) which is in the collection of the Berkeley Art Museum at the University of California at Berkeley; and the second focuses on The Resurrection of Aunt Jemima. The full series, from which these interviews are taken, speak to other topical interests that highlight the depth, scope, and coverage of the artist's work; her professional relationships; and an overall reflection of a life in art. The other interviews in the series include: The Watts Riot, The Influence of the African DiasporaArtistic Style, and the Impact of No Art in Schools.

Derogatory Images      Stereotypes     Collages      Puns    

      Assemblages     Symbolism      Black Power         

Heroes     Protest      Recycle

Monday, May 30, 2011

Select Art Exhibitions: Highlights for Coming Months

This post simply highlights a few of the current and upcoming African American art exhibitions that have been planned for the next coming months. Although it is not comprehensive in scope, it does present the quality, depth, and diversity of exhibitions that are on the scene. For a more comprehensive national view of exhibitions on view, see the right sidebar, Select Art Exhibitions in 2011; that list includes over 30 exhibitions with an African American focus. Bear in mind that the exhibitions listed in the right sidebar are updated on a regular basis by either removing those that have ended or adding new ones as they are identified. As a follower, you are invited to recommend exhibitions that you are aware of that are not included on either of these lists.

Atlanta, Georgia  
Auburn Avenue Research Library on
African American Culture and History (AARL)

Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History (AARL) is a special library of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System. AARL presents Charting the Course: African American Achievers in the 20th Century, a photographic exhibit featuring the work of donor and photographer, Raymond Wilson.  Mr. Wilson is a Washington, DC native and retired military officer who donated his collection to AARL. His clients have included the following: National Association for Equal Opportunity in Education, National Urban League, Congressional Black Caucus, and the Executive Leadership Council.   

Charting the Course is on view through June 24, 2011 at the Cary-McPheeters Gallery of AARL. An opening event is scheduled for Saturday, May 21, 2011 (4:00 - 6:00 pm) and will include a conversation between Raymond Wilson; Sheila Turner, curator of the exhibition; and guest photographers, Doris Derby and Jim Alexander. The Library is located at 101 Auburn Avenue; for additional information call AARL at 404/ 730-4001, ext. 100 or see events.

Baltimore, Maryland
Galerie Myrtis: Contemporary Fine Art Gallery

Abstraction: The Syncopation of Light, Color and Form, an exhibition, is on view at Galerie Myrtis through August 13, 2011. Drawing from their intuitions and imaginations, the six artists featured in Abstraction "form rhythmic patterns employing light and color to explore social issues, and the metaphysical and spiritual realm." For related activities and to view works form the six artists featured in the exhibition, visit the Gallery.

Jeffrey Kent, HeLa #34 Progression,
Acrylic on canvas
Jeffrey Kent, one of the featured artists, states "the idea for his series of paintings was sparked by the history of Henrietta Lacks and her cells, now known as HeLa cells. I was drawn to this story because of the parallel between her cells and the legacy of artists: just as HeLa cells have lived outside their original source for so long, artwork lives on long after the artist’s death." 

Chicago, Illinois
Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago

Mark Bradford, Scorched Earth, 2006
Collection of Dennis and Debra Scholl,
Photo: Bruce M. White

The exhibition, Mark Bradfordwill be on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago through September 18, 2011. Organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts, The Ohio State University, "This exhibition is the first survey of the artist's work to date. Spanning the years 2001 to 2010, it examines Bradford's work in all media, beginning with early sculptural projects, and culminating in a number of new commissions."

Admission is free for MCA members; there is a $20.00 fee for nonmembers. For further information and related programs, visit: MCA. A catalogue accompanies this exhibition. 

Greensboro, North Carolina
Weatherspoon Art Museum
Kara Walker, Savant, 2010, Etching
 with aquatint, sugar-lift, spit-bite
and dry-point, 27" x 17"

Weatherspoon Art Museum presents Race and Representation: The African American Presence in American Art in its Gregory D. Ivy Gallery on August 20 - November 20, 2011. To express its theme, artworks in Race and Representation have been drawn from the Weatherspoon’s permanent collection, and they represent different media and time periods. The featured artwork "will explore and affirm the fundamental interconnection of the African American presence in American visual culture."

The exhibition is organized around the recent acquisition of two works by eminent, contemporary artists Kara Walker and Leonardo Drew. "In the contrasting languages of figuration and abstraction, both artists speak to an understanding of the world forged by an African American identity and heritage. Complementing Walker’s An Unpeopled Land in Unchartered Waters (2010, edition 5/30) and Drew’s Number 119D (2009) is a range of works from the museum’s permanent collection that provides a broad cultural landscape within which to gauge Walker and Drew’s achievements."

For further information, call336/ 334-5770 or visit Weatherspoon.

New York, New York
June Kelly Gallery

James Little: Ex Pluribus Unum, an exhibition of new abstract paintings, consisting of "large, horizontal canvases covered with narrow vertical bands in a variety of geometric configurations and in unusual but harmonious combinations of brilliant color" will be on view at June Kelly Gallery through June 21, 2011. 

James Little, Difference between Then and Now,
2010, Oil and wax on canvas, 72" x 94"
Mario Naves, the art writer, has written an essay in the exhibition's invitation. To read excerpts from that essay and to view more images, see: Ex Pluribus Unum

June Kelly Gallery is located at 166 Mercer Street (between Houston and Prince Streets). For further information, call 212/ 226-1660 or visit the Gallery.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Sande Webster Gallery

Anthony Liggins, Purple Haze, Mixed media on canvas,
36" x 36", 2011

Sande Webster Gallery currently has two exhibitions, Anthony Liggins: While We Sleep the Sky Dances in the Main Gallery and Alonzo Davis: It's About the Climb in the Salon Gallery, on view through June 25, 2011.

Anthony Liggins' journey "continues to take people on a visual expression through art. I love to captivate, motivate, and inspire others. One transcends through a spiritual oasis in time through color, technique, and stimulating visuals." To read more, see Liggins  

The works featured by Alonzo Davis are from two series, Passageways and Sky Ladders. The following description of each series is in the words of the artist.
The Passageways series grew out of Davis' fascination by the "carved doors of the Dogon people of Mali." According to the artist, "My doors...are painted and embellished with fetishes or found objects rather than carved. Each door is framed with lengths of bamboo."

Sky Ladders represent the artist's "goal-oriented approach to life," and first appeared in a scroll-like painting he did in 1984. Over time, Davis learned that "the ladder had symbolic significance in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, India, Oceania, and pre-Columbia. It can represent transcendence, union between heaven and earth, and ancestral reunion." 

For additional information, visit the Gallery

Roseville, California
22 South Grant Street Gallery
Milton 510 Bowens,
Afro-classical series (John Coltrane),
Mixed media

22 South Grant Street Gallery presents Milton 510 Bowens: The Time Harlem Came to Roseville from June 4 - 30, 2011. This solo, contemporary fine art exhibition will feature new original paintings from Bowens' "Afro-classical volume 3 collection." In addition to the visual arts, this exhibition will highlight poetry and music. 

Accompanying programs follow: 
  • Special Collector's Champagne Reception with the artist on June 4, 2011 from 6:00 - 9:00 pm.  
  • Gallery grand opening reception celebration with live bee-bop and swing music, featuring live poetry recitals on June 11, 2011.
  • Artist Talk featuring Milton Bowens: "Harlem's Influence and Impact on the Arts" on June 18, 2011. A special silent auction will be held during this event.
For more information, contact Kevin L. Santos-Coy at 916/ 613-4244 or via email at

Washington, DC
International Visions Gallery

International Visions Gallery presents Preston Sampson: Common Threads from June 9 - July 23, 2011. Sampson describes Common Threads as “a body of work that is about the universal dialogue of relationships, strength, dignity and aspirations of people to live, love and learn.” Central to this exhibit is selections from the ongoing Working Man series, which gives homage to the “blue collar hard working man who is the underpinning of all of our effete cosmopolitan yearnings.”

Preston Sampson,
Working Man 1, Mixed media,
24" x 36" 
Drawing inspiration from past work, Sampson explores new techniques of mixed media compositions with textiles and pulp painting. “My time working alongside a quilter on a project prompted me to more aggressively dig into textiles and patterns. My love of portraiture ...evolved into merging textiles with them to create the Working Man series, which finds itself a continuation of thematic constant in my work.”

For additional information, contact Tim Davis at 202/ 234-5112. Visit International Visions at the Gallery.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Black Art Project (BAP) Booklist 3

This third list, in a continuing series, highlights recently published books that have an African American art focus. As stated in earlier releases, June 9, 2010 and September 24, 2010, identifying titles as they are recently published or in pre-publication status is crucial for those building a library that has some focus on African American art because of the small print runs in which these titles are published. With this publishing trend in mind, it is advisable to purchase them shortly after they have been published to assure yourself that the titles that you are interested in have not gone out of print. When a title does go out of print, the secondary market becomes a viable option; however, you must then weigh cost and condition differences among the few dealers that may have a copy for sale. 

The following post and the addendum of recent publications are simply a few  new titles that have been released since the last Booklist:   

  • Clearwater, Bonnie. Shinique Smith: Menagerie. North Miami, Florida: Museum of Contemporary Art and Madison, Wisconsin: Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, 2010.

This is a catalogue for Shinique Smith: Menagerie, an exhibition held at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), North Miami from September 16 -November 19, 2010, and at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, January 22 - May 8, 2011.  The exhibition was made possible by the MOCA Knight Exhibition Endowment. In her first large-scale museum exhibition, multimedia artist Shinique Smith "builds on previous museum installations to present a major exhibition that includes works on paper, paintings, and three-dimensional works from the breadth of her career."

  • Color Exploration: Simplicity in the Art of McArthur Binion. Adelphi, Maryland: University of Maryland University College, 2010.
This exhibition catalogue that accompanied the exhibition, Color Exploration in the Art of McArthur Binion, illustrates the artist's quest to make his medium a recognizable art form. As it relates to an art movement defining the artist's work, Binion states "The movement where art historians would classify my work would be abstract expressionism. However, I don't think that is the movement for me. For me, the movement has not been named."

Binion use of crayons grew from his desire to break tradition; it became important to him to do something different. Hear his full story in the insightful conversation between the artist, McArthur Binion and Eric Key, the Director of the Arts Program, University of Maryland University College in the exhibition catalogue. Included in the 24-page catalogue is an Exhibition Checklist, as well as approximately 29 selected color plate images of art included in the exhibition. 

See Art images from the exhibition and catalogue that appear in Color Exploration in the Art of McArthur Binion. For more information on acquiring the catalogue, please call: 301-985-7937.

  • Lewis, Sarah E. Romare Bearden: Idea to Realization. New York: D C Moore Gallery, 2011.
The catalogue was published on the occasion of the exhibition, Romare Bearden: Idea to Realization, which was on view at the D C Moore Gallery from February 3 - March 12, 2011. The exhibition featured a rare and vibrant group of maquettes for murals, mosaics, book jackets, and other projects. Most of them were presented for the first time. Ralph Sessions' discussion of the maquettes that blend paint, abstracted cut-paper elements, and photographic images in the customary Bearden style is accompanied with images.  

Romare Bearden, Bessie, Duke, and Louis, c .1981,
Collage on fiberboard, 12¼" x 43"
The front cover of the exhibition catalogue features the right corner  image of Louis Armstrong that appears in the "Bessie, Duke, and Louis" collage; the back cover features the image of Bessie Smith. The full collage is featured as a foldout inside the catalogue.     

  • Protégé: Sam Gilliam and Kevin Cole. Charlotte, North Carolina: Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture, 2010.                                                                                                              
    This exhibition catalogue, consisting of 40 pages, highlights the works of the two featured artists, capturing their creative spirit and artistic relationship both as individuals and collaborators. The works featured not only celebrate the relationship of mentor and protégé, but demonstrates the importance of the mentoring process for both individuals. The catalogue includes color illustrations throughout, as well as sections devoted to Plates and the Exhibition Checklist.

    To secure a copy of this title, contact the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art and Culture (Charlotte, North Carolina) inquire at 704/ 547-3700 or by email to

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lisa Farrington: Art Historian Talk

Lisa Farrington & African American Women's Art from Lauren Mucciolo on Vimeo.

Black Women Artists        Limited Resources    

Racism and Myths       Visual Stereotypes     

Positive Propaganda      Political Tool

Further Readings:
The Black Arts Movement
The Feminist Movement in Art
Andy Warhol Foundation: Arts Writers...Program (Lisa Farrington, 2009 Grantee for book, Emma Amos: Art as Lagacy)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Select News Announcements, Upcoming Programs and Activities

College Park, Maryland

Joseph Holston, Young Fisherman,
 1989, Etching, 6" x 4½"

The Tenth Annual David C. Driskell Distinguished Lecture in the Visual Arts, featuring Jock Reynolds, will be held at the Driskell Center on Thursday, April 21, 2011 at 6:30 pm. The topic of this year's lecture is "Afro-American Presence in American Art: From the Battle of Bunker Hill to Now." The lecture will follow the opening reception for the exhibition: Limited Editions: Joseph Holston Prints, 1974 - 2010, A Retrospective at the Driskell Center's Gallery from 5 - 6:30 pm. The exhibition will be on view through June 17, 2011.

The David C. Driskell Center is located in the Cole Student Activities Building, University of Maryland. For more information, see lecture and exhibition.  

Indianapolis, Indiana
Hard Truths: A Forum on Art and the Politics of Difference is sponsored by the Indianapolis Museum of Art as an affiliate program to the current Thornton Dial exhibition on view through September 18, 2011. This one-day public forum, "using the life and art of Thornton Dial as a point of departure, will explore the status of African American artists within the mainstream contemporary art world, an examination that reflects broader social, economic, and political ‘hard truths’ within society at large. It explores the relevance of black creative expression to issues of social justice across racial boundaries."

The forum is scheduled for Friday, April 8, 2011 from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm. Speakers include: Julian Bond, Joanne Cubbs, Theaster Gates, Fred Moten, Franklin Sirmans, and Greg Tate. For more details, see forum.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania

The Phillips Museum of Art presents an Artist Forum, As Seen in Print: African American Modernists Consider Their Reception. Professor Kellie Jones of Columbia University will frame this discussion within the context of her landmark scholarship on this topic, and includes a conversation with the following vanguard abstract artists: Ed Clark, Mel Edwards, James Little, Howardena Pindell, Jack Whitten and William T. Williams.  

The Forum is held at Franklin and Marshall College, Stahr Auditorium, Stager Hall on Saturday, April 2, 2011, 10:00 am - 4:00 pm. Admission is free, but reservations are required. RSVP to:

Northampton, Massachusetts

Whitfield Lovell
Whitfield Lovell, contemporary artist, will deliver the Eighth Annual Dulcy Blume Miller Lecture in Art on Thursday, March 31 at Smith College (Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall) at 7:00 pm. Lovell, who is known for creating emotionally moving artworks, is a recipient of numerous awards and grants, including a MacArthur Fellowship in 2007. He creates "meticulously-drawn portraits of African-Americans based on vintage photographs, juxtaposing these images with resonant objects." More Than You Know: Works by Whitfield Lovell is on view at the Smith College Museum of Art through May 1, 2011.

"The Miller Lecture in Art and Art History is an endowed program established in memory of Dulcy Blume Miller, class of 1946, that annually brings a leading artist or art historian to campus to give a public lecture and to take part in class sessions." For details, call 413/585-2777.

Washington, DC

 International Visions Gallery presents an artist talk, featuring Stan Squirewell, on Saturday, April 16, 2011 from 2:00 - 5:00 pm. The Gallery's current exhibition, Stan Squirewell: Interconnected is on view through April 23, 2011. In Squirewell's collection of recent work, "the artist explores conditions revolving around the empowered and the powerless: institutions/identity, categories/boundaries, and assimilation/transformation. The very sharpness of digital media amplifies his confrontational imagery."

International Visions Gallery is located at 2629 Connecticut Avenue, NW. For further information, visit The Gallery.

Elders Learning Through the Arts (ELTA) Project presents ELTA-STAR Awards Ceremony on April 27, from 5:30 - 8:30 pm at the Kennedy Recreation Center (1401 7th Street, NW). This ceremony is one of the activities to celebrate the Third Annual ELTA Student-Faculty Exhibition which is on view April 27 - May 2, 2011 at the Kennedy Recreation Center. For further information, contact: 202/ 671-4794.

This project is supported by the D C Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the Friends of Kennedy Playground Foundation in partnership with the D C Parks and Recreation, Senior Services Division.  

Seniors Textile Arts Renaissance (STAR) will present a Wearable Art Fashion Show in the Great Hall of the Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives (1201 17th Street, NW) on April 14, 2011 from 6:30 - 8:00 pm. This is an affiliate program to STAR's Second Annual Student-Faculty Textile Arts Exhibition which is on view April 14 through May 20, 2011 at the Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives.

This project is supported by private donations, a grant from the Friends of Kennedy Foundation, and the D C Department of Parks and Recreation, Senior Services Program. The Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives graciously hosts this event.

Yonkers, New York

Hudson River Museum's Art Talk presents Alona Wilson, in its lecture series, discussing "Interpreting and Preserving African-American Arts" on April 27, 2011 at 6:30 pm. *Alona Wilson is the Curator and Assistant Director of the Amistad Center for Art and Culture, an institution that "owns a vital collection of 7,000 items including art, artifacts and popular culture objects that document the experiences, expressions and history of people of African American heritage." Learn more about The Amistad Center*CANCELED

Bartholomew Bland, Hudson River Museum Curator of Exhibitions, will give an illustrated lecture on Chemistry of Color: The Sorgenti Collection of Contemporary African-American Art on April 13, 2011 from 1:30 - 3:00 pm. Chemistry of Color is on view through May 8, 2011.