Sunday, June 18, 2017

Select African American Art Exhibitions: Highlights for June - August 2017 | Part 2

This is the second part of a two part series focusing on Select African American Art Exhibitions: Highlights for June - August 2017. This continuation focuses on those institutions that are presenting a single artist exhibition and will include the following: Institute of Contemporary Art Boston, Craft and Folk Art Museum Los Angeles, Knoxville Museum of Art,  and Sumter County Gallery of Art.

As stated in part one of this series, "This is a very select list of exhibitions and although the exhibitions represented do paint the depth and breadth of art being produced by African American artists, it is not at all comprehensive when it comes to the number of exhibitions that are currently on view or forthcoming. The aim has been to select exhibitions that show works reflecting inter-generational production by male and female artists from across the country which are on view in various types of venues." To supplement this post, the reader is encouraged to view a more expansive offering of exhibitions highlighting the work of African American artists at the BAP Blog page entitled: Select Art Exhibitions in 2017. That page is updated on a weekly basis by either adding newly discovered exhibitions or removing those that are approaching their expiration date. Its intent is to provide comprehensive coverage of ongoing exhibitions on view for the current year.  

Boston, Massachusetts   

Sun Splashed, Artin
2013, Chromogenic color print,
83 7/8" x 63”. Photographed by Lee Jaffe
Courtesy the artist; Galleria Continua,
San Gimignano, Beijing, Les Moulins,
and Havana; and Lehmann Maupin,
New York and Hong Kong. NW.45, ©2017 Nari Ward.  

The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston (ICA) presents Nari Ward: Sun Splashed which is the most significant exhibition of the artist's work to date, and it will be on view through September 4, 2017. The exhibition is organized by Diana Nawi who is associate curator at Pérez Art Museum Miami.

Nari Ward was introduced to the Boston art scene in the 1998 exhibition, The Quiet in the Land, and again in 2000 as a part of a public project, Art of the Emerald Necklace, "an outdoor exhibition sponsored by the Institute of Contemporary Art and by Vita Brevis, the institute's separate program of temporary public art, [was] on view... through August 20. It [featured] temporary works by nine artists and landscape architects placed in and around the last system of urban parks [Frederick Law] Olmsted designed.... 

The artworks either celebrate or beg comparison with Olmsted's complex and subtle 19th-century vision; in a few cases they direct a contemporary spotlight on his left-to-crumble ideas." (Remembering Olmsted's Vision for Boston by Ann Wilson Lloyd, August 6, 2000, New York Times).

The Boston presentation of this current exhibition, Sun Splashed, is coordinated by Ruth Erickson, ICA Associate Curator. According to Erickson, "Emerging alongside a notable group of African-American artists who rose to prominence in the 1990s, Ward takes on a massive and tactile approach to art-making and has expanded contemporary definitions of installation, assemblage, and site-specificity. His deft use of found objects imbues his work with an instinctive connection to the past as well as the present, allowing him to challenge viewers' perceptions of familiar objects and experiences."

Sun Splashed  speaks to the issues around politics, spirituality, identity, and migration. The artworks which are made from soda pop bottles, shoelaces, shopping carts and other found materials that speak to the artist's distinctive experimentation of creating works in sculpture, collage, video, installation, and photographs. This exhibition, consisting of approximately 43 works, draws on diverse art histories and visual traditions, ranging from folk practices and ritual object-making to avant-garde and conceptual legacies of the twentieth century. Ward imbues his work with layered meanings connected to cultural expression, history, and the Black experience, paying particular attention to his native Jamaica and his adopted home of Harlem. 

Nari Ward, Savior, 1996, Shopping cart, plastic garbage bags, cloth, bottles, 
metal fence, earth, wheel, mirror, chair, and clocks, 128” × 36” × 23”.
Collection of Jennifer McSweeney, NW.09. Courtesy of artist and Lehmann Maupin,
New York and Hong Kong. Photo by EG Schenpf, Courtesy Museum of Contemporary Art.
©2017 Nari Ward.

Savior, shopping cart featured in the image above, is a 10-foot tall sculpture that transforms a quotidian shopping cart through intricate assemblage and wrapping. "The encrusted cart, with its Christianity-inflected title, looks like a regal version of the carts that homeless or itinerant people use to collect cans and move their belongings. Ward addresses those who reside on the margins of the city's social structures and economies - the street vendors, the homeless, the disenfranchised." (museum label)

Nari Ward, Radha LiquorsouL, 2010,
Metal and neon sign, PVC tube with artificial flowers,
shoelaces, and shoe tips, 126” × 25” × 29”, 
Collection of Rachel and Jean-Pierre Lehmann
NW.34. Courtesy the artist and Lehman Maupin,
New York and Hong Kong, ©2017 Nari Ward  
Radha LiquorsouL, which is exhibited in the above image, is a part of a group of works made from out-of-use liquor store signs that Ward removed from buildings in New York. "Ward decorates the large neon signs with found objects...the final artwork is like a ritualistic beacon produced by urban streets, communal rituals, and personal affect." (museum label)

A catalogue accompanies this exhibition.

Program Highlights:
Nari Ward - A Segue into History
An Artist Talk: Explore this video and audio recording featuring Nari Ward.

Interactive tour led by one of the ICA’s expert guides. 
Saturday, June 24, 2017, 2:30 PM
Sunday, June 25, 2017, 2:30 PM
Saturday, July 1, 2017, 2:30 PM
Sunday, July 2, 2017, 2:30 PM
SEE more dates at Interactive tour.

Nari Ward Naturalization Drawing Table
"Participate in artist Nari Ward’s artwork Naturalization Drawing Table, in conjunction with his exhibition Nari Ward: Sun Splashed. Based on Ward’s personal experience of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, this interactive artwork gives museum visitors a better understanding of that process."   

Saturday, July 1, 2017, 1:00–4:00 PM
Thursday, July 13, 2017, 5:00–8:00 PM
Saturday, August 5, 2017, 1:00–4:00 PM
Thursday, August 17, 2017, 5:00–8:00 PM

Knoxville, Tennessee

Beauford Delaney, Knoxville, 1969. Watercolor and gouache on paper,
24” x 15 ¾”, Knoxville Museum of Art, purchase with funds provided by the
Rachael Patterson Young Art Acquisition Reserve. All images © Estate of Beauford Delaney,
by permission of Derek L. Spratley, Esquire, Court Appointed Administrator

The acquisition and display of works by Beauford Delaney have been part of a larger effort to bring long-overdue attention to the artist's legacy in his hometown of Knoxville, Tennessee. That effort and dream have been realized as the Knoxville Museum of Art (KMA) presents Gathering Light: Works by Beauford Delaney from the KMA Collection, on view through July 23, 2017. 

Gathering Light includes more than 30 of Delaney's paintings and drawings that were purchased from the artist's estate between 2014 and 2016 in what has amounted to one of the most significant art acquisition in the KMA's 27-year history. Nearly all of these works have never been on public view. Accompanying the works acquired by the KMA are also a small collection of paintings from the artist's estate that the museum hopes to raise funds to purchase.

KMA Executive Director David Butler states "We are thrilled to shine light on one of the world's greatest artists and local hero, Beauford Delaney. His legacy has been recognized internationally, but he less well-known here at home. We hope this exhibition helps to change that."

Beauford Delaney, Untitled (New York City) circa 1945. Watercolor on paper, 15 ½” x 22 ½”,
Knoxville Museum of Art, purchase with funds provided by the KMA Collectors Circle.

Beauford Delaney was born in Knoxville, Tennessee in 1901 and died in Paris, France in 1979. "Delaney is considered one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. Despite battling poverty, prejudice, and mental illness, he achieved an international reputation for his portraits, scenes of city life, and  free-form abstractions marked by intense colors, bold contours, and vibrant surfaces. The KMA's growing collection promises to serve as a vital resource for the preservation and celebration of this East Tennessee master's work."(PR)

Los Angeles, California

Betye Saar, Liberation, 2011, Mixed media on vintage washboard.
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts and Tilton, Los Angeles, CA. Collection of Sheila Silber. 
Betye Saar: Keepin' It Clean, a solo exhibition of the seminal contemporary artist's washboard assemblage sculptures is on view at The Craft and Folk Art Museum (CAFAM) through August 20, 2017. Saar began the washboard assemblage sculptures in the late 1990s and continues to make them to this day.

"Saar commonly utilizes racialized, derogatory images of Black Americans in her art as political and social devices. The Liberation of Aunt Jemima (1972) is Saar’s most well-known art work, which transformed the stereotypical, nurturing mammy into a militant warrior with a gun. Aunt Jemima continues to be a reference point for Saar even now, as she brings her back to life to take on the ongoing racial injustices faced by Black America, including disproportionate police violence and poverty. Combining images of mammies and laundresses with potent words from spirituals and poetry within the washboard structure, Saar emboldens and ennobles the once subservient figure - no longer in service of white supremacy." (PR)  Listen as Saar discusses The Liberation of Aunt Jemima in the following video.

We Was Mostly ‘Bout Survival
, 2017
Mixed media assemblage on
vintage ironing board
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts
& Tilton, Los Angeles, CA
Betye Saar, We Was Mostly ‘Bout Survival, 2017
Mixed media assemblage on vintage ironing board
Courtesy of the artist and Roberts and Tilton, Los Angeles, CA.
Photo: Robert WedemeyeAdd caption

Keepin' It Clean which presents twenty-four new and historical works that center on the washboard as a symbol of the unresolved legacy of slavery and the subsequent oppressive systems facing Black Americans today was curated in close collaboration with the artist. Saar's renewed focus on making washboard assemblages stands as an urgent act of cleansing the race-and-gendered-based violence that American society continues to inflict. In Saar's own words, "the increase of police shootings and the Black Lives Matter protests are examples that America has not yet cleaned up her act."

According to Holly Jerger, curator of Keepin' It Clean, "Betye Saar's washboard assemblages are brilliant in how they address the ongoing, multi-dimensional issues surrounding race, gender, and class in America. She compresses these enormous, complex concerns into intimate works that speak on both a personal and political level. With the increasing erosion of civil rights in our country, it is more important than ever to exhibit Saar's work, and we are deeply honored to have the opportunity." 

A fully-illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition with an essay by Steven Nelson, Director of the African Studies Center and professor of African and African American art history at UCLA. 

Program Highlight:
Keepin' It Clean: A Conversation with Betye Saar and Steven Nelson   
Sunday, June 25, 2017   3:00 PM 
Space is limited, RSVP required:

William Paul Thomas, Stephanie's Financé, oil on canvas, 24"x 36".

The Sumter County Gallery of Art presents two exhibitions, William Paul Thomas: Loved Ones and Saba Taj: Muslims are Awesome, on view through June 23, 2017. Both Thomas and Taj belong to communities that are experiencing a heightened sense of anxiety as their status as Americans is questioned. 

According to Karen Watson, Director of the Sumter County Gallery of Art, "It is more important than ever to provide an opportunity for the voices and visions of these artists to be seen and heard. The Sumter Gallery of Art is committed to presenting challenging art that, we hope, will increase understanding and break down barriers."  Watson goes further to state that "Loved Ones is an appropriate title for the exhibition, because the titles of the portraits are familial descriptions - a little girl's dad, an auntie's grandson, a friend's fiancé." The image above, Stephanie's Financé, features Johannes James Barfield. Thomas "took the photo reference for this after they had just left a movie theater in Greensboro.  Johannes is an artist currently working on his MFA at VCU.  We met while he was living in Greensboro. He included me in a series of photographic portraits exploring family."(PR) 

William Paul Thomas's goal for Loved Ones can be readily understood as it is explained in his artist statement: "Many people have an immediate psychological connection and/or identification to faces. As people are drawn to look closer at the portraits, questions about the subject's state of mind arise. Are they sad, reflective, angry? If the expression is ambiguous enough, we might begin to project our own emotions onto them to interpret the
painting's meaning. We regularly celebrate women and men of prominence in mass media, so I take advantage of the opportunity to highlight the working people in my community that impact me more directly than an untouchable celebrity or distant historical figure could. The work begins as an intimate
William Paul Thomas, Evie's Last, oil on canvas,
24"x 36".
acknowledgement of an individual and is subsequently transformed into a set of symbols poised for the viewer's investigation." Thomas's selection of the people he uses as models is twofold: it is a way of recognizing their significance in his life, and it serves as a way of honoring everyday people who often move through the world unnoticed.

William Paul Thomas's current series, Cyanosis, is a part of the Sumter Gallery exhibition, Loved Ones. The series explores the condition of being deprived of basic human rights, being marginalized, or victimized and the artist does this by painting parts of the subjects faces blue. Cyanosis is a way to describe the bluish tone of the skin that results from lack of oxygen in the blood. In a real life situation, a recent witnessing of deprivation of oxygen was the strangulation death of Eric Garner by NYPD police officers. Evie's Last (image to the right) features Anthony Hill who is Thomas's brother; Anthony is Evona Hill's youngest son. According to Thomas, "Anthony will be 20 this year. He was in first grade by the time I went to college, so we haven’t been able to spend as much time together as I would like. He is a talented musician  and is in at least two Metal bands."

Saba Taj: Muslims are Awesome is the second exhibition on view through June 23, 2017 at the Sumter County Gallery of Art. Saba Taj is a self-identified queer, visual artist and activist whose work centers around identity and challenging Islamophobia and sexism. 

work by Saba Taj

When asked what it's like to produce art during a time of Islamophobia in America, Taj notes that her "entire life as an American has been a time of Islamophobia, and it is something that she directly confronts in her work. Early on she felt a responsibility to use her art to explore Islamophobia, but more recently has found that simply by being a socially engaged Muslim and gay woman of color in America, themes of systemic marginalization emerge in her work because that is embedded in how she grapples with her own identity."(PR) 
Saba Taj thinks of art as a way to control the narrative and representation of Muslim Americans, and also as an act of resistance in a world that threatens to diminish people because of who they love and what they believe."

work by Saba Taj
From her artist statement, Saba Taj states "I grew up internalizing a lot of racist and sexist messaging. My work undoes these toxic falsehoods and navigates the nuances of intersectionality, by focusing on representation. The constructed 2-dimensional story of these women, oppressed and lacking agency in an imagined 'Muslim world,' has been a partial justification for military intervention and fuels Islamophobia. Muslims are Awesome is a collection of works that pushes back against Islamophobic narratives by illustrating hybridized identity. Truly, Muslims are a combination of many parts, ever changing over time, complicated by diaspora, and highly individualized. Muslims are Awesome challenges dehumanizing, hegemonic representations of Muslim women as oppressed, in need of liberation by white America. Many of the portraits offer a non-Muslim viewer entry points through humor, beauty, and shared cultural symbols."

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