“Bold” In 2015? Commentary by Cbabi Bayoc
Cbabi Bayoc has based his art practice in St. Louis for the past 18 years. In 2012 he created the art piece, ‘365 Days with Dad’, comprised of 365 paintings of black fathers and their children. He and his wife, Reine Bayoc, own SweetArt Bakeshop and Art Studio in the Shaw Neighborhood. The past many months have been very tumultuous in St. Louis. On the day of Mike Brown's killing, a call to artists went out and folks from all over the world answered. They saw a small town rocked, guns pointed at women and children, homes tear gassed, vigilantes on rooftops with guns, looters, protesters, die-ins in malls, protests at football games and the symphony and boarded up buildings adorned with art. The art community had always been in the mix. Folks asked early on where were the artists, and what was being produced in response to Ferguson and all that was going on? Artists were out protesting with everyone else and also wondering how they should respond. Painters, sculptors, performers, writers... they too had to process their emotions and wait for the right side of the brain to click. Then, the click happened. Freida Wheaton curated an exhibition that took place in several venues around the city and county of St. Louis (Hands Up, Don't Shoot: Artists Respond). That was a BOLD move. As expected, though, with anything addressing the reality of society's faults, certain pieces couldn't show in certain venues because they were “too much.” The artist Robert Ketchens did an amazing emotional piece, but was not able to show it in a key location. Ostensibly, this was to protect young eyes, but was this censorship really about the child? We worry about making certain adults uncomfortable most times.
Soon after, the Philip Slein Gallery showcased African American art from collectors in the St. Louis area (Other Ways; Other Times: Influences of African-American Tradition from St. Louis Collections). That very impressive body of work –Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kehinde Wiley and Elizabeth Catlett - was so well received, someone encouraged the gallery to actually show work by African American artists from the St. Louis region, again curated by Freida Wheaton (Now! Vibrant Traditions with an Unexpected Edge). Of all things, this was deemed a “BOLD” move. Why was the word “bold” used in this case? I would argue that this exhibition was smart, but NOT “bold.” To actually put the work of 15 Black artists in an "established" gallery in St. Louis and no fight break out?! Black folks can actually show work in the same venue and not only have great attendance, but have work sell. Had the work addressed how black artists feel about being friends of but not represented by white gallery owners and letting that body of work hang in an "established" gallery, THAT would have been BOLD! There is an air of exclusion in ALL areas of the St. Louis region. None of the work in the Philip Slein Gallery exhibition of St. Louis black artists was political or even overtly African American and yet, critique of the show remarked on the “boldness” of the gallery for hosting it. What does the St. Louis Art Community need to see as we continue to make change in 2015? Work by local black artists must be recognized as worthy of support and included, without caveat, in high-end, white galleries. The reality is that most collectors of black artists’ work reside outside of the black community. The “established” galleries
Learn more about the origins of “femmage” and other feminist art forms in After the Revolution: Women Who Transformed Contemporary Art (Prestel Publishing, 2013)
Studio Visits and Artist Interviews
Discover more about what these St. Louis artists are up to! www.basilkincaid.com; www.jamiekreher.com Interested in the StL Fringe Festival? Go here: www.stlfringe.com
Spaces and Places
Art Saint Louis: 1223 Pine Street, 63103 www.artstlouis.org Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts: 3716 Washington Blvd, 63108 www.pulitzerarts.org Bruno David Projects: 1245 S Vandeventer Ave, 63110 www.brunodavidprojects.com Fort Gondo Compound for the Arts: 3151 Cherokee St, 63118 www.fortgondo.com The State Organization on Arts and Disability: 2814 Sutton Blvd, 63143 www.vsamissouri.org The Luminary Center for the Arts: 2701 Cherokee Street, 63118 www.theluminaryarts.com Laumeier Sculpture Park: 12580 Rott Rd, 63127 www.laumeiersculpturepark.org Regional Arts Commission: 6128 Delmar Blvd, 63112; download the RAC App: www.racstl.org/stlartsapp The focus of this section was on the Saint Louis Art Museum: 1 Fine Arts Dr, 63110 www.slam.org
What’s Going On
SweetArt is located at 2203 S 39th, 63110 www.sweetartstl.com View Cbabi Bayoc’s work: www.cbabibayoc.com
Marketing art made by black artists is not bold, it is smart. In a time when we cannot help but note the unbroken connections that tie us to injustices of the past, it is worth observing that almost all of the artists of the Harlem Renaissance died penniless. That should not be the legacy of the artists of today's renaissance that give their all to the arts, for there are too many avenues of representation if certain folks would be BOLD enough to champion their work.
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Follow Nick Cave’s sparkling, booming and swirling career: www.nickcaveart.com Check out the Duet Gallery in Grand Center 3526 Washington Ave, Ste 300, 63103 www.duetstl.com Visit the Bruno David Gallery in Grand Center 3721 Washington Blvd, 63108: www.brunodavidgallery.com Visit the Foundry in Old St. Charles: 520 N Main St, 63301 www.foundryartcentre.org
Cbabi Bayoc (photo credit: Sarah Hermes Griesbach)
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