Rashaun Rucker - Up From the Red Clay - Exhibition Catalogue

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RASHAUN RUCKER

UP FROM THE RED CLAY UP FROM THE RED CLAY 1



RASHAUN RUCKER

UP FROM THE RED CLAY


Rashaun Rucker: Up From the Red Clay by Juana Williams Writer and Visual Arts Curator

Up From the Red Clay centers on ideas of family, legacy, history, memory, and the power of oral tradition. Rashaun Rucker brings forth over twenty new figurative works of art that delve deeply into his personal life, offering a glimpse into Blackness. Influenced by the work of Charles White, Margaret Boroughs, Hale Woodruff, Elizabeth Catlett, Käthe Kollwitz, and Whitfield Lovell, among others, Rucker’s work presents powerful images of his family. Through monotypes, drawings, linocut prints, and mixed media pieces, Rucker portrays scenes of a very personal narrative, traveling from North Carolina through the Great Migration to the North and back again. The use of red in the works parallels the connotation of the red clay mentioned in the title of the series, yet it also offers a valuable aesthetic element. Within works such as, “I Know It Was the Blood,” the use of negative space creates a respite from the intricate textures of the figure and the body of water, relieving the viewer to imagine what is beyond the horizon, figuratively and literally. Similarly, the only two drawings in the series, large-scale colored pencil works, further highlight the importance of offering a nuanced understanding of the color red. An image of Rucker’s great grandparents in a seated position, peering out to the viewer, with stoic faces depicts the eldest generation in the series through “Before the Throne.” The literal connection to Rucker is brought forth through the large-scale drawing, “The Weight of It All,” which is an image of the artist himself as an infant. The work is similarly drawn with red colored pencil and bridges the gap between past and future generations of his family. The countless hours Rucker spent in church during his childhood bleed through the series in images such as, “The Ghost at New Bethel.” In the print, a lone arm, covered in a denim jacket and beaded bracelets juts out from the left corner of the image, leading the eye to a handheld church fan, which features the image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Perhaps this is iconography specifically relevant to Black church-going communities. Handheld fans similar to the one depicted were often utilized in Black churches, particularly southern Black churches, to offer solace from severe temperatures within the church. They were also used as devotional props during praise and worship, spaces for advertisement of local Black businesses, and ways in which the church stayed connected to social movements and cultural events. The title of the work offers further context. The ghost the work refers to is that of the Holy Ghost, a spirit believed to be capable of embodying a person, causing many physical gestures, such as the raising and waving of hands. Although the image does not offer a full figure or details regarding the setting, the work can be understood through offered elements. The series includes a number of monotypes with much more relaxed figuration, all completed with red ink. While many of the other works focus on Rucker’s paternal family, the majority of the monotypes focus more intimately on his maternal family members and bring forth imagery of the next generation, Rucker’s sons. His familial bloodline is continued through his sons, constructing his own examination of how he will continue the family legacy. His relationship with his oldest son is explored through “Forever.” A father kisses his young child as he looks away. A circular positioning of the figures illustrates a loving gesture and hints at the forever love of fatherhood. From monotypes representing himself during his kindergarten graduation, to carvings exploring many branches of his family tree, Rucker, with Up From the Red Clay, masterfully narrates his own story and the story of so many Black Americans. Although Rucker’s work is very specific to his family, even titling many pieces after individuals, what he captures is an authentic Black American story. Familiar characters include the cool uncles, the grandparents with infinite wisdom and willingness to share, family members returning from war, potentially forever changed, young parents with their child, figuring out their place in the world, and so many more, all with the foundational theme of the importance of religion in the Black community. The series explores what has come, what is, and the hereafter; time simultaneously folding in on itself, while building a trajectory to the future. Blackness, while not a monolith, exists through oral tradition, through stories brought forth from parents to children, grandparents to grandchildren, and through iconography and imagery. Up From the Red Clay tells the story of one Black family from the American South, and countless others who’ve shared a legacy of what’s important and what isn’t, a narrative of Blackness that’s personal and intricate, but also accessible and relatable. From the red clay of North Carolina, Black stories have been birthed and woven through time and distance, through tragedy and triumph, through whispers and yells, through church pews, train cars, death, and through birth again. Up From the Red Clay is a conversation between Rucker’s past self and future self, his family who has lived and passed on, his family thousands of miles away, his sons, and future generations. He has taken stories from his childhood memories and conversations from his elders, interpreted them, and made manifest visual depictions that pay homage to those he holds dearly creating concrete visual memories that will last forever.


March 26 - May 1 2021


I KNOW IT WAS THE BLOOD EDITION OF 3

linocut relief print on Arches heavyweight paper 36 in. x 24 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 6 UP FROM THE RED CLAY


BURDENS DOWN LORD EDITION OF 2

linocut relief print on Arches heavyweight paper 24 in. x 18 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 UP FROM THE RED CLAY 7


THE GHOST AT NEW BETHEL EDITION OF 3

linocut relief print on Arches heavyweight paper 36 in. x 24 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 8 UP FROM THE RED CLAY


THE CORONATION EDITION OF 2

linocut relief print on Arches heavyweight paper 24 in. x 36 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 UP FROM THE RED CLAY 9


BLACK LOVE AT THE COUNTY FAIR EDITION OF 2

linocut relief print on Arches heavyweight paper 36 in. x 24 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 10 UP FROM THE RED CLAY


WE SERVED TOO EDITION OF 2

linocut relief print on Arches heavyweight paper 18 in. x 24 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 UP FROM THE RED CLAY 11


AFTER THE REPASS EDITION OF 2

linocut relief print on Arches heavyweight paper 36 in. x 24 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 12 UP FROM THE RED CLAY


THE PROCESSION EDITION OF 3

linocut relief print on Arches heavyweight paper 18 in. x 24 in. signed and titled Executed in 2020 UP FROM THE RED CLAY 13


TAPESTRY OF MY SOUL EDITION OF 2

linocut relief print on Arches heavyweight paper 36 in. x 72 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 14 UP FROM THE RED CLAY


SUNRISE SERVICE UNIQUE

mixed media and linocut relief print on Arches heavyweight paper 24 in. x 18 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 UP FROM THE RED CLAY 15


RED CLAY, BLACK SKIN UNIQUE

mixed media and linocut relief print on Arches heavyweight paper 24 in. x 18 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 16 UP FROM THE RED CLAY


BEFORE THE THRONE UNIQUE

drawing in red color pencil Stonhenge 250gsm paper 38 in. x 50 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 UP FROM THE RED CLAY 17


THE WEIGHT OF IT ALL UNIQUE

drawing in red color pencil Stonhenge 250gsm paper 50 in. x 38 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 18 UP FROM THE RED CLAY


1ST AND 3RD UNIQUE

monotype Revolution Red Ink by Speedball Strathmore 120 gsm paper 14 in. x 11 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 UP FROM THE RED CLAY 19


COOL UNCLE JUNE UNIQUE

monotype Revolution Red Ink by Speedball Strathmore 120gsm paper 14 in. x 11 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 20 UP FROM THE RED CLAY


FIRST BORN SON UNIQUE

monotype Revolution Red Ink by Speedball Strathmore 120gsm paper 11 in. x 14 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 UP FROM THE RED CLAY 21


FOREVER UNIQUE

monotype Revolution Red Ink by Speedball Strathmore 120gsm paper 14 in. x 11 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 22 UP FROM THE RED CLAY


HE WAS GOD TO ME UNIQUE

monotype Revolution Red Ink by Speedball Strathmore 120gsm paper 14 in. x 11 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 UP FROM THE RED CLAY 23


IT WAS SO SIMPLE UNIQUE

monotype Revolution Red Ink by Speedball Strathmore 120gsm paper 14 in. x 11 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 24 UP FROM THE RED CLAY


PROMISE UNIQUE

monotype Revolution Red Ink by Speedball Strathmore 120gsm paper 14 in. x 11 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 UP FROM THE RED CLAY 25


QUEEN MOTHER UNIQUE

monotype Revolution Red Ink by Speedball Strathmore 120gsm paper 14 in. x 11 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 26 UP FROM THE RED CLAY


POPPA CHUCK UNIQUE

monotype Revolution Red Ink by Speedball Strathmore 120gsm paper 14 in. x 11 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 UP FROM THE RED CLAY 27


WHERE TWO OR THREE GATHER UNIQUE

monotype Revolution Red Ink by Speedball Strathmore 120gsm paper 14 in. x 11 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 28 UP FROM THE RED CLAY


THE PRIDE UNIQUE

monotype Revolution Red Ink by Speedball Strathmore 120gsm paper 14 in. x 11 in. signed and titled Executed in 2021 UP FROM THE RED CLAY 29


Rashaun Rucker (b. 1978, Winston-Salem, NC) is a product of North Carolina Central University and Marygrove College. He makes photographs, prints and drawings and has won more than 40 national and state awards for his work. In 2008 Rucker became the first African American to be named Michigan Press Photographer of the Year. He also won a national Emmy Award in 2008 for documentary photography on the pit bull culture in Detroit. Rucker was a Maynard Fellow at Harvard in 2009, and a Hearst visiting professional in the journalism department at UNC-Chapel Hill in 2013. In 2014 Rucker was awarded an artist residency at the Red Bull House of Art. In 2016 Rucker was honored as a Modern Man by Black Enterprise magazine. In 2017 Rucker created the original artwork for the critically acclaimed Detroit Free Press documentary 12 and Clairmount. His work was recently featured in HBO’s celebrated series “Random Acts of Flyness” and “Native Son.” In 2019 Rucker was awarded the Red Bull Arts Detroit micro grant as well as named a Kresge Visual Arts Fellow for his drawing practice. In 2020 Rucker was named a Sustainable Arts Foundation Awardee. He received the International Studio & Curatorial Program Residency in 2021. In addition, he was awarded the Mellon Residency at the University of Michigan Department of Humanities in 2021. Rucker’s diverse work is represented in numerous public and private collections.

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Up from the Red Clay Rashaun Rucker March 26 - May 1st, 2021 M Contemporary Art 205 East 9 Mile Ferndale, MI 48220 mcontemporaryart.com Inquires Melannie Chard mc@mcontemporaryart.com (347) 665 7011 Photography: Roy Feldman Text: Juana Williams Catalogue design: Andre Moore aaprintandpublishing.com ©2021 Rashuan Rucker ©2021 M Contemporary Art ©2021 Aa Print and Publishing All rights reserved No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retreivial system or transmitted in any form or by any electronic, or other means without prior explicit written consent from the copyright holder.


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205 EAST 9 MILE

FERNDALE, MI 48220

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