Volume 1, No. 1
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June 5th & 6th
57th Street between Kimbark and Kenwood Ave. https://www.57thstreetartfair.org/
R T O I D E E H T M O R F E G A S S E M
AFTER ALL WE CAN’T BUY ALL THE ART! We surf the web, we read articles, we attend art shows (socially distanced of course), we buy art books, we listen to podcasts, we stalk artists on IG. We just want to be close to the art we love so much. So, we want to share our passion with you. We are sharing the work of 10 artists we’ve heard about, read about or heard you talk about. It’s up to you what happens next. Buying art is the beginning of a relationship. The hope is it’s a long term one. One where you can stroll pass the piece and say I remember where I got this, and I remember how it made me feel when I did.
Like the piece that’s graced the wall of every place I’ve ever lived for nearly 35 years, I still stroll past it and smile. Art is an extension of who you are. It says I lot of what you want people to know about you. Art should make you feel that - always. Our hope for the art we showcase in our monthly digital newsletter here is that you’ll meet, you’ll assess, you’ll learn more and if you like what you see you’ll commit. It’s how any great relationship should happen. And if you’re lucky you’ll “make it last forever.” This month we check in with artists suggested by Faye Edwards of Faié African Art in Bronzeville in Chicago and September Gray of September Gray Fine Art Gallery in Atlanta.
Cover Art: In Transit – 40 X 60- Artist Jamele Wright
JAMELE WRIGHT’s GOT HIS
WORKINg By P. Andrews-Keenan
Jamele Wright Sr. traffics in the flotsam and jetsam of urban life, believing that found materials contain magic. A pile of discarded baby clothes, odd pieces of wood, unused canvases, even a rubber ball can find its way into the artist’s work. Wright channels what he calls the “materiality of the land” by using red clay dirt in his work as well. Growing up as a child rooted in both the Midwest and the rural South, the dirt is his homage to Black immigrants who carried it as a talisman to protect them as they migrated from the South to the North. Those things, say the artist, are ‘full of history’ and he weaves them into his canvas of choice - vibrant Dutch Wax fabric, a manufactured cotton cloth with batik printing. His work is inspired by the Great Migration of Black Americans, who left the familiar in the hope of something better. His assemblages channel the spirit of the Gris Gris bag, said to have originated in Ghana. The small pouches, referred to in the Americas as Ju-Ju bags, were carried by Southern travelers filled with remnants of the south they left behind. The former spoken word artist and Hip Hop aficionado says people would carry a rabbit’s foot, feathers, a charm, perhaps a ring, something that reminded them of something good. These items he says are reminiscent of transit, of movement, they are circular and full of history.”
Wright_In Transit 3_17_48x48
“My work creates a conversation about family, tradition, the spiritual and material, the relationship between Africa and the South. My process is influenced by the way Hip Hop gathers different cultures together through sampling and is charged with an energy channeled and passed through the Pan African lineage.” His current exhibition FLAT SPLAT Just Like THAT is on display at September Gray Fine Art Gallery in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood. It is inspired by the movie The Wiz, the Motown reproduction of The Wizard of Oz, that reimagines Dorothy and her journey home from Oz as a young black schoolteacher. In the movie Dorothy is the product of the Great Migration. Wright began working with fabric because he wanted his work to have a sense of movement even as it hung on the wall, something he couldn’t achieve with a flat canvas. He says the canvas was distracting him from the story he wanted to tell. He began by learning how to sew and was influenced by watching Project Runway with his nine year old daughter. He started out using the Dutch cloth and his professor suggested he work on the reverse side of the fabric, which he said gave his work more of a sculptural presence.
The Dutch wax print fabric Wright uses in the exhibition, also known as Ankara, is commonly used in West Africa and prized because the color intensity is equal on the back and front of the fabric. Wax prints are also a type of nonverbal communication among African women that carry their messages out into the world. Prints might be named after personalities, cities, buildings, sayings or occasions. The fact that the fabric was manufactured and sold by the Dutch to the Africans, for Wright, speaks to the conundrum Blacks face in this country of not being embraced fully as American, yet not being African. When asked if he has a responsibility to document the African American experience the Ohio native says, “If I go to another country I’m considered an American, and considered Black, there’s no way I can get around that. So I align with those in the AfriCOBRA movement in the belief that if you’re not making art that is effecting change then why are you making art?” The artist’s work understandably draws comparisons to canonical drape paintings created by Sam Gilliam, yet he finds his artistic comradery lies more with Al Loving, whose work concentrated on the tension between flatness and spatial illusionism. In 1969, Loving famously became the first AfricanAmerican to have a one-person show at the Whitney Museum of American Art. Not a bad mantel for Wright to inherit.
Wright serves as his own curator, hanging his works and allowing them to develop new shapes through the process. During the installation new patterns and marks are created through the overlaying of the fabric. He thinks that as African Americans we inherently find peace in imperfections and busyness. “We are taught in art theory that you’re supposed to leave space within the painting or abstract for someone to rest their eyes. But there is no rest for us, so I want to make that work so busy that you have to find rest in the busyness.” The series, at September Gray’s Gallery, Wright says represents his painting for the sake of painting, and excavating the concept of Black joy. “I am exploring abstraction, and the way that we encounter the painting surface. He’s also reflecting on some of the early American landscape paintings of artists such as Robert S. Duncanson, whose work now hangs in the Biden White House. When asked about what’s next for him, top of mind is how his work is going to be considered in the canon. As he contemplates new work, as always, he is heavily influenced by family and what stories need to be told that aren’t being told. He’s now considering black coal miners because his grandfather and uncles were coal miners. Writing and research are 80% of his process, creation 20%. “I like repurposing he says, nothing is really over, nothing is really ever finished.” A virtual tour of “The New Magic, that also includes the work of Danny Simmons, Jr. may be viewed at https://septembergrayart.com/
Watercolor Dreams AS CAPTURED BY GHANANIAN MASTER ARTIST DARTEY By Patricia Andrews-Keenan
The pioneer first-year class of the 3-year Specialist Art Teachers’ Certification of Kumasi College of Technology (KCT, 1952-1955). Standing first to third from left: C. P Mensah, E. K. J. Tetteh and E. O. Dartey. C. F. Nkuatotse and T. H. Amonoo. Sitting from left: Regina Nanor, O. A. Bartimeus and Sally Turner
we continue to live our days in partial lockdown it’s easy to imagine a getaway by the sea. To see boats gently bobbing in the ocean, and to smell the saltwater as it laps against the shore is at once both mesmerizing and tranquil. Emmanuel Owusu Dartey’s watercolor paintings can transport you to such a place. The renowned Ghanaian artist was the head of the Department of Painting and Sculpture at Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) in Kumasi, Ashanti, Ghana. He died in August 2018. Similar to his American counterpart, Lois Mailou Jones, who painted watercolor sketches of her beloved Martha’s Vineyard, Dartey’s paintings presented unobstructed views of the seaside community of his birth and market scenes embodying the ebb and flow of rural life. His work is said to be both ‘stubbornly elusive and transparent’ at the same time.
“When I saw his (Dartey’s) work I was astonished it had been created more than 30 years ago,” said the Nigerian born, Chicago-based painter Dayo Laoye, who also works in watercolor and was trained in Africa. “His work was reminiscent of the technique my (art) professors taught me,” he said. Born in 1927 in Mamfe, Akwapim, Dartey was a member of the Akwapim Six one of the earliest art societies in Ghana. The collective was led by Dr. Oku Ampofo, a medical practitioner with a deep interest in art. The school was known at that time as the Kumasi College of Technology (KCT) and grew out of King Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh’s I plans to establish a university in Kumasi as part of his drive towards modernization of his Ashanti kingdom.
EDUCATION As was the custom in Africa at the time, the group’s instruction had colonial roots and focused on a Scottish regime style known as the Glasgow Style extraction. The group’s instruction was a case study in how the changing lessons of the Gold Coast and Ghana “School of Art and Crafts” curriculum in Kumasi intersected with the changing fortunes of metropolitan British art institutions such as the Glasgow School of Art (GSA), the Slade, and Royal College of Art (RCA). Among Dartey’s teachers were A. Mawere Opoku, James McKendrick, James Hillock. The painter A. O. Bartmeus was among his classmates. E. K. J. Tetteh,
Grace Kwami (nee Anku) and Addo Osafo were his seniors by one year. Prof. Ablade Glover was his junior by five years. When KNUST succeeded KCT, Dartey was taught by E. V. Asihene and the South African artist Selby Mvusi on the Diploma Programme. He won a postgraduate scholarship to study at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1962. Upon his return he became a lecturer at KNUST in the early 1970s and continued there until his retirement in the 80s. Years later, Dayo and his contemporaries would be taught and influenced by painters like Dartey, and he counts himself a beneficiary of Dartey’s proficiency in the field of watercolor.
Boat Scene 20” x 14 - ”Property of Faie Gallery
THE ART OF WATERCOLOR
Watercolor, also known in French as aquarelle, is generally described as painting with water-soluble pigments on paper. The classic painting technique was perfected in England during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The pigment was applied in a series of transparent washes that allowed light to be reflected from the surface of the paper through layers of color. This technique gives watercolor its unique glow. Washes are layered to increase density and transform color already laid down. With this method, the colors are mixed by the painter’s eye and create a unique visual characteristic. An unpredictable medium, the character of watercolor is uniquely challenging.
Village Scene 24 X 18 Property of Faié Gallery
Village Scene 24 X 18 Property of Faié Gallery
Just as with any accomplished watercolorist, Dartey was an improvisationalist whose work, created in the 90s, is still evocative and striking. Literally his work captures the life and times of those living in the coastal city, and represent, literally, the artist’s fleeting thoughts on paper. EXHIBITIONS AND COLLECTORS Artists are often times closely tied to those who collect their work. The same can be said for Dartey. His highly sought after works were collected by businessman Seth Dei, owner of Leasafric, the agricultural processing company he started in 1993. Dei, often referenced as the largest collector of contemporary art in the country, founded the Dei Collection of Modern and Contemporary Ghanaian Art in Accra. In September 2018, he displayed original works of Dartey and his contemporaries at the Residence of the British High Commissioner in Accra. Select works from his collection were offered for auction at Bonhams’ Africa Now Sale at New Bond Street, London a month later. American businessman Gerald Guice moved from the U.S. to Ghana and collected a large body of work directly from the artists. According to his son, Terrence Guice, who lives in Chicago, his father loved the work and bought all the paintings available to him. Additionally, after his passing several retrospectives of the work of the Akwapim Six were presented across the country. THE FUTURE In 2019, Guice’s son sold a large number of Dartey’s paintings to Faye Edwards, owner of Faié African Art Gallery in Bronzeville. The collection of paintings produced between 1991-1993, are as vibrant and striking as they were 30 years ago. They range in size from 12”x8” up to 24”x18”. Faié is expected to mount an exhibition of Dartey’s works later in 2021. Dartey’s work represents another facet of the Black art ecosystem. Dayo points out there is a constant pull and tug about ‘what is Black art’, with figurative work cited as the pinnacle of the genre. Non-representational works by artists like Dartey stand alongside works by 19th Century landscape artist Robert S. Duncanson (Hudson River School), whose work was selected to hang in the White House by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden and, that of contemporary plein air artist Michelle Renee Cobb, who paints landscapes around the world and who was a student of the renowned Delaware plein air artist Edward L. Loper Sr. No matter the subject matter, the brilliance, vibrancy and masterful artistry of these Black artists command not just our artistic admiration but our respect.
THE ART CAREER OF
EDO WHITE P. Andrews-Keenan
Eddie Santana “Edo” White first put acrylic to canvas in 2017. By December of 2018 he was showing his work on the rooftop of the Penthouse event space in Miami’s Brickell neighborhood during the most important four days on the U.S. art calendar – Art Basel Miami. Each December, the art world beats a path to Miami, where art is everywhere. In every gallery and event space and backyard within 30 miles of the city. The crème de la crème is in Miami Beach where Art Basel has been holding court since the early 2000s. Last year James Murdoch, the son of the billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch, purchased a significant stake in the Swiss owners of the Art Basel fairs. But I digress, the point is this artist, just 26 years old at the time of the exhibition, has segued from creating digital art for clothing and shoe brands, to being part of the fine art world food chain. The 2018 show, produced by Pigment International™ was an against all odds entry into the art fray, started just that year by three women over age 50. Edo joined as the youngest member of the group of 15 Chicago artists exhibiting in the show. The first thing that greets you is Edo’s hair. His locs when unfurled, reach far down his back. His loose-fitting outfit – denim, tees, sneaks - are de rigueur urban streetwear all of which Edo designs himself. His sneakers never match because he hands paints each pair. His tats are impressive, especially the infinity symbols which I’ll get to later. But it is the earnestness of his conversation, the determination in his voice, the compassion he has for people that pulls you in. Edo has a vision! Edo’s life, as the writer Langston Hughes said, “ain’t been no crystal stair.’ There has been homelessness, parental neglect, alcohol. Yet Edo floats above all of that and sees a future centered around art, creation, and changing the world. After all creativity remains the only thing we can truly own he believes. We hear lots of talk about ‘personal brand’, but Edo’s brand is literally ‘Infinite’. Just like the symbol tattooed at his temple, from whence all his ideas flow forth. Infinite Inception Art is his commercial brand that appears on shirts, shoes, watches, water bottles, prints, and now on canvas. His paintings are intricate and rendered not linearly, but in a meandering path full of color and symbolism, all carrying a depth of thought and well-researched meaning. Watching him free hand the seeming puzzle pieces that become one image is mesmerizing.
Common at the MCA in 2019 with Edo and his piece “Infinite Grace.”
Take his oversized homage to Marvel icon Stan Lee, in his piece Excalibur. There are 99 references to Stan Lee’s life and career woven into the work. The painting comes with a legend to guide you through each symbol, which includes Thor’s Hammer, Nick Fury’s Eye Patch and Dark Phoenix’s Wing. The same for his piece “Infinite Grace” charting the life and “female badassery” of the Egyptian Queen Nefertiti. In the painting you can see the Third Eye, an Ankh, and the Egyptian Flag alongside the Pan African Flag. Edo wants his paintings to surprise you every time you see them, no matter if it has been hanging in your home two months or two years. The sci-fi nerd – he has two stuffed baby Yodas – sees the ‘Infinite’ possibility of the world. And despite being part of the foster care system, and taking his turn at being homeless – he refers to the homeless as “Free Beings” - optimism oozes from his pores. Edo wants to change the world and leave his imprint everywhere. He sees KAWS levels of reach and influence for himself. Like Andy Warhol before him Edo “wants to be a machine.” And you can see his dream too, just as if that ‘Infinite’ tattoo transmitted the rightness of that ambition directly to you. Since that fateful first trip to Miami, Edo joined Pigment International again in 2019 for the Spectrum Art Show in Miami’s Wynwood District where he and the crystal artist, Mr. Bling Colombia began concocting a collaboration. In Chicago, his work has been seen at the Logan Center on the University of Chicago campus, the DuSable Museum during October’s Black Fine Art Month, and most recently at Epiphany Center for the Arts. There he showcased a series called World of Fantasy featuring the pieces Over There, Down There, Up Here, and That Way, the ‘Infinite’ working overtime. ‘Infinite Grace’ was featured at a pre-covid event hosted by Common at Chicago’s MCA and again this year in a Japanese culture magazine. She now has a home where the owners are no doubt still decoding all the embedded messages. WTTW’s Jay Shefsky captured some Edo magic for a piece on Channel 11, and his dreds were showcased in a hair magazine. He has plans to do portraits of his ‘free beings’ and share a portion of the proceeds with them. The future is limitless. In addition to that future of world domination, he has one deeply held personal wish. “My kids will grow up knowing how much their father put into his passion and purpose, says the currently childless artist. That’s a beautiful thing to come to grips with.” IG - https://www.instagram.com/legomyedo/
ART INSTITUTE OF CHICAGO ANNOUNCES DENISE GARDNER AS NEXT CHAIRPERSON OF BOARD OF TRUSTEES First African American Chair is prolific collector of works by Black Makers advocates for cultivating links to iconic Chicago institution
CHICAGO–The Art Institute of Chicago announced the election of Denise Gardner as the organization’s new chairperson of the Board of Trustees. Gardner will succeed Robert M. Levy as the leader of the governing body of both the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and the Art Institute of Chicago museum. Levy will remain on the board and Gardner will take over as chair when Levy’s term ends in November. “As we looked for a chair who could fit our needs in the coming years, Denise emerged as the clear leader,” said Art Institute of Chicago trustee Tom Pritzker, who led the nominating committee for the board. “Her vision for the Art Institute reflects our commitment to an inclusive understanding of human creativity.” With her professional background and a nearly 30-year relationship with the Art Institute as a volunteer and philanthropic leader, including 15 years as a trustee and five years in her current role as vice chair of the board, Gardner is uniquely positioned to advance the strategic vision of both the museum and the school. Deeply invested in and knowledgeable about the Art Institute of Chicago, she has modeled support and advocacy for the museum and school by championing artists and the accessibility of art and art education for historically underrepresented audiences. She has built a personal collection of art that is internationally recognized and cultivated rich relationships with many artists and educators. Gardner has a longstanding commitment to access, diversity and equity in the arts. She has helped the museum craft impactful plans and programs to engage new audiences. She was the lead individual sponsor of the museum’s recent exhibition, Charles White: A Retrospective, and, over the years, she has funded numerous acquisitions for the Department of Prints and Drawings and the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art. She has built a comprehensive collection predominantly composed of art by Black makers with a focus on women artists and encourages access and engagement by funding diverse exhibitions throughout the city and loaning works to shows throughout the U.S. She is a collector ambassador for SOUTH SOUTH, a global platform of galleries dedicated to promoting art from the Americas, South Asia, and Africa. As a member of the Black Trustees Alliance, Gardner is developing key relationships across institutions and playing a critical role in shaping the future of arts leadership throughout the country. Image: Lori Sapio. Denise Gardner, 2021. Courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago
In this edition of 'ART' you'll meet artists Jamele Wright, Sr., Eddie Santana 'Edo' White and learn about the Ghanian artist and educator D...
Published on Apr 19, 2021
In this edition of 'ART' you'll meet artists Jamele Wright, Sr., Eddie Santana 'Edo' White and learn about the Ghanian artist and educator D...