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News and Perspectives for Friends of the Arts

4 A RT S

James Phillips: Music Into Color and Light



Paul Reed: Washington Color School Painter





Third Biennial Maryland Regional Juried Art Exhibition



GREETINGS From the President Dear Art Patrons, On behalf of University of Maryland University College (UMUC) and the more than 80,000 students we serve annually, I want to thank you for your continued support of the arts at UMUC. Those of you who are familiar with UMUC know that we are focused on teaching and learning and on bringing education within reach for everyone in Maryland and around the world. And like all those who truly embrace that mission, we accept a challenging role as custodians of history, of learning, and perhaps even of truth. Education, like art, can bring us face to face with aspects of our shared experience. The Arts Program at UMUC has certainly done this with its exhibitions, including the current Horrors of War. This exhibition, featuring the works of Joseph Sheppard, draws on Sheppard’s considerable skill and artistic imagination to memorialize lives cut short, dreams destroyed, and treasures of culture and community forever lost as a result of the uniquely human institution of war. Another exhibition curated by the Arts Program, the Third Biennial Maryland Regional Juried Art Exhibition, brought together the works of 60 regional artists to showcase their artistic talents and experiences. The educational mission of the Arts Program supports the overall mission of the university, thus serving the community in which we live. For this, I thank you and ask that you continue to support the Arts Program with your time, finances, and ideas. Thank you,

Javier Miyares, President University of Maryland University College

From the Chair Dear Patrons,


MISSION STATEMENT With a regional and national focus, the Arts Program is dedicated to the acquisition, preservation, study, exhibition, and interpretation of works of art of the highest quality in a variety of media that represent its constituents and to continuing its historic dedication to Maryland and Asian art.

The Arts Program continues to grow and provide educational exhibitions to UMUC students and staff and the general public. Much of our success is due to your contributions of time, finances, and visits to the Arts Program galleries. It is because of you that we are fulfilling our mission as an educational arts organization in Maryland. Most recently, the Arts Program embarked on a journey to raise $25,000 to match a grant from the Wolfpoff Family Foundation. I am glad to report that your financial support made it possible for us to reach that goal. On behalf of the entire Art Advisory Board and UMUC’s staff, students, and visitors, I thank you! Your donations will help us continue to provide the kinds of art services that many of you have come to enjoy from the Arts Program at UMUC, including exciting art exhibitions for the enlightenment of all. I would also like to thank the Arts Program staff and my fellow board members for all that they do to advance the mission of the Arts Program, as well as the Wolpoff Family Foundation, the Maryland State Arts Council, the Carpenter Foundation, and the many individual donors who have supported the program. I look forward to your continued support of our artistic efforts to make this area of Maryland a better place to live and work and a destination to visit. Thank you!

Anne V. Maher, Esq., Chair, Art Advisory Board University of Maryland University College


14 4

Paul Reed: Washington Color School

Painter Who Shaped the Field

James Phillips: Incantations

and the Transmutation of Music Into Color and Light



Third Biennial Maryland Regional Juried Art Exhibition

In Every Issue James Phillips UMUC is currently displaying an exhibition of James Phillips’s work. Find out more about the artist on p. 4.


James Phillips, Upbeat (detail) Jitterbug Waltz series, 2012 acrylic on paper

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Water Spirits Revisited by James Phillips;

Untitled #15 (diptych) by Washington Color School painter Paul Reed; BMRE reception attendees view John Grunwell’s artwork Entelechy 22.



EDWARD ROSENFELD / BY JON WEST-BEY SPRING 2017 Managing Editor Eric Key Editors Sandy Bernstein Beth Butler Barbara Reed Director, Institutional Marketing Cynthia Friedman Graphic Designer Jennifer Norris Project Manager Laurie Bushkoff Arts Program Staff Tawanna Manago Rene Sanjines Jon West-Bey UMUC Art Advisory Board Javier Miyares, UMUC President Anne V. Maher, Esq., Chair Eva J. Allen, PhD, Honorary Member Myrtis Bedolla, Vice Chair Joan Bevelaqua Schroeder Cherry, EdD I-Ling Chow, Honorary Member Nina C. Dwyer Karin Goldstein, Honorary Member Juanita Boyd Hardy, Honorary Member Sharon Smith Holston, Honorary Member Pamela G. Holt Eric Key Thomas Li, Honorary Member David Maril, Honorary Member Terrie S. Rouse Christopher Shields Barbara Stephanic, PhD, Honorary Member Dianne A. Whitfield-Locke, DDS Sharon Wolpoff Elizabeth Zoltan, PhD

The Arts Program recently received a donation of two artworks by Baltimore, Maryland, painter Edward Rosenfeld from Martha Reese and her son Timothy Reese of Reston, Virginia. According to Martha Reese, the two pieces were given to her after she purchased another piece of artwork at a craft show in the early 1990s.

Rosenfeld, a native of Baltimore, was born in 1906 and died in 1983. He was a graduate

of the Maryland Institute College of Art and is known mostly for painting harbors, figures, and flowers, as well as cityscapes and landscapes. He studied with Waldo Peirce and other wellknown artists of his time. Rosenfeld was known as the “Mayor of Tyson Street” for his work in

University of Maryland University College is a constituent institution of the University System of Maryland. Art@UMUC is published twice a year by UMUC’s Art Advisory Board. Please send comments to or mail to Magazine Editor Arts Program University of Maryland University College 3501 University Boulevard East Adelphi, MD 20783-8007 Phone 301-985-7937 • Fax 301-985-7865

helping revitalize his neighborhood as a hub for Baltimore artists.

Rosenfeld’s paintings were exhibited at the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1960. His papers

are housed at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, and two of his works are in the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. UMUC has eight other works by Rosenfeld, obtained between 1982 and 1992, in its collection.

ABOVE: Edward Rosenfeld, Untitled Still Life, 1967, oil on masonite, UMUC Permanent Collection,

Maryland Artist Collection, Gift of Martha and Timothy Reese


PHOTOGRAPHY CREDITS: Cover: John Woo; Inside cover:

Katherine Lambert, Tracey Brown; p. 1 clockwise from top left: John Woo, John Woo, Tracey Brown, John Woo; pp. 2–5 John Woo; p. 6 left to right: John Woo, courtesy of Buda Musique; pp. 7–9 John Woo; p. 10 courtesy of Wadsworth Jarrell; pp. 11–19 John Woo; p. 20 clockwise from top left: John Woo, John Woo, Tracey Brown; p. 21 clockwise from top right: courtesy of Mike McConnell, courtesy of Jun Lee, John Woo; p. 22 clockwise from top right: John Woo, John Woo, Tracey Brown, Tracey Brown, Tracey Brown; p. 23 top to bottom: Jon West-Bey, John Woo, John Woo, courtesy of Mike McConnell


By Eric Key

Did you know . . . the late Ralph Baney served as

March Avery is the daughter of

Al Burts worked as a police

visual artist EJ Montgomery

an art officer in the Ministry of

well-known artists Milton Avery and

officer for the Center for Advanced

worked at the U.S. State

Education and Culture for Trinidad

Sally Michel Avery and is mainly

Study in the Visual Arts at the

Department, where she

and Tobago before earning his


National Gallery of Art and served

coordinated visual art

as a sergeant in the Gulf War?

exhibitions for American

MFA and PhD from University of Maryland, College Park?

embassies around the world?

ARTWORK DETAILS ABOVE (left to right): Ralph Baney, Three Piece Form, 1971, maple,

UMUC Permanent Collection, Doris Patz Collection of Maryland Artists; March Avery, Paris Park II, 1995, watercolor on paper, UMUC Permanent Collection, International Collection; Al Burts, Dignity, 2008, ballpoint pen on board, UMUC Permanent Collection, Maryland Artist Collection; EJ Montgomery, Caribbean Dreams, 2001, mixed media, UMUC Permanent Collection, Maryland Artist Collection






There are also consistent symbolic references to African

elements that fill it reveals layers of significance and virtuosity.

cultural expressions or ideas in Phillips’s work. Phillips was an

Always there is music transformed or transfigured into color and

early innovator in the use of African iconography in painting.

light. Composer and musician T. J. Anderson says, “All black

Many African American artists, perhaps inspired by Alain Locke’s

music is based upon black speech. That’s why the preacher is

1925 challenge for artists to look to their ancestral heritage,2

so important. All of it comes from the church and the bars and all

had reinterpreted mask-like images, not going much beyond

of that, so it is environmental. This is an extension of who we are

the stylistic reconfigurations of the early European modernists

as a people.”1 The voicing and tonalities of music—black music

such as Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, or Henry Moore.

especially—are linked to speech, just as the multiple tonalities

Phillips says, “The African references are in my work because

of the West African Yoruba language translate subtly into the

that is the direct source, that’s the foundation where all of my

phrasings of the talking drum.

images come from.”3

ABOVE: Reincarnation of DC, 2005, acrylic on paper, 29 x 29 inches LEFT: Down Beat, Jitterbug Waltz series, 2012, acrylic on paper, 31 x 22 inches



Phillips’s quiet demeanor hides an incessant curiosity.

He is familiar with Ethiopian jazz horn player Gétatchèw

It’s not so much the color. It’s the value of the color.

Mèkurya as well as with obscure recordings of Eric Dolphy,

Sixty-four colors, possibilities. But then when you start

John Coltrane playing with Thelonious Monk, the free jazz of

breaking them down into various values, you can expand

Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis playing in

on that. It’s the same thing with the eight-note [or] twelve-

Sweden, and many others. Additionally, Phillips studies Egyp-

note scale system. It’s just a matter of tripling, quadrupling.

tian symbols and iconography and African symbols and masks

I guess the most primary element to all of that would be

from many diverse cultures, and he employs them with full

African drummers. ’Cause they always come back to that

awareness of their original meanings, which he translates into

one beat. I don’t care how far they expand the rhythm . . .

his own creative statements.

Color is one of the elements of his alchemy. He explains:

still they come back on that same beat. And that’s the glue

Phillips doesn’t paint the cliché of highly colored horn

that holds the composition together.

players in some version of impassioned performance. Such imagery actually is less about music than the emotions of spec-

tators at musical events. It interprets the emotional memory of

for reading his work. Since his early work in the Weusi Artist

the experience as a spectator or as an appreciation of a par-

Collective in New York during the late 1960s through his entry

ticular musician but never captures the complex artistry inside

into AfriCOBRA in the mid-1970s, Phillips has animated his

the players—their codes, creative conversations, and improvisa-

work with color and rhythm. The figure, when present, has

tions—and the intricacies of the formal innovations of what we

been abstract and symbolic, often derived and interpreted

call jazz. Phillips transforms the aural into the visual to layer

from graphic traditions of Egypt, West Africa, and Haiti. Vivid

a symbiotic possibility.

colors in combinations and relationships intimating complex jazz

In this explanation, Phillips begins to give us a decoder

chords organized in rhythmic asymmetry have dominated his compositions for the past 50 years.

When AfriCOBRA formed in Chicago in 1968, the group

developed an aesthetic that implied a devotion to the figure with the concept of “awesome imagery.” Phillips contributed significantly to the growth of a more abstract AfriCOBRA imagery in the 1970s. Wadsworth Jarrell, a cofounder of AfriCOBRA, credits Phillips with the “biggest shift” in the group aesthetic.4

With his Nummo series, Phillips tapped into the creation

mythology of the Dogon people of Mali, using imagery bursting with energy and suggestions of primordial, spiritual beings. The

Water Spirits II, 1983, acrylic on canvas, 31 x 24 inches On loan from Adger Cowans


ABOVE: CD cover for Ethiopiques 14 featuring Gétatchèw Mèkurya LEFT: Water Spirits, 2008, acrylic on paper, 40 x 32 inches

UMUC Arts Program, Maryland Artist Collection


developed an elaborate systemization of their concepts regarding the process of speech and the physical world. They see the physical being or object as the final stage of speech.5 In a related sense, we have heard horn players described as using vocalizations and horn play approximated as scat singing. In Dogon mythology, the Nummo are associated with moisture, which is the life force of the earth, and the word or speech. Divine speech is dynamic and expressive of creative intent. Rituals, signs, and signifiers are used to express an underlying, cosmological discourse through expressive culture. As Geneviève Calame-Griaule writes, “Among the Dogon, symbolic thinking . . . is an integral part of culture. Individuals learn from childhood to view the world through symbolic eyes so as to decipher its message.”6

For the Dogon, levels of knowledge are described in terms

of speech and the word. The first is giri so, or “fore-word.” This is the first layer of explanation, in which mythical personages “are often disguised, their adventures simplified or fantasized,” and it deals with visible things and deeds. The second layer Nummo #6, 1976, acrylic on canvas, 96 x 48 inches On loan from Howard University

is benne so, or “side-word,” which adds deeper explanation of certain rituals and representations. Next is bolo so, or “back-word,” which completes the preceding knowledge and

Nummo were primordial twin figures who were a part of the

“furnishes syntheses applicable to greater parts of the whole on

seeding of the physical, earthly world at creation. These beings

the other hand.” The last stage is the so dayi, or “clear-word,”

are represented symbolically at the top of the kanaga mask so

which presents the very secret parts of the knowledge in its

strongly associated with Dogon masquerade rituals.

“ordered complexity.”7

The eight-foot paintings Phillips completed in the 1970s

Dogon culture accepts that appreciation of the complex,

were filled with anthropomorphic shapes filled with zigzag

days-long masquerade known as the dama is gradually gained

patterns and bright colors. If one steps back from the paintings,

by those moving through the initiation process and acquiring

it is possible to see large, unearthly figures exuding rhythmic

knowledge. It is performed for all and, like Phillips’s work, there

energy as if their presence was an explosion of electricity and

are colors at the outer word (giri so) level of entertainment. But

primordial fire. The geometric face with red triangular eyes near

the abstract structures of the performance emerge with signifi-

the top of Nummo #6 is more energy bursts than recognizable

cance through each stage of understanding.

human figure. It seems to have a crown of lightning. Phillips has

diverged from earlier Egyptian conventions of depicting deities

value but filled with sharper shapes. The darker, heavier colors

and has used imagery to convey the concept of the figure. He

of earlier works have given way to lighter blues and reds and

seemingly has reinterpreted John Coltrane’s use of multiple sax-

more complex layering and organized forms. The Nummo figure

ophones and drums and layers of sound in his late recordings in

seems to be behind an explosive electrical storm. Phillips’s

an effort to suggest an energetic spiritual being or process.

aesthetic was moving toward the grid organization of the rect-

The Dogon people see material reality as aduno so, the

“word of the world” (or the world as Word), and they have

Phillips’s 1977 version of the Nummo series is lighter in

angular frame but also showing foundations for his early 1980s works based on circular, mandala forms.



Multiple rhythms of varying speeds fill the image space in

Deciphering Phillips’s work as coded, musical expressive

Phillips’s work in the same manner as a West African drum or-

speech reflective of Africa and African diasporic practices might

chestra fills musical space. Sharp-edged zigzags are tempered

be useful. The more a viewer is steeped in cultural and musical

by rounder imagery, and all of the various bursts are rounded.

knowledge, the more that is revealed.

Without the visual conventions of diagonal lines or triangular

compositions (a Western art technique developed in the Re-

Phillips said:

naissance) leading the viewer’s eye through a planned tour of

When asked how he puts his rhythmic beat in the work,

Well, I generally like to approach yellow and violet as col-

the painting, the painting leads us into collisions with different

ors that can be warm and cool. I work cool colors against

colored and shaped areas and energies. Everything is right in

warm colors or vice versa. . . . So it gives me a lot of flexi-

the viewer’s face without simple and familiar codes or imagery.

bility, and, believe it or not, I stick very closely to the color

The experience is like a first encounter with bebop and the rac-

wheel. You’ve got your primary colors, and everything else

ing alto sax of Charlie Parker after the comfort of swing bands.

is supposed to evolve from that. That’s the key. I always go back to that. The viewer may not see it that way, but that’s the mechanism that I developed.

The shapes in the work create rhythm. Phillips says, “They

carry a rhythm, because, again, whether it’s on the grid or whether it’s a zigzag line, I’m resolving it down to its smallest component, and I use that to build up the tension in the work.” He doesn’t want it to look too uniform, so he says he will “alternate and reconstruct the system.” He tries to make sure a line that might run through the work doesn’t always “end up on the same beat or the same color, the same note, or the same size.”

Figures become points of departure in the work, perhaps

acting as doorways for viewers to enter the complex compositions. However, Phillips says he is trying to get away from even that recognizable element. “I’m trying to go with a straight motif,” and not incorporate figures. Asked about how viewers might find ways to understand what he is doing in the work without figures and symbols, he says: I find it very hard to believe that someone can’t see the musical references in the work if they are familiar with music. I don’t care what kind of music it is. You can see the rhythm structure in the work. It’s the same kind of notations, only it’s presented depending upon the discipline. The terminology is different, but the same references are there. IN TODAY’S WESTERN SOCIETIES, art becomes a twopart psychological materialization for our contemplation. It is autobiographical evidence of the artist’s virtuosity, history, sensibilities, tendencies, and sense of color—in short, his or her creative voice refined and mastered. The art reveals the artist, in the same way that you can hear Sonny Stitt and know from the way he formulates his sound, regardless of the song, that it is not Coleman Hawkins or Ben Webster or John Coltrane with the reed in his mouth. Miles Davis is never confused with Freddie Hubbard. John Biggers, even in his early work, cannot be confused with Charles White. African Impressions, 1978, acrylic on canvas, 95 x 48 inches On loan from Howard University


On the other hand, in visual media the artwork confronts the

audience as a virtual Rorschach inkblot test, evoking individual interpretations based on personal perceptions. Artists often

Mystical Unity (triptych), 1972, acrylic on canvas, 96 x 138 inches. On loan from Howard University

benefit from viewer reactions to their work, which expand on

their intentions in creating the object. This transaction and ac-

secular music is an artificial and misguided endeavor. Jazz

tive interaction reflects the call-and-response dynamic of African

and blues, though called the devil’s music, are “just as import-

cultures like the Yoruba. The Yoruba concept of ìlutí, “good

ant as the gospel music, the church music. It’s the same thing.”

hearing,” applies to both sides.8 The viewer hears what the artist

That separation is something, Phillips argues, that we did

is saying most often when the artist has heard how the viewer

to ourselves.

feels or lives in the world. Perhaps that is why Phillips says that

what people feel from the work is more important to him than

rooted in the New Negro or Harlem Renaissance period idea

what they know technically.

of using cultural achievement and virtuosity as a palliative to

ease acceptance for blacks into middle-class American life.

Phillips believes that music is an essential aspect of African

diasporic culture: Music made us survive. Through all the horrors of the Middle Passage, through all the horrors of slavery. Through all the different things we had to go through in the ’60s in the civil rights movement, up to the present, and we’re still going through it. I don’t care whether it’s blues, whether it’s called field calls, whether it’s swing music, or whether it’s bebop, hip hop—that beat is still with us. And that beat is still probably the strongest energy in us. And that’s what keeps us connected to Africa.

He also contends that the separation into sacred and

The rupture that Phillips finds so superficial may have been

While conjure and folk religious practices have long been tropes and signs for those black cultural forms rooted in African antecedents, they have also been linked to slavery in the minds of aspirational blacks and observational whites.

Yvonne Chireau writes that despite efforts to eradicate

such slave traditions, “when African Americans moved out of slavery and into the social order that freedom offered, they carried their spiritual traditions with them.” These spiritual traditions “were ultimately present in almost every geographical location in which African Americans settled.”9



The Willie Dixon song “Hoochie Coochie Man,” introduced

by working roots. . . . He is capable of creating magic singing

by Muddy Waters in 1954, clearly refers to the world of conjure

and playing on his guitar.”12

and hoo doo, both extra-Christian practices associated with

African precedents. The lyrics specifically contain familiar refer-

jects of Phillips’s work, often became associated with Eshu, the

ences to the system of conjuring and blues lore: “I got a black

Yoruba trickster deity linked to the crossroads. Yoruba scholar

cat bone / I got a mojo too / I got the Johnny Concheroo.”10

Rowland Abiodun writes that Eshu represents “the force that

Blues singers and blues itself, frequently motifs in and sub-

If one looks more closely, one can find aspects of that Afri-

can belong in two different places without showing any signs of

can spirituality in both the blues and jazz that so inspire Phillips

discomfort,” and he “looks in two opposite directions, embodies

and other artists, despite their designation as secular forms.

two bodies, and inhabits two spaces at the same time.”13 Early

Former AfriCOBRA member and co-founder Wadsworth Jarrell

country blues musicians, as itinerant figures constantly on the

says that a blues singer is “one who understands that the blues

road, elusive, and sources of emotional and social transforma-

is derived from living; if you haven’t lived it, you cannot sing or

tion through performance, have similar qualities.

play it. The blues is a demon, a spiritual epiphany that not only

represents sadness but also represents happiness.”11

it evolved over the years, and it reflects the kind of esoteric

In 1985, Jarrell painted Juju Man From the Delta as a

Phillips has carefully thought through his aesthetic as

understanding that master artists or master jazz musicians take

tribute to Muddy Waters. He used that title because he felt

for granted. Throughout Phillips’s career, he has had a deep

Waters “represents a conjure man who can conjure up magic

emotional relationship with black music that has affected most

with his music and extend it to other areas, like casting spells

of his aesthetic decisions and subject matter.

Wadsworth Jarrell, Juju Man From the Delta, 1985, acrylic on canvas, 68 x 90 inches. Image courtesy of the artist



Phillips says, “To Euro sensitivities, [free jazz] didn’t have

structure. They were playing notes like Jackson Pollock slinging paint.” He adds that Jackson Pollock’s work often was linked to bebop expression, but that “Jackson Pollock didn’t live to hear Ornette [Coleman]. The best he could do was Bessie Smith.”14

Speaking of his own work, Phillips says: In terms of the way I approach it, just like a musician runs scales, I’m running scales with color. . . . Every time I make a change, there’s a value change with color. So it’s not repetition. It’s repetition but it’s not repetition, because it’s rotation and reflection. . . . It’s asymmetrical, but I try to make it look symmetrical.15

In 1980, Phillips received a fellowship from the National

Endowment for the Arts to study in Japan, and he explored

Juju for Michael, 1987–92, acrylic on canvas, 72 x 37½ inches On loan from Michael D. Harris

mandala imagery for a time after that 17-month sojourn. By the late 1980s, however, when his work was featured

version will illustrate the changes. Like a musician, Phillips plays

in the exhibition Black Art, Ancestral Legacy: The African

the same compositions a little differently each time.

Impulse in African-American Art at the Dallas Museum of

Art, he used a grid format as a foundation for a great deal of

to create larger strips. In some ways, this grid plays like narrow

his work, with symbolic imagery to variegate the work and

strips of Ashanti cloth joined to form large pieces of kente cloth.

imbue it with meaning.

The work has three vertical columns that are broken up into

smaller square segments, which are divided by zigzag lines.

Simultaneously, Phillips used asymmetry in color, rhyth-

Clearly the composition uses a grid with squares combined

mic patterns, and color relationships to explore a symbiotic

Three large square areas populate the middle column and are

relationship of imagery to creative jazz expression. At times he

filled with symbols and stylized images. Phillips says, “I like

sought a feeling or sense of the music of Coltrane, Eric Dolphy,

working mainly in threes, and triples; double it up. They kind

McCoy Tyner, and the like, as well as subtle reiterations of the

of dissolve from threes into sixes, nines, and twelves, like that.

kinds of geometry used to organize Egyptian painting and relief

You’ve got at least sixty-four options. And if you throw tone and

sculpture into registers.

shade in there, you triple it.”16

Phillips’s work Juju for Michael, which I own, appears in

Phillips uses the illusion of transparencies throughout the

the book produced for the 1989 Black Art, Ancestral Legacy

work. One example is the Ghanaian circular symbol called gye

exhibition. However, when I loaned the piece to Phillips for the

nyame (fear none but God) at the top of the painting. It can

exhibition, he felt that it needed more work, and he added layers

be seen through the colors and patterns around it in the top

of details to further articulate and complicate the piece. A quick

square, but it is not itself an object. The gye nyame symbol

look at how it was represented in the book and at this final

and the two Egyptian bennu birds surrounding it were painted



Something About Valerie Maynard,1998, acrylic on metal, 32 x 64 x 28½ inches. On loan from Valerie Maynard

into the work because it was designed specifically for me, and

they show the level of intentionality Phillips uses to organize his

and inside the bull at the top of the work. The triple repetition of

imagery. He does not haphazardly derive color relationships and

the heart is symbolic of the Ghanaian symbol for Sankofa: the

themes, and memorial works for departed artists like Jeff Don-

wisdom of learning from the past to build for the future. Also,

aldson, Skunder Boghossian, and John Biggers are constructed

it is a reference to the Haitian deity Erzulie, a spiritual angel or

with very specific imagery and color.

orisha associated with love, and the Yoruba goddess Oshun,

who is linked with love, sweetness, and the river. The symbol

Phillips’s intentional shaping of meaning reaches new levels

As we drill down into the work, we find hearts in the center

of complication in his later work, Prelude to a Kiss. Often in free

appears in Haitian rituals as part of a veve, a ground emblazon

jazz, the musical, rhythmic structures are not obvious, and that

created with cornmeal or some temporary powdered material.

is the case with this work. The title comes from a composition

Surrounding the large heart in the center are two sym-

by Duke Ellington and was conceived as a tribute to Phillips’s

bols from the West African graphic system called nsibidi that

marriage to his wife Shellie in 2000. James and Shellie Phillips

indicate a married couple. The symbols appear throughout the

share the same birthday (April 29) as Duke Ellington, though

work and fill both bulls. At the top, crosses on the dark blue

they were born in different years. As an obvious reference to

background are turned slightly to appear like stars. Just above

Taurus, their astrological sun sign, bulls facing in opposite direc-

the large heart are images of the Dogon Seated Couple, a well-

tions populate the top and bottom of the composition.

known sculptural figure sometimes interpreted as the primordial

couple—the Adam and Eve ancestors of humanity. To either side

Phillips says that bulls, in addition to their astrological

significance, were protectors of Ra and the pharaoh in dynastic

of the couple are the large sculptural faces of an African Kuba

Egypt. A political dialectic is created by the roosters standing

couple facing each other as if preparing to kiss. Hot and cool

on the back of each bull. The rooster is a symbol of revolution—

colors separate the profiles from the background, and different

the fighting cock—and also the Chinese equivalent of Taurus.

nsibidi signs for a couple reside atop the profile faces.

Therefore, the bull is a protector of the status quo while the

rooster is a symbol of revolution.

shows how Phillips takes structures and speeds them up or


Musically, a glance at the patterns grounding the work

Prelude to a Kiss is a wonderful example of James Phillips’s

slows them down, doubling and tripling. Zigzags thin when

moving from the hot Kuba figures to the cool background at the

expression of African diasporic culture and his virtuosity as a

top. Then they are broken into small checkerboard elements in

painter and composer. Phillips is not being idealistic or utopian

certain sections in the center column moving between the two

in his use of African diasporic symbols and imagery. He is being

bulls. Within the recognizable imagery in the center column, we

consistent with the cultural histories that he has inherited. He

find graphic expressions and improvisations riding like solos

says, “One of the reasons I jump around [to different cultures]

atop the complex rhythmic structures. The organic shape of the

is because we don’t know which specific culture we come from.

bark cloth adds to the flow and improvisational musicality of the

So I represent the whole diaspora in my work.”17

composition by eluding the rectangular structure viewers might

expect. The main vertical movement of the imagery is countered

spiritual and social practice to divine speech coming down to

by occasional horizontal pattern flows in the work.

metaphorical expression. He is an aesthetic scientist and a

Phillips artistically walks the circle of speech to music to

mystical adept. The more viewers are informed and prepared, the deeper they can enter the creative alchemy behind his compositions. Michael Harris, PhD, is an associate professor of art history at Emory Univeristy. Article excerpted from the UMUC exhibition catalog James Phillips: Swirling Complexity Into Culture.

Notes T. J. Anderson, taped interview with the author, Atlanta, GA, November 11, 2012. 1

See Alain Locke, “Legacy of the Ancestral Arts,” in The New Negro, ed. Alain Locke (1925; repr., New York: Touchstone, 1999). 2

James Phillips, taped interview with the author, Atlanta, GA, September 20, 2013. Unless noted, subsequent quotes are from this conversation. 3


Wadsworth Jarrell, telephone conversation with the author, June 7, 2013.

Marcel Griaule and Germaine Dieterlen, The Pale Fox (Chino Valley, AZ: Continuum Foundation, 1986), 98. 5

Geneviève Calame-Griaule, Words and the Dogon World (Philadelphia: Institute for the Study of Human Issues, 1986), xvi. 6

Griaule and Dieterlen, The Pale Fox, p. 68. Cited from Michael D. Harris, “Visual Tropes: The Kanaga Mask of the Dogon Peoples of West Africa,” (master’s thesis, Yale University, 1989), 57–58. 7

Ìlutí, according to Rowland Abiodun, “determines whether a work of art ‘is alive’ and ‘responds,’” and this model is a part of the divine call-and-response idea. There is a saying, Ebora tó lutí là n bó, “We worship and celebrate only • • deities who can respond when called upon.” Rowland Abiodun, Yoruba Art and Language: Seeking the African in African Art (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 62. 8

Yvonne Chireau, Black Magic: Religion and the African American Conjuring Tradition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 123. 9


Lyrics by Willie Dixon, “I’m Your Hoochie Coochie Man,” 1954.


Wadsworth Jarrell, e-mail message to author, August 30, 2015.


Jarrell, e-mail message to author, August 30, 2015.


Abiodun, Yoruba Art and Language, 74.

James Phillips, taped conversation with author, Baltimore, MD, September 16, 2016. 14

Prelude to a Kiss, 2014, acrylic on bark cloth, 52 x 22 inches Collection of Dr. Alonzo and Mrs. Susan Williams, Courtesy of Hearne Fine Art, Little Rock, Arkansas


Phillips, taped conversation, September 16, 2016.


Phillips, taped conversation, September 16, 2016.

James Phillips, telephone conversation with the author, October 17, 2016. 17




Untitled #9 (diptych), 1987, oil pastel on paper, 18 x 12 inches

he Arts Program at UMUC became involved with the


art of Paul Allen Reed in 2010 when we decided to

paintings: his quiet nature, his gracefulness, his love for art, and

curate an exhibition of his works. In preparing the

the pain he endured as a result of burying his two sons. I knew

exhibition, I had the opportunity to visit with Reed in his home

that Reed was already an established artist with an impressive

in Arlington, Virginia. The visit was a momentous meeting for

exhibition history at the time he participated in The Washing-

me because he was the last surviving member of the famed

ton Color Painters, a landmark exhibition organized by Gerald

Washington Color School painters, whom I had admired for

Nordland at the Washington Gallery of Modern Art in 1965.

decades. I knew of the importance of their work and its effect

on the art world, and my goal was to add to the UMUC col-

each painter of the Washington Color School “embraced color

lection at least one work by each of the original painters (the

for its own sake—embodied, optical, flat or velvety, saturated or

other five were Gene Davis, Kenneth Noland, Howard Mehring,

transparent. The discovery of fast-drying acrylic resin paint gave

Thomas Downing, and Morris Louis), beginning with Reed.

them immediate, intense color right out of a tube. Ultimately

Another goal was to present a project that would educate and

these D.C. artists took on a larger, national identity, positioned

expose our constituents to the works of this legendary artist.

within a newly labeled genre called ‘color field.’” In addition,

although the six founding members worked alone, they shared

When I met Reed, his grace and poise belied his age of 91.

During this time, I began to understand the man behind the

Jean Lawlor Cohen of the Washington Post wrote that

He introduced me to his new body of works—smaller in scale

“two breakthrough concepts—soaking plastic paint into raw

and different from his notable shaped, geometrical paintings.

cotton canvas and using hard-edged, geometric forms such as

Yet the new works were just as impressive and reinforced our

stripes, circles, dots, and chevrons to carry high-keyed color.”

determination to mount an exhibition, which we worked on with Reed over the next two years. However, the exhibition was cancelled due to the declining health of his wife, Ester.


ABOVE: H II (diptych), 1972, acrylic on canvas, 142 x 141 inches

Untitled #5 (diptych), 1989, oil pastel on paper, 9 x 24 inches

ABOVE: Step, 1966, metal, 24 x 13 x 6 inches RIGHT: Emerging XV, 1967, acrylic on canvas, 54 x 30 inches



Upstart XXXIX, 1966, acrylic on canvas, 43 x 23 inches


Reed was dedicated to moving beyond the traditional

four-sided canvas painting to geometrically shaped canvas paintings—a style he has become known for. But the real question for many viewers and admirers of his art is, who was Reed personally? Much information is available about him on the Internet, including his involvement with the Washington Color School and his contribution to the arts community in Washington, D.C. But the personality of the man behind the art remains hidden.

“Let the process get out of the way and the art will flow.” PAUL REED

From my research and my meeting with him, I learned

that Reed was a gentle man who enjoyed his family and art.

paints and cutting canvas was part of the process to create

He grew up in northeast Washington, D.C., and was child-

his geometrical shaped paintings. But as Reed said,

hood friends with Gene Davis. He and Davis started painting

“Let the process get out of the way and the art will flow.”

together, went to museums and galleries together, and got jobs

together, according to an interview conducted by Susan Stam-

as a magazine illustrator and graphic designer in New York in

berg for NPR in 2014. In that interview, Stamberg describes

the 1940s; had a graphic design firm in Washington, D.C.,

Reed’s downstairs studio:

in the 1950s; and was a faculty member at the Corcoran

His basement studio is covered with canvases, rolls of

painted and stained cloth, [and] looks like a fabric store.

Paint dribbles down the side of the old washer and dryer.

Every surface is swamped with artworks or their makings,

jars of crayons, pencils, brushes, paint. Paul Reed uses

unprimed canvases and acrylic paints. You can dilute acryl-

ics with water and bleed luminous color into the canvas.

From this statement and her entire interview, one can sur-

Reed attended San Diego State College in 1936; worked

School of Art (now the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at the George Washington University). He attributed his art inspiration to Gene Davis and Jacob Kainen, even though his fondness for abstraction developed during the 1940s when he was in New York during the emergence of abstract expressionism. In New York, Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, and others had a lasting impression on him.

Reed’s painting process was much like his personality.

He painted and created just as he enjoyed life and art in color

mise that Reed was a consummate working artist. He was al-

(abstract art). Thanks to his daughter Jean Roberts Reed,

ways experimenting with the paint medium to expand his work.

UMUC is proud to have in its permanent collection a body of

He also understood the medium to get its best result. Mixing

Reed’s works that details five decades of his artistic creation.

Untitled #10 (diptych), oil pastel on paper, 9 x 24 inches




Third Biennial Maryland Regional Juried Art Exhibition Members of the UMUC arts community joined the Arts Program on Sunday, September 18, 2016, for the opening reception of the third Biennial Maryland Regional Juried Art Exhibition (BMRE). This exhibition showcases a wide variety of art by new and emerging artists from throughout the region (Maryland; Washington, D.C.; and Northern Virginia). The Arts Program was honored to have Vanessa Thaxton-Ward, PhD, director and curator, Hampton University Museum; Nina C. Dwyer, adjunct professor of art, Montgomery College; and Gretchen Schermerhorn, artistic director, Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, serve as guest jurors. They selected the 60 works showcased in this exhibition from more than 350 submissions. The jurors also selected the winners for the BMRE awards, including President’s Best of Show winner Mike McConnell, who will open a solo exhibition, Cutting Into Art, in November as part of his prize.

As with the two previous BMREs, this year’s exhibition was an exciting snapshot of the

region’s diverse artistic landscape. The purpose of the BMRE is to give local artists a chance to have their work reviewed by a distinguished panel of jurors and to present a forum in which these artists can speak to a new audience. This year’s BMRE included work of incredible skill and David Marion’s large-scale sculpture entitled Last Drop won a Juror’s Recognition Award

powerful messages that engaged our students, staff, faculty, and arts community; advanced the careers of local artists; and helped forge larger conversations about art and the world around us. ARTWORK DETAILS ABOVE (left to right): Alice Kresse, Oh Pink Grotesk; Ju Yun, Hidden Beauty Secrets;

Susan Bagshaw, Nude Self Portrait with Birds 2; John Grunwell, Entelechy 22

BMRE participating artists at the opening reception




1ST PLACE PRESIDENT’S BEST OF SHOW AWARD Mike McConnell Bear Carver (diptych, right panel) 2015, acrylic on panel 48 x 60 inches

ARTS PROGRAM HONORABLE MENTIONS Lindsay McCulloch Summer 2016, oil on panel 24 x 42½ inches Anthony Stellaccio Drifter (Home) 2014, clay and cemetery dirt 9 x 7 x 16 inches (each) Ako Yamro Ballerina 2013, bronze 27 x 13 x 13 inches

JUROR RECOGNITIONS Bernard Brooks The Mango Lady 2013, oil on canvas 36 x 24 inches Steven Dobbin I Repeat Myself 2016, timed, flashing neon sign 38 x 6½ x 4 inches



Fabiola Alvarez Yurcisin Homeland Security Advisory System 2013, aluminum, acrylic paint, colored ribbons, and string, size variable

Jun Lee Got My Back 2016, woodcut 40 x 30 inches

David Marion Last Drop 2015, clay, wood, and steel 127 x 53 x 53 inches



NEWS AND EVENTS Donation Highlights

in his career. He is best known for his colorful

UMUC Welcomes a Major Collection of Works from Paul Reed’s Estate

to focus on shape and color. Reed passed away

geometric canvases that allowed the viewer in 2015 at the age of 96. His work is in muse-

UMUC is excited to receive more than 200

ums across the country, including the National

works by renowned artist Paul Reed. Reed is

Gallery of Art, the Phillips Collection, and the

primarily known for his association with the

Smithsonian Museum of American Art (Wash-

Washington Color School, a group of artists

ington, D.C.); the Museum of Fine Arts (Boston,

that included Reed, Morris Louis, Kenneth

Massachusetts); the Art Institute of Chicago

Noland, Gene Davis, Thomas Downing, and

(Illinois); the San Francisco Museum

Howard Mehring. Their work was inspired by

of Modern Art (California); and other distin-

the abstract expressionist movement, and their

guished institutions.

materials and painting techniques were empha-

sized as their primary medium for expression.

months processing, cataloging, and document-

Other artists associated with this particular style

ing these works of art. This donation was made

were Sam Gilliam and Alma Thomas, whose

by his daughter Jean Reed and also included

work is represented in UMUC’s collection.

several large, shaped canvas pieces; sculp-

tures; and hundreds of small acrylics on paper

Reed was born in Washington, D.C., and

The UMUC Arts Program spent several

worked as a newspaper graphic designer early

from the Reeves Gallery in Arizona.

Reception Highlights

joined panelists Michael Harris, PhD, associate

Swirling Complexity Into Culture

and Melanee Harvey, PhD candidate, history

On Saturday, February 4, the Arts Program at

of art and architecture at Boston University,

UMUC welcomed guests for the opening reception of James Phillips: Swirling Complexity Into Culture. Baltimore-based artist James Phillips

Paul Reed, DBU, 2003, acrylic on canvas, 17 x 17 inches

professor of art history at Emory University,

for a conversation about Phillips’s works. They discussed his processes and colorful paintings, in which he incorporates African aesthetics, patterns, and symbols in contemporary compositions. A question-and-answer session with art enthusiasts followed. James Phillips: Swirling Complexity Into Culture will be on display in the lower level of the UMUC Arts Program Gallery through April 16. Cake inspired by Phillips’s artwork (provided by Fancy Cakes by Leslie, Bethesda)

ABOVE: James Phillips’s artwork Contemporary Focus/ Black Lives Matter; BELOW (left to right): panelists

Michael Harris and Melanee Harvey, artist James Phillips, and UMUC Arts Program Director Eric Key

Artist Joseph Sheppard and guest

Horrors of War The UMUC arts community joined Dorothy and Henry Rosenberg Jr. and Patricia and Mike Batza for the opening reception of Joseph Sheppard’s exhibition Horrors of War on Saturday, November 5, 2016. Sheppard, a renowned Baltimore artist, chronicles the annihilation, ruthlessness, and cruelty of the war atrocities of World War II in this exhibition, which first opened in Pietrasanta, Italy, in August 2014, during the 70th anniversary of the Sant’Anna di Stazzema massacre. Horrors of War runs through October 29 in the Dorothy L. and Henry A. Rosenberg Jr. Painting Gallery at the Leroy Merritt Center for the Art of Joseph Sheppard.


NEWS AND EVENTS Save the Date for Our Next Bus Trip

Upcoming Events ORDER OUT OF CHAOS April 30–July 30, 2017 UMUC Arts Program Gallery, Lower Level College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center Opening Reception Sunday, May 7, 2017, 3–5 p.m. UMUC Arts Program Gallery, Lower Level This exhibition, guest curated by Ruth Channing Middleman, will feature artists who live in Artists’ Housing Incorporated in Baltimore, Maryland. These artists live and work in modular units that contain a small living space and modest working loft. This housing complex has enabled some of the area’s most talented artists to produce works that reflect Baltimore’s many visual scenes.

The UMUC Arts Program and Art Advisory Board will host its annual bus trip to explore the arts on Saturday, June 10, 2017. The trip will include studio visits, artist conversations, and tours of local museums and galleries. This year’s location has not yet been determined but promises to be just as educational and exciting as those visited in previous trips.

In past years, art collectors, patrons,

TWO WINGS OF THE SAME BIRD May 8–July 21, 2017 U.S. District Courthouse, Greenbelt, Maryland Opening Reception Thursday, May 25, 2017, 5–6:30 p.m. Two Wings of the Same Bird features works by Washington, D.C.– based artists Samuel Miranda and Lazaro Batista. Miranda’s art is influenced by his Puerto Rican family history; Batista’s art is reflective of his Cuban heritage. Many of the works in the exhibition are collaborative pieces that explore the commonalities between their cultures.

supporters, and artists have gone with us to the Kentler International Drawing Space (Brooklyn, New York), Hampton University Museum (Virginia), and Newark Museum (New Jersey), and to studio visits with Marietta Hoferer, Ilene Sunshine, and Frederick Eversley in New York; Sonya Clark, Greg Henry, Richard Ward, and Kwebana Ampofo-Anti in Virginia; and Ben Jones and Philemona Williamson in New Jersey.

Join us for a wonderful outing to enjoy the

arts. The trip is open to Friends of the Arts contributors; UMUC faculty, staff, and students; and the general public.


COST: $125


Details will be available soon at For more information, contact Tawanna Manago at 301-985-7937.

Samuel Miranda Tomeguin Que conoce libertad no acepta jaula

DRAWING ON HUMANITY: THE ART OF CURLEE HOLTON August 13–November 26, 2017 UMUC Arts Program Gallery, Lower Level Opening Reception Sunday, August 27, 2017, 3–5 p.m. UMUC Arts Program Gallery, Lower Level Curlee Holton is a painter and master printmaker whose works Cycles of Life ask viewers to carefully examine their humanity. People are drawn to Holton’s work because he presents issues of race, spirituality, and social justice in modern American society. His dramatic use of color, symbolism, and figurative representations invite viewers to deal with the complexity of his content.

CUTTING INTO ART: THE ART OF MIKE McCONNELL November 19, 2017–February 18, 2018 UMUC Arts Program Gallery, Lower Level Opening Reception Sunday, November 19, 2017, 3–5 p.m. UMUC Arts Program Gallery, Lower Level Mike McConnell is the 2016 President’s Best of Show award Bear Carver winner of the third Biennial Maryland Regional Juried Art Exhibition (BMRE), which entitles him to a one-person exhibition in the off year of the BMRE. This solo exhibition will give viewers a chance to examine McConnell’s technique and the content of his work.

Get the latest updates on the UMUC Arts Program. Visit



Make an Annual Contribution to the Arts Program Art enthusiasts in the UMUC community help make the university’s visual arts exhibitions, educational lectures, book signings, symposiums, and meet-the-artist receptions possible. Through the Friends of the Arts program, our biggest supporters enjoy a variety of benefits as a thank-you for helping UMUC’s Arts Program become one of the most recognized in Maryland. Simply commit to making an annual contribution at one of the following levels and you can join our growing list of friends.

FRIENDS OF THE ARTS (JULY 1, 2015–JANUARY 15, 2017) Sapphire-Level Friends

Michael J. Batza Jr. Henry A. Rosenberg Jr. Wolpoff Family Foundation

Platinum-Level Friends

Above benefits, plus autographed poster from the Arts Program collection

Michael Abrams Joan Burke Bevelaqua Jere and Bonnie N. Broh-Kahn Robert L. Caret and Elizabeth Zoltan Gwendolyn B. Clark Leo A. Daly III Nina Dwyer Michèle E. Jacobs and Joseph V. Bowen Jr. Eric Key Anne V. Maher and Peter V.R. Franchot Ragan Royal Christopher A. Shields Stephen Stein Michael S. Tenner

Silver-Level Friend ($250)

Gold-Level Friends

Associate ($35) Name recognition in the arts newsletter, invitation to exhibition openings

Friend ($50) Above benefits, plus 10 percent discount on specialty items produced by the Arts Program, 10 percent discount on tickets to nonfundraising events, Arts Program lapel pin

Bronze-Level Friend ($100)

Above benefits, plus name recognition on the donors' wall in the Arts Program Gallery

Gold-Level Friend ($500) Above benefits, plus full-color art catalog from a major UMUC art exhibition

Platinum-Level Friend ($1,000) Above benefits, plus VIP invitation to dinner with the guest artist and the university president, 10 percent discount at The Common (the restaurant at the College Park Marriott Hotel & Conference Center at UMUC)

Citrine-Level Friend ($2,500) Above benefits, plus corporate name and logo listing on UMUC Arts Program webpage, name and logo listing on all printed materials for exhibitions and public relations materials for the season

Sapphire-Level Friend ($5,000) Above benefits, plus a corporate art exhibition by a local artist coordinated by UMUC (Special requirements apply; see for details.)

Visit and click on “Friends of the Arts Program” or call 301-985-7937. Interested in being added to our e-magazine list? Send your e-mail address to 24 UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND UNIVERSITY COLLEGE

Lisa Anne Jackson Joan W. Lee

Silver-Level Friends

Elmer A. Mendez William T. Mitchell Terrie S. Rouse

Bronze-Level Friends

James T. Brady Tracey Brown Harriette E. Chiavacci LaTanya Eggleston Blair and Alice Hayes

Gift-in-Kind Donors

Michael Abrams James A. Adkins Nicholas H. and Eva J. Allen Kwabena Ampofo-Anti Stephen and Carolyn Aoyama John and Doris Babcock Karin Batten Gwendolyn B. Clark Kevin E. Cole Loring Cornish Sandra Cryder David C. Driskell David R. Durfee Sr. Nina Dwyer Graham Holding Company William A. Harris Winston Kain Harris Curlee Horton Margo Humphrey Sherry Jackson

Theresa M. Lesko Denise Melvin John L. Milton Vannesia D. Morgan-Smith Bettye J. Robertson William C. Robinson Lynn Sylvester Lydia Christina Waddler Joan O. Weiss Denise Welch Lesliee S. Whitfield Starlene Williams Sharon A. Wolpoff


Floyd Coleman Galerie Myrtis Beverly A. Gray Anthony Lee Yoshiko Oishi Weick


Gregory Branch Vrinda D. Buchwald Elizabeth B. Duncan John S. Fortt Sergio N. Fresco James Harrigan Eric C. Helfers Kevin G. Herndon John E. Hodges Philip F. Koch John and Jill A. Lion Flavia M. Moskaitis Charlotte E. Pointer Jacqueline K. Randolph Michael Aaron Richmond Elliott Stubbs Marilyn B. Wassmann Joseph M. Williams

Cynthia F. Johnson Julian S. Jones Eric Key Matthew Klos Philip F. Koch Ulysses Marshall Wanda Spence McDow Anne McLaughlin Trace Miller Tunde Odunlade Kathryn O’Grady Katja Oxman Constance Pitcher Preston W. Sampson Lucy Schoenfeld Joseph Sheppard Stephen Stein Noi Volkov Sharon A. Wolpoff Helen Zughaib

Art@UMUC Magazine, Spring 2017  

Read the latest news about arts at University of Maryland University College.

Art@UMUC Magazine, Spring 2017  

Read the latest news about arts at University of Maryland University College.