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Monday, January 17, 2011

Black Artists of DC Presents: Black Abstraction

Most of the artists featured in Black Abstraction speak of an energy and spirituality that guides their practice as expressed through: the five senses (Brooking), musical forms such as the blues, jazz and R&B (de Vargas and Williams), nature and the changing light patterns of the weather and seasons (Goodridge, Jackson, and White), multi-layering and various textural media, such as sand (Gebreyesus, Jones, and Leak), early African,craft and folk art traditions (Bouie and Varnell), while others have even been influenced by other art styles and movements, including Abstract Expressionism and the Colorists (Vango).

For many black artists, abstraction serves as an alternative way to express political and social ideas, fears, dreams and longings outside of figuration. It is the psyche made visible in swaths of bright and deep hues and textures energetically executed as in gestural abstraction or in the meticulous application of lines and shapes seen in geometric abstraction. Other artists express this creative impetus at times in symbols and letters, some seemingly familiar while others are self-created.
A few notable African American artists who have made seminal contributions to abstract art and Abstract Expressionism idioms include DC-based artist Sam Gilliam, Norman Lewis, Alma Thomas, Felrath Hines, Al Loving, Moe Brooker, Stephanie Pogue and Charles Searles.

In his essay “Blindness, Abstraction and ‘Double Consciousness’: the Critical Imaginary and the Sources of Modern Art,” CUNY professor and author Dr. Geoffrey Jacques summed up the relationship between African-American visual culture and abstract art as: “abstraction entered modern (so-called Western) culture in large part as an African or black thing, and is in fact, a ‘black’ tradition.” Increasing the understanding of this often misunderstood aesthetic and exposure of these art-makers is the primary focus of this current exhibition.

Jarvis DuBois CURATOR

The purpose of “Black Artists of DC” (BADC) is to create a Black artists community to promote, develop and validate the culture, artistic expressions and aspirations of past and present artists of Black-Afrikan ancestry in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. Some of the goals of “Black Artists of DC” are to: produce, exhibit, document, continue and conserve our artistic legacy; create a cooperative trans-generational training ground for artists; create an advocacy for Black artists through community and political activity; and create and support a market for the art created by people of African descent.

The exhibition, Black Abstraction, in cooperation with The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and Arts/Harmony Hall Regional Center, is sponsored and organized by the Black Artists of DC and highlights the work of 12 contemporary abstract artists who continue to explore and individualize this artistic style. These artists include: Anne Bouie, Daniel T. Brooking, Desepe de Vargas, Elsa Gebreyesus, Carolyn Goodridge, J. Hubert Jackson, Wayson Jones, Viola Leak, Eugene Vango, Kathleen Varnell ,J. Bertram White, and Ann Marie Williams. The works in the exhibition illustrate various mediums and methods including digital archival prints, encaustic, silk shibori and smoke-fired stoneware.

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