Up & Coming Weekly

February 04, 2020

Up and Coming Weekly is a weekly publication in Fayetteville, NC and Fort Bragg, NC area offering local news, views, arts, entertainment and community event and business information.

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Page 13 of 32

WWW.UPANDCOMINGWEEKLY.COM FEBRUARY 5-11, 2020 UCW 13 Two local galleries have collaborated to bring a thought-provoking exhibition about materials, style and content. "New Media Abstraction and Identity Politics: in Traditional and Contemporary Black Visual Art" is an exhibit that spans two galleries: Rosenthal Gallery at Fayetteville State University and Ellington-White Con- temporary Gallery at 311 Gillespie St. in Fayetteville. Visitors to each gallery will immediately feel that each artist in the exhibit has something to communicate about a fixed experience and possibilities. In combina- tion with the diverse materials artists use, no one will leave the exhibit without reflecting on the power of the visual image to evoke someone's passion on a subject — more than likely a transformative experience will take place for anyone visiting the galleries. One can sense that each artist in the exhibit is part of a greater intent — to help people come to know or understand something by feeling it emotionally or physically. Dwight Smith, the curator of the exhibit at Rosenthal Gallery, defines new media abstraction as "a contemporary aesthetic used to examine, interrogate and re-imagine dominate cultural narratives of black experiences … contemporary artists exploring a wide range of traditional and nontraditional materials from a variety of sources." Smith noted, "Looking for works that infuse ele- ments of technology, music and pop culture, science fiction, magical realism or historical fantasy is effective in helping visual artists articulate new subjectivities as well as new realities. In this invitational exhibit, artists were asked to freely interpret the various ideas discussed within the theme of new media abstraction." Of the 48 artists from the East Coast and Midwest, 30 works are in Rosenthal Gallery and the remaining 18 are located at Ellington-White Contemporary gallery. Included in the exhibit are new young artists, but also a "Who's Who" of nationally recognized artists: Ben Jones, Peggy Blood, David C. Driskell, Willis Bing Davis, John Biggers, Margaret T. Burroughs, Shirley Woodson, Charlie Johnson, Louise M. Johnson, Lee Ransaw and Robert J. Stull. An older generation and a new generation of black artists are exhibiting together to create a wave of Afro- centric sensibility, social justice and everyday black life as the structural underpinning. ere are so many excel- lent works of art in the exhibition that visitors will need to visit each gallery several times to absorb the range of themes and ways in which materials are used to evoke meaning. I did select two artists to share with readers. New generation artist Ackeem Salmon is exhibiting a large work titled "For Strength." A mixed-media photo transfer on wood, the portrait is an enticing work on many levels. Visitors will be stunned by the classical beauty of the im- age. Yet upon closer examination, one will see Salmon leaves the surface rough in areas; seams of the transfer paper are evident to contrast with what the image ren- ders possible — perfection. An older and established artist, Ben Jones, has two works in the exhibit that reflect his preoccupation with two themes, environmentalism and social justice. Rosenthal Gallery is exhibiting an 8'x 8' detailed wall hanging on canvas titled "Falling Down Wallpaper." In this work, the artist promotes the idea of saving and valuing our environment by including words from po- ems and painted a series of images from nature — birds and plant life. In contrast, Ellington-White Contemporary Gallery is exhibiting an installation by Ben Jones titled "Tray- von Martin." e 8'x 8' wall hanging on canvas is a grid design of hundreds of images of the slain teenager. Jones modified each image to reflect the results of social media and the variety of ways people across the county viewed the teenager. A wooden chair painted a flat black and a stack of toy guns are in front of the 8'x 8' detailed and challenging wall hanging. Jones is presenting lectures, one on Feb. 7, to Fayetteville State University art students and the public at Rosenthal Gallery and another lecture for the public, Feb. 8, at Ellington-White Gallery. Jones is an American artist with a great interest in Cuba, where he is well-known and has had several major exhibitions. Jones has made over 50 cultural exchange visits to Cuba since the 1970s and is noted by the Granma International of Havana, Cuba, as one of the most important African-American artists of his generation. For nearly five decades, Jones' multimedia installations have reflected his travel and research in Africa, Europe, South America, the United States and the Caribbean to include the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; Studio Museum of Harlem, New York, New York; and Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Havana, Cuba, to name a few. He has received numerous grants and awards including two National Endowment for the Arts grants (2007 and 1974-75), e Puffin Foundation (2005) and e Joan Mitchell Foundation grant (2002) among many others. Jones has lectured at universities, museums and cultural institutions worldwide including, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Howard University, Washington, D.C.; Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia; Wilfredo Lam Center, Havana, Cuba; and University of Ghana, Accra, Ghana. Having such a powerful large exhibit as "New Media Abstraction and Identity Politics: in Traditional and Contemporary Black Visual Art" leads to a simple ques- tion, how were the galleries able to coordinate so many established and new artists in one exhibition? Both agencies have had connections to two estab- lished organizations that have promoted the works of black artists for many years: e National Conference of Artists and e National Alliance of Artists from His- torically Black Colleges and Universities. e National Conference of Artists, founded in 1959, is devoted to the preservation, promotion, and furtherance of African and African-American culture, and the creative forces of the artists that emanate from the African world experience. e NCA proudly proclaims its existence as the oldest African-American visual arts advocacy organization in the United States. Its members include artists, educators, scholars, exhibitors, art distributors, art collectors and gallery owners, museum personnel and supporters of African and African-American art and culture. It has na- tional chapters in many large urban areas of the country. e newest chapter is the North Carolina Chapter, which is located in Fayetteville. Dr. Lee A. Ransaw, then dean of arts and letters and chair of the Fine Arts Department, along with Lamar Wilson, Director of the Ruth Hall Hodges Art Gallery, envisioned the National Alliance of Artists from HBCUs during the summer of 1999 on the campus of Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia. NAAHBCU's mission statement defines the purpose of the organization is to bring art and art education to the forefront of member institutions and to keep these programs as institutional priorities for generations to come. e Alliance is committed to developing in its mem- bers, and especially students, the artistic and life skills needed to function as literate citizens in the society of today and in the future. e NAAHBCU also exists to provide comprehensive activities that offer artistic and expressive opportunities for professional artists em- ployed or formerly employed at member institutions as well as for historians and curators, collectors and friends of the arts. "New Media Abstraction and Identity Politics: in Tra- ditional and Contemporary Black Visual Art" will be on exhibit until Feb. 29. Ben Jones will be the featured guest lecturer for the exhibition on Feb. 7, at Rosenthal Gallery and Feb. 8, at Ellington-White Contemporary Gallery. For more information, contact Dwight Smith, assistant professor of visual art and director of the Rosenthal Gal- lery, Fayetteville State University at 910-672-1795. EVENTS Two galleries collaborate on new media abstraction and identity politics by SONI MARTIN SONI MARTIN, Gallery 208 Curator. COMMENTS? Editor@upandcomin- gweekly.com. 910-484-6200. "Falling Down Wallpaper" by Ben Jones "For Strength" by Ackeem Salmon

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