Viewpoints at Jenkins Johnson Gallery
Exhibition Essay by Jacqueline Francis
With grids, abstract figures, texts, and found objects, the artists of “Viewpoints” expand the parameters of expressive practice. Titles provide hints about the topics and themes that interest, if not preoccupy these makers. Yet above all, the creative imperative is to communicate ideas that can be taken in when looking at and experiencing painting, drawing, collages, sculpture, assemblage, and installation art. These projects demonstrate artistic commitment to materials, which are acted upon: strategic cuts, emotive drips, built up surfaces, and provocative juxtapositions are the outcomes of measurable activities and signs of “doing." As the work of historical artists in “Viewpoints” demonstrates, the engagement with theoretical concepts and aesthetic problems is not a recently developed trajectory among artists of African descent. What is new is broader awareness and curiosity about it.
The creative practices of the New York artist Romare Bearden (1911-1988) were numerous, and each was summoned to convey the majesty of his chosen subject matter. A painter, collagist, cartoonist, printmaker, muralist, and costume and stage set designer, Bearden explored the physical properties of many artistic mediums, plumbing their potential for representing the energy of human experience. Intrigued by the breadth and depth of African, African-American, Caribbean, and European cultures, Bearden interpreted epic tales, religious themes and ritual, and everyday life with a storyteller’s flair.
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