Tag Archives: spelman museum

Postcolonial Thoughts: Arnika Dawkins Gallery Panel Discussion “On Being Black” at Spelman

 

Arnika Dawkins Gallery is honored to present On Being Black, a provocative and groundbreaking invitational photography exhibition. On Being Black features work by 23 nationally renowned, mid-career and emerging fine art photographers. The show explores issues of race, colorism and racial identity. The exhibition and the accomplished artists who are in participation endeavor to continue the conversation about race as well as attempt to make sense of the daily news; exploring the questions of how does one identify them self, who defines race and what does it mean to be black in the new millennium. On Being Black provides an intelligent point of view with distinct and observant voices on this topic…On display Fri Oct 16 to Jan 22 2016 A visual dialogue about race in America created by some of the most highly sought after artist [sic] of our time utilizing the medium of photography http://www.adawkinsgallery.com/black.html

 

Renee Cox Liberation of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben http://artinfo-images-350.s3.amazonaws.com/asi2-85688/233.jpg

Renee Cox Liberation of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben
http://artinfo-images-350.s3.amazonaws.com/asi2-85688/233.jpg

 

Obstacles to pursuing an artistic practice while being Black

Please join the Arnika Dawkins Gallery, Atlanta Celebrates Photography, and the Museum for a panel discussion featuring artists Sheila Pree BrightAlbert ChongAllen CooleyRenée CoxDelphine FawunduJohn Pinderhughes, and Deborah Willis, Ph.D.  The panel discussion will be moderated by Kirsten Pai Buick, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Art History at The University of New Mexico.

This program is organized in conjunction with the exhibition On Being Black, on view at the Arnika Dawkins Gallery from October 16, 2015 to January 22, 2016.  This provocative and groundbreaking exhibition will feature work by 23 nationally renowned, mid-career and emerging fine art photographers and explores issues of race, colorism, and racial identity. http://museum.spelman.edu/programs/on-being-black-a-panel-discussion/

 

This article is not a critique of the photography displayed in the exhibition. It is a reflection on the discussion by a number of artists that participated in the Anika Gallery exhibition at Spelman Museum on October 17, 2015 11a.m. The discussion began as most discussions do, going down the line waiting for individual responses with a moderator fielding the questions. These were general questions that were meant to engage the artist practice and issues that each artist may have come across and might have to endure over their career, to which each artist readily and candidly replied.

The timbre of the discussion began to change once Renee Cox sparked the notion that she does not believe in such issues or obstacles. Moreover these “issues” are choices made by artists that blocked their own development. Cox went further to share a story of her father, a British citizen before Jamaica received its independence in 1964, who came to Florida in 1940. He immediately went to the Fontainebleau, at that time segregated. At which point he walked through the front door and argued with the Hotel owner for thirty minutes after which stayed in a room there for two nights. The point Cox made was that sometimes you need to be ignorant of boundaries and demand your space. One can choose to accept these obstacles or ignore them and pursue an individual pursuit. Sure there are situations that can affect the outcome, but if that stops someone’s progress then that individual should choose another profession.

 

 

Albert Chong, also a Jamaican artist, seconded Cox’s position and shared his arrival in America, when he was introduced to its specialized racism. Chong also acknowledge the wish for a Caucasian avatar to present his work and navigate the art world. Then Chong added another brick to the fire by explaining the difference as to the misconception of Jamaican pride. He went on to clarify the point by saying that this pride may be perceived as arrogance, but it is not…It is self-love. Self-love is a requirement to overcoming obstacles and pursuing one’s own career.

 

African American leisure as a form of resistance

Sheila Pree Bright untitled #34 suburbia series http://www.artsatl.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Bright.jpg

Sheila Pree Bright untitled #34 suburbia series
http://www.artsatl.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/Bright.jpg

 

John Pinder Hughes and Sheila Pree Bright both offered another requirement as a form of resistance leisure. Pree Bright discussed the pushback on her suburbia series by White board members that did not believe her photographs of Black homes. One of her critics was bold enough to say “I’ve never heard of this Black suburbia”. Pree Bright went on to identify the problem from a White perspective is that the images did not have enough Black identifiers in it-no watermelons, Martin Luther King, references that made the suburbia African American. In this case suburbia becomes more militant than the overt images of Blackness.

Hughes discussed his work that captured African American leisure in the Hamptons over decades and how that is important to the overall make-up of the Black image. The Black image is not this monolithic icon always struggling. Hughes’s leisure is resistance of limitations placed on Blackness.

 

John Pinder Hughes Pretty for a Black Girl, 1998 http://www.adawkinsgallery.com/black/0006.html

John Pinder Hughes
Pretty for a Black Girl, 1998
http://www.adawkinsgallery.com/black/0006.html

 

Global Blackness

Delphine Fawundu What Do They Call Me? My Name is Aunt Sarah, 2010 http://www.adawkinsgallery.com/black/0002.html

Delphine Fawundu
What Do They Call Me? My Name is Aunt Sarah, 2010
http://www.adawkinsgallery.com/black/0002.html

 

Dlephine Fawundu rounded out the discussion from a Brooklyn, Mali, Sierra Leone, Ghana perspective. She discussed how when people from Brooklyn see the images of Ghanaians and vice versa, there is a familiarity of exchange, a recognition of blood. This resounded with another sentiment presented by Albert Chong.

Chong said he was the youngest of nine children to Jamaican/Chinese parents and most of his time was spent learning who the extended family was. He said most of his learning and understanding of his history came from photo albums. Those photo albums gave him a foothold as to his place in in his family as well as the world. Chong alluded to a loss of memory due to the fact that we do not have an intact photo album. Fawundu’s work certainly are building blocks for a restoration of memory.

The crowd kept asking questions until finally they had to be stopped. The discussion ended up being a small global panel as to how artists can pursue their career with fearlessness, leisure, documentation and self-love. Definitely need more discussions on this.

 

Christopher HutchinsonChristopher Hutchinson is an accomplished Jamaican conceptual artist, professor and contributor to the art community as a writer, critic and founder of the nonprofit Smoke School of Art. He is a Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and has been featured as a lecturer including prestigious engagements at University of Alabama and the Auburn Avenue Research Library. For two decades, Chris has been a practicing artist. His works have been exhibited in internationally recognized institutions including City College New York (CUNY) and featured at the world’s leading international galleries such as Art Basel Miami. He has always had an innate passion for creating spaces where Africans and people of African descent contribute to an inclusive contemporary dialogue—ever evolving, not reflexive but pioneering. This requires challenging the rubric of the canon of art history, a systemic space of exclusion for the Other: women and non-Whites, and where necessary he rewrites it. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama.

Postcolonial Thoughts: Material & Spirit–Maren Hassinger at Spelman Museum

by Christopher Hutchinson

For more than four decades Maren Hassinger, a sculptor, performance artist, and the Director of the Rinehart School of Sculpture at the Maryland Institute and College of Art, has created work that examines the tenuous relationship between nature and industrialism. The Museum will organize and present the original exhibition Maren Hassinger . . . Dreaming. Throughout her distinguished career Hassinger has received awards from prestigious foundations including the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, Anonymous Was a Woman, and the Joan Mitchell Foundation. Her work has recently been featured in several important nationally touring exhibitions including Now Dig This!: Art of Black Los Angeles 1960 –1980 (2011), Material Girls: Contemporary Black Women Artists (2011), and Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art (2012). Maren Hassinger . . . Dreaming will include installations made of newspapers, plastic bags, leaves, and other unconventional materials. This solo exhibition, curated by Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, Ph.D., Director, and Anne Collins Smith, the Curator of Collections, is a timely examination of her life and work. It brings a substantial body of Hassinger’s work to the southeast for the first time. http://museum.spelman.edu/current-exhibition/

“Wrenching News,” 2010. Shredded, twisted, and wrapped newspapers (New York Times). Wall: 7′ x 7′ x 1′. Floor: 6′ x 6′ x 1′. http://museum.spelman.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/LIVES20_0.jpg

“Wrenching News,” 2010.
Shredded, twisted, and wrapped newspapers (New York Times).
Wall: 7′ x 7′ x 1′. Floor: 6′ x 6′ x 1′.
http://museum.spelman.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/LIVES20_0.jpg

The Spelman College Museum of Fine Art has consistently produced great exhibitions and this exhibition succeeds at exceeding those. This exhibition will be on view until May 16, 2015.  Being Black History Month, one would expect to see a group exhibition that caters to the cathartic outcry of propaganda work in group exhibitions of African-American artists that now reference iconic images of black males with hands up in submission or the new trope hoodies.  Spelman, under Dr. Brownlee’s guidance, does not fall into this practice of mongering. Spelman offers a true repute to base race icons by exhibiting artists that make great work–that have a dialogue that is more substantive than just mindless reactionary responses. Maren Hassinger’s work is an excellent rubric.

Hank Willis Thomas, “Raise Up”(2014) / Goodman Gallery at Art Basel Miami Beach http://images.complex.com/complex/image/upload/t_featured_image/v1bydymhbe1wt0jnv5jj.jpg

Hank Willis Thomas, “Raise Up”(2014) / Goodman Gallery at Art Basel Miami Beach
http://images.complex.com/complex/image/upload/t_featured_image/v1bydymhbe1wt0jnv5jj.jpg

Material & Spirit

Hassinger is not absent of the spirit or cathartic experience; it is a more deliberate choice of praxis.  When one first enters her Spelman exhibition, he/she is greeted by Hassinger’s Wrenching News 2010.  The first impulse is to walk around the sphere on floor, not quite noticing the newspaper material circling the installation, building a narrative not yet revealed.  Then you recognize the material newspaper, but it’s too voluminous and strong to be plain newspaper. That becomes irrelevant to the mirrored 6ft sphere on the wall that has now transcended physically and spiritually to a call and response dialogue between two installations, floor and wall, with one/collective unifying dialogue.  

Collective Fiber

Whirling. 1978. Wire and wire rope. Ten units. 1'5" x 7'8" x 9'5". http://marenhassinger.com/drupal/work/whirling

Whirling. 1978.
Wire and wire rope. Ten units. 1’5″ x 7’8″ x 9’5″.
http://marenhassinger.com/drupal/work/whirling

At times her work is dense and impenetrable while other times the work is stripped to its most vulnerable breaking point.  Hassinger’s Consolation 1996 is one of those vulnerable pieces, where the material itself is unraveling.  The strong wire rope here is as wispy and ephemeral as a field of wheat where each stem and seed may be examined. Each stem is a part of a larger collective fiber.  These intimate nuances come from a mastery of material from a complex fiber perspective of the collective and the individual.  Hassinger’s work moves beyond typical notions and stereotypes of fiber art.  Her work investigates the absolute binary spectrum of a material, and through these inquiries she discovers the spirit.

Consolation. 1996. Wire rope. 10' x 10'. Each unit 18" high. Installed at Trans Hudson Gallery, Jersey City, NJ. http://marenhassinger.com/drupal/work/consolation

Consolation. 1996.
Wire rope. 10′ x 10′. Each unit 18″ high. Installed at Trans Hudson Gallery, Jersey City, NJ.
http://marenhassinger.com/drupal/work/consolation

 

Christopher HutchinsonChristopher Hutchinson is an accomplished Jamaican conceptual artist, professor and contributor to the art community as a writer, critic and founder of the nonprofit Smoke School of Art. He is a Professor of Art at Atlanta Metropolitan State College and has been featured as a lecturer including prestigious engagements at University of Alabama and the Auburn Avenue Research Library. For two decades, Chris has been a practicing artist. His works have been exhibited in internationally recognized institutions including City College New York (CUNY) and featured at the world’s leading international galleries such as Art Basel Miami. He has always had an innate passion for creating spaces where Africans and people of African descent contribute to an inclusive contemporary dialogue—ever evolving, not reflexive but pioneering. This requires challenging the rubric of the canon of art history, a systemic space of exclusion for the Other: women and non-Whites, and where necessary he rewrites it. He received his Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Savannah College of Art & Design, Atlanta and his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Alabama in Huntsville, Alabama.

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