Focus: Michael Ray Charles
American artist Michael Ray Charles came to prominence in the mid-1990s, just a few years after joining the Art faculty here at The University of Texas at Austin (UT). In his art Charles deploys icons—ranging from watermelons and bananas to toothy grins and white-gloved hands—that have been attached to black people for more than a century. Indeed, he is known not just for his use of challenging images but also for engaging with the problematic narratives associated with them. Less documented, but evident here, is his interrogation of the sports-industrial complex and the complicated ways that African American men, in particular, interact with it. Some viewers might find Charles’s use of caricatures alienating, painful, and not entirely critical. Others may shake their heads at the biting humor and provocation evident in his work.
The range of objects exhibited here—including ink-on-paper sketches, acrylic-on-canvas paintings, and prints—demonstrates the diversity of Charles’s practice. While the artist is well known for his production in two dimensions, Ideas, Languages, Conversations (2015), the abstract sculpture hanging in the building’s atrium, and The Smile (2002) reveal his ability to work in three dimensions as well. Similarly, the painting Cream of the Crop (1992) and Ideas, Languages, Conversations show the artist’s willingness to depart from the figuration that dominates most of his oeuvre. The prints that make up the portfolio-in-progress uncover Charles’s artistic process, which necessarily includes thinking, designing, and experimenting until a successful end product is achieved. Regardless of medium, all of the works gathered here confront significant aspects of the country’s history.
The artworks in this exhibition are borrowed from local collections, demonstrating Charles’s long relationship with African and African Diaspora Studies at UT (AADS) as well as with the Austin area in general. He created many of the untitled sketches during meetings, including those of the Warfield Center executive committee, when Charles and other faculty members were engaged in designing AADS. The drawings reflect a loose style characteristic of active listening at the same time that they illustrate some of the icons that populate his work. Ted Gordon, Charles’s friend and colleague, saved the sketches from a likely fate of being buried in a circular file, thus documenting a common intellectual project as well as their friendship. Meanwhile Cream of the Crop testifies to the decades-long friendship between Charles and the collector Rudolph Green, as it was one of the first of many pieces by Charles that Green acquired. Focus: Michael Ray Charles celebrates the rich interpersonal and professional connections that have nurtured the artist’s critical and artistic practice.
- Dr. Cherise Smith, Curator, Founding Executive Director of the Christian-Green Gallery
History, Labor, Life: The Prints of Jacob Lawrence
History, Labor, Life: The Prints of Jacob Lawrence provides a comprehensive overview of influential American artist Jacob Lawrence’s (1917–2000) printmaking oeuvre, produced from 1963 to 2000. Lawrence started exploring printmaking as an already well-established artist. Printmaking suited his bold formal and narrative style exceptionally well. The relationship between his painting and printmaking were intertwined, with the artist revisiting and remaking earlier paintings as prints.
The exhibition explores three major themes that occupied the artist’s graphic works. Lawrence was primarily concerned with the narration of African-American experiences and histories. His acute observations of community life, work, struggle and emancipation during his lifetime were rendered alongside vividly imagined chronicles of the past. The past and present in his practice are intrinsically linked, providing insight into the social, economic and political realities that continue to impact and shape contemporary society today.
This exhibition is organized by the SCAD Museum of Art and is made possible with support from the Jacob and Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence Foundation.
Nobody’s Darling: Women and Representation
Guest Curator, Jessi DiTillio.
Nobody’s Darling: Women and Representation brings together two exhibitions in the Christian-Green Gallery: Nobody’s Darling: New Works by Deborah Roberts and Askance Reply: Selections from the Brandywine Print Archive and the Christian-Green Collection.
Based in Austin, Deborah Roberts has been engaging issues of beauty, race, and women’s bodies for the past twenty years. Askance Reply includes works by artists Elizabeth Catlett, Camille Billops, Faith Ringgold, Andrea Chung, and others.
Scheduled to be on view in the Christian-Green Gallery in Spring 2017, March ON! features hand-inked images from the acclaimed graphic memoir, MARCH. Written by US Representative and Civil Rights leader John Lewis with Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell, the three-volume series details Lewis’ momentous political life and philosophical commitment to non-violence. The selections in the exhibition cover events from Lewis’ crucial role in the Civil Right struggles of the 1960s, recount personal moments of discovery, and elaborate the non-violent strategies used throughout the Civil Rights Movement.
Poignantly told and artfully rendered, Nate Powell’s illustrations utilize an innovative brush and ink style that evokes the emotional memory of dark times, roaring crowds, and glorious triumphs. Historical photographs and ephemera as well as art of the 1960s that highlights the aesthetic and political significance of the graphic memoir join the original pages.
JOHN LEWIS is the U.S. Representative for Georgia’s fifth congressional district and an American icon widely known for his role in the civil rights movement.
As a student at American Baptist Theological Seminary in 1959, Lewis organized sit-in demonstrations at segregated lunch counters in Nashville, Tennessee. In 1961, he volunteered to participate in the Freedom Rides, which challenged segregation at interstate bus terminals across the South. He was beaten severely by angry mobs and arrested by police for challenging the injustice of “Jim Crow” segregation in the South. From 1963 to 1966, Lewis was Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). At the age of 23, he was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington in August 1963. In 1964, John Lewis coordinated SNCC efforts to organize voter registration drives and community action programs during the Mississippi Freedom Summer. Together with Hosea Williams, another notable civil rights leader, John Lewis led over 600 peaceful, orderly protestors across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965. The marchers were attacked by Alabama state troopers in a brutal confrontation that became known as “Bloody Sunday.” News broadcasts and photographs revealing the senseless cruelty of the segregated South helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Despite physical attacks, serious injuries, and more than 40 arrests, John Lewis remained a devoted advocate of the philosophy of nonviolence. After leaving SNCC in 1966, he continued to work for civil rights, first as Associate Director of the Field Foundation, then with the Southern Regional Council, where he became Executive Director of the Voter Education Project. In 1977, Lewis was appointed by President Jimmy Carter to direct more than 250,000 volunteers of ACTION, the federal volunteer agency.
In 1981, Lewis was elected to the Atlanta City Council. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 1986 and represented Georgia’s fifth district there ever since. In 2011 he was awarded the Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. T
Lewis’ 1998 memoir Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement won numerous honors, including the Robert F. Kennedy, Lillian Smith, and Anisfield-Wolf Book Awards. His subsequent book, Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change, won the NAACP Image Award.
ANDREW AYDIN, an Atlanta native, currently serves as Digital Director & Policy Advisor in the Washington, D.C., office of Rep. John Lewis. After learning that his boss had been inspired as a young man by the 1950s comic bookMartin Luther King & The Montgomery Story, Aydin conceived the March series and collaborated with Rep. Lewis to write it, while also composing a master’s thesis on the history and impact of The Montgomery Story. Today, he continues to write comics and lecture about the history of comics in the civil rights movement. Aydin is a graduate of the Lovett School in Atlanta, Trinity College in Hartford, and Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Visit www.andrewaydin.com for more information.
NATE POWELL is a New York Times best-selling comic book artist/writer born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1978. He began self-publishing at age 14, and graduated from School of Visual Arts in 2000. His work includes You Don’t Say, Any Empire, Swallow Me Whole,The Silence of Our Friends, The Year of the Beasts, and Rick Riordan’s The Lost Hero. Powell’s comics have received such honors as the Eisner Award, two Ignatz Awards, four YALSA Great Graphic Novels for Teens selections, and a Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist selection. In addition to March, Powell has spoken about his work at the United Nations and created animated illustrations for SPLC’s documentarySelma: The Bridge to the Ballot. Powell is currently writing and drawing his next book, Cover, and drawing Two Deadwith writer Van Jansen. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana. Visit Nate’s website at www.seemybrotherdance.org for more information.
Wrestling History: Points Along a Journey of Dis/covery Hidden in the Temple
The second exhibition to be displayed in The Christian-Green Gallery, Wrestling History: Points Along a Journey of Dis/covery Hidden in the Temple brings together a diverse selection of Houston and Rotterdam based artist Angelbert Metoyer’s spiritually and politically engaged works, including paintings, sculptural installation, mixed-media collage, and video. Metoyer combines his interest in philosophy, quantum physics, and astronomy with an investigation of identity and mythology, drawing from stories within his own family heritage—the Cane River Creoles of eighteenth-century Louisiana. “My work is often interpreted as being about my own mixed-cultural past and also the cultural complexity of America’s past. Referencing ancient and modern mythologies from all over the world, I explore memory, moment and social changes in human history, examining scientific and philosophical questions about multi-dimensionality, teleportation and M theory (quantum concepts),” says the artist. “The materials I employ include ‘excrements of industry,’ such as coal, glass, oil, tar, mirrors and gold dust. With these tools I explore themes of waste and destruction, and existential issues of life and death.”
Angelbert Metoyer was born in 1977 in Houston, Texas, and currently lives and works in Houston, Texas and Rotterdam, Netherlands. Metoyer launched his artistic career through Rick Lowe’s Project Row Houses, where he held his first solo exhibition in 1994. He subsequently moved to Atlanta to study drawing and painting at the Atlanta College of Art and, something of a nomad himself, has lived in many parts of the world. Solo exhibitions of his work have been held at numerous venues, including The Contemporary Austin (2015); Co-Lab Projects (2015); the Deborah Colton Gallery, Houston (2014, 2012, 2011); Paul Rodgers gallery New York (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006); Giovanni Rossi Gallery, Miami (2009); the African American Museum of Contemporary Art, Dallas (2008); the Dactyl Foundation, New York (2008); and the UC San Diego University Art Gallery, La Jolla (2005). His sound installations and collaborative projects have been featured at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (2012); Venice Biennale, renegade art project sonic graffiti (2009); and Ping Pong Art Space, Guangzhou (2008).
This Ground Beneath My Feet – A Chorus of Bush in Rab Lands
This Ground Beneath My Feet – A Chorus of Bush in Rab Lands includes a collection of works from the last two years of Barbadian artist, Annalee Davis’, practice. The drawings, ledgers, and tea service, along with a culled collection of essays, books, and scholarly material, comprise this exhibition and accompanying Reading Room.
Here, Davis mines family and historical archives from the early 19th century to the 1970s and unpacks her family’s plantation to offer her reflection on historical realities within the Anglophone Caribbean. Binding together autobiographical elements with sites of investigation, Davis resuscitates history. She considers how plantations in general, and her family’s in particular, defy comprehension—even as their economies of labor and production are understood.
Initiating the larger body of work on paper, the discursive project White Creole Conversations features a collection of 25 field recordings and written interviews, paying testament to the ambiguous and often contradictory ways that race and class are read historically and understood in the context of the Caribbean. These works on paper continue this conversation; with the delicate compendium of collages, drawings on plantation ledger papers, and scroll-like paintings, Davis creates poetic devices that enable connection, transformation, and regeneration.
In the Rab Lands, wild flora is resilient and fragile, ambiguous and lucid. Narratives of assumption become tenuous as reimagined points of convergence come alive in fields and emerge from the belly of history within stories that have been silenced. Davis wanders through fields studying wild plants and the former monoculture crop, Sugarcane, while paying special attention to how the legacies of slavery, colonization, and ancestral trauma have scarred and exhausted the landscape.
Continuing to push the boundaries of materiality in her work, the development of (Bush) Tea Services – the sculptural centerpiece – incorporates porcelain shards and red clay unearthed from several archeological digs at Walkers Dairy, former plantation. The Tea Service symbolically connects to the imagery present in the Rab Lands, abstracting the wild plants from quotidian usage repurposing their intention to ritual, consumption and healing.
This space has been designed to facilitate discussion and encourage investigation of the historical complexities within the Caribbean, and beyond. Sit and peruse.
 A late 16th century term referring to various types of stony or gravelly subsoil; rubble, gravel. In Barbados it refers to land that was formerly under sugarcane cultivation and has been left to grow wild plants. The term is usually used in a disparaging way signaling land that is deemed unsuitable for agricultural production.
Click here for more information about the artist, Annalee Davis.
Click here for more information about the curator, Holly Bynoe
Light and Life: St. Louis Cemetery No.1 Reframed through the Lens of John Pinderhughes
Light and Life: St. Louis Cemetery No.1 Reframed through the Lens of John Pinderhughes explores photography’s ability to capture time and illuminate space. Pinderhughes’ images invite viewers to contemplate—or possibly decipher—the physical, spiritual, and temporal contexts of their origin. Light and line fuse to isolate spatial patterns, direct the viewer’s gaze, and challenge conventional conceptions of cemeteries and the life inhabiting them.
From the mid 1970s, Pinderhughes has worked as a commercial photographer in New York City. For the last 40 years; however, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 in New Orleans, Louisiana, has served as the inspiration for some of Pinderhughes’ most profound and contemplative personal work. Through his lens, the crumbling structures of brick and limestone, the “XXX” markings on the tomb of famed Creole Louisiana Voodoo practitioner Marie Catherine Laveau, the fresh flowers that adorn deteriorating tombs, and the occasional backdrop of Iberville housing projects oblige viewers to consider what exists beyond, as well as within, St. Louis Cemetery No. 1.
There is perhaps an unexpectedly emotional aspect to these photographs, prompting the viewer to come away with new, sobering, and deeply thoughtful conceptions, as well as an almost introspective reflection, on what, for some, is a lost city. Pinderhughes’ framing of this New Orleans necropolis, or city of the dead, compels us to consider the city itself, its fascinating histories and the ways in which St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 has been a silent witness to the past.
-Phillip A. Townsend, Curator
Patience on a Monument: Recent work by Eto Otitibge
For Patience on a Monument, Eto Otitigbe has created works that acknowledge the complex interplay between public memorializing, history, and everyday life. The art on view here engages with the granite statues that demark the sacred spaces in Washington D.C., the majestic promenade along Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia, and the bronze statuaries positioned on the East and South malls of this campus. The monuments on these malls and others around the world perform stories of triumph, though each highlights different figures and outcomes. For one set of monuments, the sanctity of democracy is limited to a few and justifies the enslavement of people, while another argues for the plurality of democracy as freedom for all. Otitigbe asks viewers to question how such monuments invite audiences to participate in the memory and retelling of significant moments and whether all viewers are granted the same access to a shared sense of power.
From granite engraved fortresses to precious mementos such as a hand stitched quilts or the bronze stones paved circuitously about a landscape, monuments are said to commemorate, celebrate, and edify memories and histories. Otitigbe’s work gracefully disrupts the monolithic history that public art, monuments in particular, has come to represent. Instead, the objects on view here play with the concept of public art and participate in an ongoing dialogue about the precarious domain of public memory. The artist uses recycled materials, such as treated aluminum and Valchromat, to recast local monuments; the rough-hewn materials speak to the fleeting nature of history and memory. The symbols in the etchings invite us to participate and engage, and to look and look again.
Otitigbe’s art, like the elegantly crafted monuments to which it responds, gingerly escorts us through the discomfort of replaying the past. Memorials are not merely celebrations; they are also sites where melancholy settles, pain persists, and trauma is preformed. The artist, like Maya Lin, suggests that individuals must embrace pain, suffering, and death to move forward. Patience on a Monument meditates on memorials which, like the memories they are said to represent, are contested performances, unsettled, unfinished.
– The above text was prepared by the curator of the exhibition, Myron M. Beasley, Associate Professor of Cultural Studies, African American Studies, and Women and Gender Studies at Bates College.