Vilified, exotified, and commodified, for centuries black bodies have been treated as screens, a place to project white desires with little or hostile regard for their own experience. This November, the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve (AAWR) will host About Body | About Face, a small-group, figurative exhibition which examines the representation of African American bodies in art and culture. Featuring Lawrence Baker, Davon Brantley, Jacques P. Jackson, Amanda D. King, Yvonne Palkowitsh, LaSaundra Robinson, and Tony Williams, About Body | About Face highlights 7 Ohio artists from the massive 2019 seenUNseen exhibition of African American Art. The show includes large scale paintings, drawings, analog photography, mosaics, and textiles, creating a compelling display which is both a meditation and celebration of black identity. Exhibited for the first time are the classically inspired self-portraits of Cleveland artist Davon Brantley. As he explains, “I reference Renaissance and Baroque portraiture and religious paintings, two eras of art that are almost exclusively lacking in depictions of people of color. I disrupt that space by adding myself, an African American, within the fine art realm of realism.” An important theme in the exhibition is the representation of women of color. On display will be several new abstract portraits by LaSaundra Robinson which reflect “the strength and beauty of black women,” by stylizing her subjects to let their “inner light come through.” Photographer Yvonne Palkowitsh’s digital composites examine moments of truth and decision in women’s lives. “I explore the themes of turmoil, struggle and triumph,” Palkowitsh explains, “I am drawn to the story of existing and seeing a life’s story unfold before me and capturing the vulnerability, fragility and the very moment that a peace overtakes her.” Also included in About Body | About Face is a piece from Amanda King’s collaborative project with photographer Matthew Chasney, To Be Born _____. The series, which references an 1873 sculpture by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, represents a radical reclaiming of the viewer’s gaze. Other themes presented in the show include the celebration of human form, and the resilience of African American culture. Jacques P. Jackson’s intimate mosaics exalt the body in its endless variety as the locus of communication and connection. “I wanted to create sculpture that celebrates the design of the human body, both male and female” explains Jackson. “In our society, we have been presented with ideals for perfection. I believe that we must learn to appreciate what we have." On display in About Body | About Face is a new body of work by textile artist Tony Williams which evokes the image of the warrior to empower communities of color in turbulent times. “In a year of fires, storms, social unrest, and the pandemic, my work has taken on a different look and feel,” says Williams. “The warrior figure has emerged as a voice of an unheard and unseen population.” The early figurative work of Archived Artist Lawrence Baker will also be exhibited. A native of Jacksonville Florida, Baker worked as a visual arts instructor for the Cleveland Municipal School District and received his BFA, MA, and MFA, from Kent State University. A virtual opening reception will be held on Thursday, November 19th 7:00 – 8:30pm on Zoom which features a preview of the show, a talk by curator Mindy Tousley, and remarks by the exhibiting artists. To accompany the show, the Archives will also host two artist talks on Wednesday, December 2nd and Wednesday, December 9th, 7:00 – 8:30pm. The exhibition, virtual reception, and programs are free and open to the public. Gallery Hours: Wed – Fri, 10am – 4pm. Saturday: 12pm – 4pm. Visit artistsarchives.org to read more about our visitor safety protocol. Featured image: Davon Brantley, Dancing with Death, 2020, Charcoal on toned paper, 70" x 42"
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