The art of Kevin Blythe Sampson

THE ART OF
KEVIN BLYTHE SAMPSON

8/6/16

Artist Kevin Sampson talks about his "Artship Olympia" installation "Arc of Renewal." On board the USS Olympia, Philly Seaport

Artist Kevin Sampson talks about his "Artship Olympia" installation "Arc of Renewal." On board the USS Olympia, Philly Seaport

With African-American art hot, Newark Museum showcases 'Modern Heroics'

There are all sorts of reasons why African-American art is the hottest thing on the market today, for both private collectors and museums, but the most compelling, of course, is the need to catch up. In 2000, for example, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston had precisely three oil paintings by African-Americans on display in its American wing. When Norman Lewis, the sole black artist among the first generation of Abstract Expressionists, died in 1979, he was known to artists and students but rarely represented in survey exhibitions or textbooks. Critics said the occasional appearance of figural hints and "political" meaning in his work didn't quite fit any category.
In just the past three years, Lewis' work has been bought by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and, finally, by the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. At the same time, the work of black artists both living and dead has rocketed up in value.
In 2013 David Hammons, who once stood in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art holding a cardboard box filled with snowballs labeled "African-American Art, 5 cents ea.," sold a crystal chandelier in the shape of a basketball hoop and backboard for $8 million, making him one of the highest-priced American artists in history.
And it's not just money--there's also growing institutional support. This September, the National Museum of African-American History and Culture will finally open its doors on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
TR8.2016.1-1.jpgKenseth Armstead's "untitled (three ruffians killed beauty)" invokes 18th century mob violence with its tar and feathers. 
So this is a perfect time for the Newark Museum to open "Modern Heroics: 75 Years of African-American Expressionism at the Newark Museum." Expressionism is a term, first used for French Fauves and German painters before World War I, for art that puts a higher value on emotion and a free use of color than more trained styles do. Many of the African-American artists in the Newark collection could plausibly be grouped under that term.
There's a Norman Lewis painting, "Carnival" (done in 1957, a bequest from the estate of Irene Wheeler in 2004), in "Modern Heroics" that suggests a thronging crowd carrying ominous crosses toward the viewer. In fact, this show of just 34 paintings and sculptures from the permanent collection, assembled by Curator of American Art Tricia Laughlin Bloom, has a lot of suddenly big names. Bob Thompson, Sam Gilliam, Romare Bearden, Thornton Dial, Sr., Purvis Young, to name a few. At the same time, "Modern Heroics" features absolutely contemporary art, like the huge, rhinestone-studded plywood picture by Camden-born Mickalene Thomas, "Landscape with Camouflage" (2012).
Not many art institutions can do that. "Modern Heroics" celebrates the 350th anniversary of the city of Newark's founding, but it especially celebrates the peculiarly far-sighted collecting policies of the city's unusual museum.
Because the museum John Cotton Dana founded in 1922 didn't wait till the 21st century to start collecting African-American art. The Newark Museum bought its first work by an African-American in 1929, a religious landscape by Henry Ossawa Tanner called "The Good Shepherd" (painted in 1922). Newark held its first group show of African-American artists in 1931, put together by the Harmon Foundation in Harlem. Ever since the '40s, the museum has hosted an increasingly regular series of important exhibitions of African-American art, in both group shows and one-person shows.
The museum collection now holds over 360 works of African-American art, many of them spectacular, like Emma Amos's seven-foot-wide "The Heavens Rain" (1990, an acrylic on linen framed with Kanga cloth and other African fabrics). Amos was born in Atlanta, but now lives and works in New York. "The Heavens Rain" shows people, books, even a horse falling through dark space; just off-center a black family, father, mother, and young son, cling together as they plunge. There's a faux-naïve quality to Amos' work that reminds of Outsider Art, enhancing her directness of vision. It's a haunting picture you don't have to explain to feel.
The Newark Museum bought its first work by an African-American in 1929, Henry Ossawa Tanner's "The Good Shepherd."
Kevin Sampson_Madjet.jpgNewark artist Kevin Sampson's "Madjet" looks like an ancient Egyptian reed boat made from stuff you'd find on a downtown street. 
As you might expect in a city that is one of the capitals of black life in American, Newark is also home to several of the artists here. Kevin Sampson's "Madjet" is a mock-Egyptian reed boat made from found objects, like the glass cabinet knob amidships, and "Madjet" (it's the name of a constellation) is the very first artwork in "Modern Heroics." Sampson keeps a studio in the city, and shows regularly in downtown galleries.
Gladys Barker Grauer, widely considered the doyenne of African-American art in Newark, has two paintings in "Modern Heroics." Kingston-born Shoshanna Weinberger, a specialist in the many manifestations of African-American hair, has a studio in Newark, too; installation artist Kenseth Armstead, who will be artist in residence at the Yaddo art colony this year, is a graduate of Gallery Aferro's residency program. In addition, Sampson, Emma Amos and Dmitri Wright all taught at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts, which closed in 1997, but was the fulcrum for art in Newark for 115 years.
African-American art in Newark has for more than 40 years been a kind of materials art, part of the assemblage movement Newark's Willie Cole—missing from this show, though his giant woodcut "Stowage," made with an ironing board that looks like the schematic of a slave ship, is in a canonical Expressionist medium—helped lead. But there are younger practitioners, like the Newark-born and educated Chakaia Booker, who twists shredded car tires into iconic sculptures.
Or like Armstead's 2014 "untitled (three ruffians killed beauty)," a series of furring strips smeared with tar and feathers. It's a reference to 18th century mob violence, but it looks in this context like an abstract painting.
And that's what African-American artists often do—take a dominant style and give it a twist. Bob Thompson did it 50 years ago, repainting Western mythological pictures with an updated palette, as in his version of Tintoretto's "St. George and the Dragon" (1961), a gem of the collection. Before he died, Norman Lewis said it would take at least 40 years for the art world to realize that the touches that make African-American art not fit a category perfectly were a feature, not a bug.
He was just about right.
90.3reduced.jpgEmma Amos's "The Heavens Rain" suggests freedom from inhibitions to the artist, but is haunting nonetheless. 
Modern Heroics: 75 Years of African-American Expressionism at the Newark Museum
Where: The Newark Museum, 49 Washington St., Newark
When: Through Jan. 8. Open noon-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday
How much: Adults $15, veterans and families with valid ID, students, seniors, $8, children under two free

7/29/16

The Many Terms in Our Continuum: ‘Outsider Art’




http://brutforce.com/many-terms-continuum-outsider-art/

The Many Terms in Our Continuum: ‘Outsider Art’

As Priscilla Frank and Kevin Sampson aptly point out, the term ‘Outsider Artist’ is offensive to some subgroups of artists within the art world that has manifested itself outside of the establishment. While we at Brut Force have tried to remain term agnostic, siding with the way the artist prefers to describe his or her self, we think it’s important to acknowledge the terms and classifications that exist and that will ultimately in some form describe this art movement in retrospective.
So for the sake of our readers, we thought it might be beneficial to lay out some terms that are used to describe the artists that we cover. Ultimately, we agree that integration into the larger contemporary art world is the trajectory and the future. At present though, there is still disparity. Below, we’ll attempt to expose the tip of the iceberg for the blurred lines that exist today amongst these terms.

Art Brut

The label created by French artist Jean Dubuffet is specifically focused on artists that create art outside of the art establishment or the established academic tradition. It is a French term that translates to raw art. It was thoroughly explored by this year’s exhibition by the American Folk Art Museum entitled Art Brut in America: The Incursion of Jean Dubuffet.

Folk Art

Folk Art often gets lumped into the same conversation because of its often rough or naïve nature. Folk art is often not influenced by mainstream art world trends and is not typically created by members of the art establishment. A more stringent definition align folk art with that of indigenous people or tradespeople. Folk art is more closely linked to cultural identity than any of the other categories we discuss.

Naïve Art

Naïve art is art created by a person without formal art education. Naïve art is often grouped with outsider art as its definition may hint. Strict naivety is becoming more and more rare as the forms of self-education have spread.

Outsider Art

This, the most infamous of terms, was coined by Roger Cardinal in 1972 as a synonym to art brut. It is often applied as a catch-all term for self-taught art of all forms though, which draws some criticism. The term though is more lax in its definition typically applied to self-taught artists that outside of the mainstream art world. To make things more complicated, Jerry Saltz argues that there is no such thing as Outsider Art and that the distinction is “outmoded discrimination still in place.” For better or for worse, the term Outsider Art has proven an effective marketing tool for the Outsider Art Fair and other entities tied to the name in recent years.

Self-Taught (Contemporary Self-Taught)

This is the term that Brut Force is most comfortable with and most directly influences our curation and content strategy. The manifestation of the term self-taught and specifically contemporary self-taught art was explained by Duff Lindsay of the Lindsay Gallery as, today’s “artists are not rural, they’re not southern. They might be knowledgeable about art and folk art, but you would not consider them to be outsiders. They’re not isolated from the art world or the art marketplace.” According to Lindsay, it might be hard to tell that a self-taught contemporary did not receive a traditional art education, though in spirit, the work shares something with the visionary, inspirational, or vernacular characteristics that define the genre of outsider art.

The Continuum

One of our favorite articulations of this was applied by Leslie Umberger of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. She states that if folk and self-taught are at opposite extremes of a single continuum, “with tradition at one pole and autonomy at the other, and all of it having developed apart from art world trends and markets. To discuss any particular artists you must consider where he or she falls along this line, each individual having varied amounts of traditional skills or ideas and personal vision.”
We look forward to continue to bring dialogue and discussion to the terms and the artists that make up this exciting field.

7/26/16


Should We Stop Using The Term ‘Outsider Art’?

Why are we calling community-oriented black artists like Kevin Sampson “outsiders”?

07/25/2016 09:42 am 09:42:29 | Updated 23 hours ago


Kevin Sampson
“I am not an outsider artist,” Kevin Sampson said.
He was speaking on a panel at the American Folk Art Museum in New York last week about sculptor Ronald Lockett alongside artist Michael Berube and Cara Zimmerman, a specialist in folk and outsider art at Christie’s. No one had explicitly labelled Sampson as such, but because he was invited to participate on the panel, it was surely implied.
“I have been represented by Cavin Morris Gallery for years,” Sampson continued. “My work showed in the Venice Biennale. It’s hard enough to be an African-American artist. Now we have to be ‘outsiders’”?
The conversation had shifted from discussing Lockett’s work to discussing the politics of how such work is categorized. Lockett was a black, self-taught artist living and working in Bessemer, Alabama. His work, made from tin, wire and found metals, explored resilience of the human spirit in times of political oppression and physical constraint. He died at just 33 years old from AIDS-related pneumonia. 


Kevin Sampson

In the strictest sense, Zimmerman explained, Lockett’s work belongs to the Birmingham-Bessemer School, along with his mentor and cousin Thornton Dial. But more often, perhaps when we get a little lazy, it’s described as “outsider” ― as in, outside the mainstream artistic institution.
Often, artists designated that way cannot personally respond to their opinion of the distinction. Frequently their work is discovered only after they’ve died, their artistic drive an obsessive secret they never expected would gain recognition. Or, oftentimes such artists live with developmental disabilities that limit their ability to discuss the way their work is referenced and catalogued. They make the work and leave its classification to curators, writers, dealers, etc.
But Kevin Sampson, a New-Jersey-based sculptor who makes enchanting molten ships and structures from found objects, memories, bones, wax and hair, is able and willing to speak on the subject. “The term ‘outsider’ is offensive,” he explained in a phone interview with The Huffington Post following the panel. “I just don’t even understand what it means.”


Kevin Sampson



Originally, the term designated an artist making work outside the context of art history, removed from the artistic institution, apart from the dialogue and marketplace of contemporary art. Basically, outsider artists were isolated, working in basements, prison cells, psychiatric wards or rural towns ― places where art was, at least in theory, born purely of the individual imagination.
“The term was great 50 years ago,” Sampson said. “But there is no more making art in isolation.” Thanks to globalization and the internet, Sampson argues, it’s virtually impossible to make art outside of some sort of dialogue. “Outsider artists made art outside of the art world and outside of a community. But me, making art outside of the community? That’s nonsense.”
Sampson’s father was a civil rights leader in Newark, New Jersey, so he grew up immersed in a household full of political dialogue and community engagement. Although he was interested in art from a young age, at his parents’ insistence, Sampson opted for a traditional college education at Lincoln University, where he majored in history. He dropped out after two years.


Kevin Sampson

Sampson’s father was friends with the mayor, who told him the city was looking to recruit more African American cops. His parents urged him to take the test to join the police force. “The rest is history,” Sampson said. At his mother’s recommendation, he used his drawing skills to become a composite sketch artist. He made over 1,000 drawings on the job over the course of 10 years, eventually serving as an expert witness in identifying suspects.
Suddenly, Sampson’s life was uprooted. His wife Pam was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Their son Kyle, born prematurely, died at 4 months old. Sampson’s cousin Carol Oliver contracted HIV/AIDS and died three months later. “When I started losing people, drawing didn’t work anymore,” he explained. “I had to use my hands.”
For Sampson’s first artwork, he went into his backyard, grabbed a log and started to carve it, not knowing at all what he was doing. His cousin had turned to the Afro-Caribbean religion Santeria shortly before she died in the hope it would help provide a cure. Her mother gifted Sampson a variety of objects culled from her altars. They were tangible memories, everyday talismans, found objects imbued with intimacy.


Kevin Sampson

Sampson’s first piece was a ship, representing his cousin’s journey to the afterlife. He soon found himself creating a second, and then a third. “It was the late 80s. Everybody around me was dropping from either AIDS or crack,” he said. “I started doing these memorials for all the people dying around me. My wife thought they were from hell, there was so much darkness in them, but it was a way of working through the pain.”
After his wife died, Sampson quit the police force after 18 years to devote his life to art. He began teaching art at local community centers and making sculptures that he’d often donate to family members of people he’d loved and lost. The sculptures, more often exhibited in Newark homes than in public, incorporate elements including chili peppers, wax, pork ribs and old jewelry, archeological relics that melt together to form otherworldly vessels, instruments and steeples.
Initially, the art-making was a way to heal. “Your focus becomes so intense you enter this liminal space,” Sampson explained. “It’s good for the soul.” But eventually, the work transcended the tragic circumstances from which it was born. As Sampson described his journey: “First you look at yourself. Then you look at your neighborhood. Then you look at God.” 


Kevin Sampson

These days, Sampson describes his work as political above all else. “I live in Newark, New Jersey, a very poor city with all kinds of problems,” he said. “Problems with poverty and crime and education. And with Trump running for president...” he trailed off. “My father branded me so civil rights is in my blood.”
Sampson’s contemporary sculptures incorporate American flags and allusions to figures like George W. Bush and Sarah Palin. He physically melds together public icons and personal artifacts, the residue of his loved ones and symbols of the nation, melting the boundaries between them in the process. In Sampson’s sculptural world, the boundaries between public and private, outside and inside, do not hold.
Perhaps the “outsider” label strikes Sampson as so ridiculous because of how important community is to his work. “I’m a community-based artist, an artist advocate,” he said. “I go out into the community. I talk, I read. I read 10 to 15 newspapers a day. I wind up building the pieces in my head, so when I start actually making the piece it’s already kind of built.”


Kevin Sampson

Sampson doesn’t particularly mind the term “self-taught artist,” but feels most affiliated with the more general title of contemporary artist. African-American contemporary artist works, too. He sees his work in conversation with an artist like Ronald Lockett, who also makes what Sampson referred to as “death-driven work.” He discussed Lockett’s work with fellow self-taught African-American artist Lonnie Holley, also often described as an outsider. And yet, the two artists found themselves exhibiting together in 2011 at the Venice Biennale, the most insider of art world affairs, discussing their relationship to Lockett’s work, an artist they both understood as speaking in their visual vernacular. 
“He’s 10 years younger than me, but we work alike,” Sampson said. “We both came out of the darkness to create out work. Lonnie and I were talking about his work one time; we noticed he used a lot of metal. We came to the conclusion that metal is flesh. All the metal pieces he did, I looked at it immediately and I thought this is flesh, this is skin.” 
During his lifetime, Lockett lived in isolation. To posthumously categorize his work as “outsider” seems like a cruel joke. In this moment, it becomes overwhelming just how preposterous a label like “outsider” can be, and perhaps has always been. 


Kevin Sampson

Also on HuffPost:

Outsider Art Fair 2016

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3/20/16

Kevin Blythe Sampson How to make it as an artist in New York, Crain's new York Business

The Survivor
The second floor of the Newark apartment that Kevin Sampson, 61, shares with his 34-year-old son is crammed with the intricate, inventive sculptures ­created by the former Scotch Plains, N.J., cop and self-taught artist.
He’s represented by the Calvin Morris Gallery in Chelsea and sells his works for $5,000 to $20,000 apiece. Sampson says he’s lucky if he makes $10,000 a year from art. His $25,000 early-retirement pension pays the rent, and a teaching-artist position at the Rutgers University Paul Robeson Gallery pays for his food.
Rent costs Sampson $1,100 a month, which is cheaper than it could be, but the landlord—who runs a window-making shop around the corner where Sampson works when he’s hard up for cash—“protects me,” Sampson said.
He is considered the leader of a small group of older artists in Newark trying to hang on as an influx of younger artists flee the high prices of Manhattan and Brooklyn, in turn driving up rents in New Jersey’s biggest city.
“Newark is a mess,” he said. “We need new people, but I want to make sure that the artists who stayed here when nobody wanted Newark don’t get lost in the shuffle—that our legacy continues. I’m like the ringleader, raising hell.”
http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20160320/ARTS/160319833/how-to-make-it-as-an-artist-in-new-york

3/17/16

Kevin sampson upcoming show at the Newark Musuem -Modern Heroics 75 Years of African-American Expressionism at the Newark Museum

Kevin sampson upcoming show at the Newark Musuem

https://www.newarkmuseum.org/Modern-Heroics

Modern Heroics
75 Years of African-American Expressionism at the Newark Museum
June 18, 2016-January 8, 2017

This exhibition presents selected works from Newark’s permanent collection of African-American art.  Taking a fresh look at heroic themes in modern and contemporary art, this unique exhibition features 32 paintings and sculptural works with an emphasis on storytelling and expressive imagery.   Mythical and universal subject matter, the bold use of color and dramatic scale, and the artists’ direct physical engagement with their materials are all themes explored in this exhibition.
Modern Heroics brings together rarely exhibited works by leading historical and contemporary African-American artists, placing in dialogue several generations and a range of self-taught and formally trained approaches. The exhibition will feature large-scale paintings by Norman Lewis, Purvis Young, Emma Amos, Bob Thompson and Mickalene Thomas among others; and sculptural works by Chakaia Booker, Thornton Dial, Kenseth Armstead and Kevin Sampson.
Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Ph.D., Curator, American Art
- See more at: https://www.newarkmuseum.org/Modern-Heroics#sthash.noluNSsg.dpuf

Modern Heroics
75 Years of African-American Expressionism at the Newark Museum
June 18, 2016-January 8, 2017

This exhibition presents selected works from Newark’s permanent collection of African-American art.  Taking a fresh look at heroic themes in modern and contemporary art, this unique exhibition features 32 paintings and sculptural works with an emphasis on storytelling and expressive imagery.   Mythical and universal subject matter, the bold use of color and dramatic scale, and the artists’ direct physical engagement with their materials are all themes explored in this exhibition.
Modern Heroics brings together rarely exhibited works by leading historical and contemporary African-American artists, placing in dialogue several generations and a range of self-taught and formally trained approaches. The exhibition will feature large-scale paintings by Norman Lewis, Purvis Young, Emma Amos, Bob Thompson and Mickalene Thomas among others; and sculptural works by Chakaia Booker, Thornton Dial, Kenseth Armstead and Kevin Sampson.
Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Ph.D., Curator, American Art
- See more at: https://www.newarkmuseum.org/Modern-Heroics#sthash.hU5lKkiQ.dpuf

Modern Heroics
75 Years of African-American Expressionism at the Newark Museum
June 18, 2016-January 8, 2017

This exhibition presents selected works from Newark’s permanent collection of African-American art.  Taking a fresh look at heroic themes in modern and contemporary art, this unique exhibition features 32 paintings and sculptural works with an emphasis on storytelling and expressive imagery.   Mythical and universal subject matter, the bold use of color and dramatic scale, and the artists’ direct physical engagement with their materials are all themes explored in this exhibition.
Modern Heroics brings together rarely exhibited works by leading historical and contemporary African-American artists, placing in dialogue several generations and a range of self-taught and formally trained approaches. The exhibition will feature large-scale paintings by Norman Lewis, Purvis Young, Emma Amos, Bob Thompson and Mickalene Thomas among others; and sculptural works by Chakaia Booker, Thornton Dial, Kenseth Armstead and Kevin Sampson.
Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Ph.D., Curator, American Art
- See more at: https://www.newarkmuseum.org/Modern-Heroics#sthash.hU5lKkiQ.dpuf

Modern Heroics
75 Years of African-American Expressionism at the Newark Museum
June 18, 2016-January 8, 2017

This exhibition presents selected works from Newark’s permanent collection of African-American art.  Taking a fresh look at heroic themes in modern and contemporary art, this unique exhibition features 32 paintings and sculptural works with an emphasis on storytelling and expressive imagery.   Mythical and universal subject matter, the bold use of color and dramatic scale, and the artists’ direct physical engagement with their materials are all themes explored in this exhibition.
Modern Heroics brings together rarely exhibited works by leading historical and contemporary African-American artists, placing in dialogue several generations and a range of self-taught and formally trained approaches. The exhibition will feature large-scale paintings by Norman Lewis, Purvis Young, Emma Amos, Bob Thompson and Mickalene Thomas among others; and sculptural works by Chakaia Booker, Thornton Dial, Kenseth Armstead and Kevin Sampson.
Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Ph.D., Curator, American Art
- See more at: https://www.newarkmuseum.org/Modern-Heroics#sthash.hU5lKkiQ.dpuf

Modern Heroics
75 Years of African-American Expressionism at the Newark Museum
June 18, 2016-January 8, 2017

This exhibition presents selected works from Newark’s permanent collection of African-American art.  Taking a fresh look at heroic themes in modern and contemporary art, this unique exhibition features 32 paintings and sculptural works with an emphasis on storytelling and expressive imagery.   Mythical and universal subject matter, the bold use of color and dramatic scale, and the artists’ direct physical engagement with their materials are all themes explored in this exhibition.
 
Modern Heroics brings together rarely exhibited works by leading historical and contemporary African-American artists, placing in dialogue several generations and a range of self-taught and formally trained approaches. The exhibition will feature large-scale paintings by Norman Lewis, Purvis Young, Emma Amos, Bob Thompson and Mickalene Thomas among others; and sculptural works by Chakaia Booker, Thornton Dial, Kenseth Armstead and Kevin Sampson.
 
Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Ph.D., Curator, American Art
 
- See more at: https://www.newarkmuseum.org/Modern-Heroics#sthash.noluNSsg.dpuf

Modern Heroics
75 Years of African-American Expressionism at the Newark Museum
June 18, 2016-January 8, 2017

This exhibition presents selected works from Newark’s permanent collection of African-American art.  Taking a fresh look at heroic themes in modern and contemporary art, this unique exhibition features 32 paintings and sculptural works with an emphasis on storytelling and expressive imagery.   Mythical and universal subject matter, the bold use of color and dramatic scale, and the artists’ direct physical engagement with their materials are all themes explored in this exhibition.
Modern Heroics brings together rarely exhibited works by leading historical and contemporary African-American artists, placing in dialogue several generations and a range of self-taught and formally trained approaches. The exhibition will feature large-scale paintings by Norman Lewis, Purvis Young, Emma Amos, Bob Thompson and Mickalene Thomas among others; and sculptural works by Chakaia Booker, Thornton Dial, Kenseth Armstead and Kevin Sampson.
Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Ph.D., Curator, American Art
- See more at: https://www.newarkmuseum.org/Modern-Heroics#sthash.noluNSsg.dpuf

Modern Heroics
75 Years of African-American Expressionism at the Newark Museum
June 18, 2016-January 8, 2017

This exhibition presents selected works from Newark’s permanent collection of African-American art.  Taking a fresh look at heroic themes in modern and contemporary art, this unique exhibition features 32 paintings and sculptural works with an emphasis on storytelling and expressive imagery.   Mythical and universal subject matter, the bold use of color and dramatic scale, and the artists’ direct physical engagement with their materials are all themes explored in this exhibition.
Modern Heroics brings together rarely exhibited works by leading historical and contemporary African-American artists, placing in dialogue several generations and a range of self-taught and formally trained approaches. The exhibition will feature large-scale paintings by Norman Lewis, Purvis Young, Emma Amos, Bob Thompson and Mickalene Thomas among others; and sculptural works by Chakaia Booker, Thornton Dial, Kenseth Armstead and Kevin Sampson.
Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Ph.D., Curator, American Art
- See more at: https://www.newarkmuseum.org/Modern-Heroics#sthash.hU5lKkiQ.dpuf


Modern Heroics
75 Years of African-American Expressionism at the Newark Museum
June 18, 2016-January 8, 2017

This exhibition presents selected works from Newark’s permanent collection of African-American art.  Taking a fresh look at heroic themes in modern and contemporary art, this unique exhibition features 32 paintings and sculptural works with an emphasis on storytelling and expressive imagery.   Mythical and universal subject matter, the bold use of color and dramatic scale, and the artists’ direct physical engagement with their materials are all themes explored in this exhibition.

Modern Heroics brings together rarely exhibited works by leading historical and contemporary African-American artists, placing in dialogue several generations and a range of self-taught and formally trained approaches. The exhibition will feature large-scale paintings by Norman Lewis, Purvis Young, Emma Amos, Bob Thompson and Mickalene Thomas among others; and sculptural works by Chakaia Booker, Thornton Dial, Kenseth Armstead and Kevin Sampson.

Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Ph.D., Curator, American Art

- See more at: https://www.newarkmuseum.org/Modern-Heroics#sthash.hU5lKkiQ.dpuf



Modern Heroics
75 Years of African-American Expressionism at the Newark Museum
June 18, 2016-January 8, 2017

This exhibition presents selected works from Newark’s permanent collection of African-American art.  Taking a fresh look at heroic themes in modern and contemporary art, this unique exhibition features 32 paintings and sculptural works with an emphasis on storytelling and expressive imagery.   Mythical and universal subject matter, the bold use of color and dramatic scale, and the artists’ direct physical engagement with their materials are all themes explored in this exhibition.
Modern Heroics brings together rarely exhibited works by leading historical and contemporary African-American artists, placing in dialogue several generations and a range of self-taught and formally trained approaches. The exhibition will feature large-scale paintings by Norman Lewis, Purvis Young, Emma Amos, Bob Thompson and Mickalene Thomas among others; and sculptural works by Chakaia Booker, Thornton Dial, Kenseth Armstead and Kevin Sampson.
Tricia Laughlin Bloom, Ph.D., Curator, American Art
- See more at: https://www.newarkmuseum.org/Modern-Heroics#sthash.hU5lKkiQ.dpuf

2/17/16

Wooden Ships in Chelsea: Kevin Sampson’s Unique Art Form

http://us10.campaign-archive1.com/?u=c659cacb733bbc3a87bacf77c&id=e0cfd635a8&e=09d17763a5


Wooden Ships in Chelsea: Kevin Sampson’s Unique Art Form

At Cavin-Morris Gallery in Chelsea, two wooden ships can be found stationed on a large white pedestal. “The Madjet,” with its curving stern and sculptural ornaments raised high like royal standards, easily conjures associations with ancient Egypt, with the sleek vessels depicted ferrying deities up and down the Nile. Yet with its metal fastenings, its projecting rudder, and its crisscrossing assemblage of sticks, strings, screws, and woodchips, there is a machinelike quality about the Madjet. Absent of human operators, the ship is animated instead by a force unseen, an energy that gathers its parts and holds them in a dynamic, buzzing tension. “I always try to make everything I do move,” the sculptor Kevin Sampson told me later. “The Kron-Printzen,” also on display at Cavin-Morris, offers another vibrant bricolage of wood and metal scraps, painted rope, iridescent beads, and other vaguely discernible elements, synthesized into a ghostly, two-masted ship. Named after an eighteenth-century Dutch slaver that sank at sea, entombing hundreds of Africans in an underwater grave, Sampson’s Kron-Printzen is layered with histories as diverse as its materials.
SK 203 - 1
“The Kron-Printzen,” Wood, Metal, String, and Found Materials, 26″ x 27″ x 12″, 2014. Image courtesy of Cavin-Morris Gallery.
These were the first of Sampson’s sculptures I had encountered. At the time, I had only corresponded over e-mail with the artist. Knowing little else about Sampson aside from the fact that he was formerly a police officer and, at any given time, a very busy man, I studied the two ships on display and felt a swell of curiosity about the artist I had yet to meet, about what fascinating combination of grand and personal narratives threaded through these works.
When I asked the gallery attendants at Cavin-Morris what they knew about Sampson, they immediately lit up. They touched and handled Sampson’s sculptures as they spoke about them, treating them not as precious artifacts but as objects that incited direct engagement. One, whose name was Marissa, remarked on how Sampson’s pieces are more robust than they might appear. His strung-up, cement-filled, and screwed-together compositions always made the journey from studio to exhibition space fully intact. As I drew closer to the ships, Marissa explained how she could recognize a system, a unique vocabulary and syntax, in each of Sampson’s sculptures. However chaotic and freeform they may appear at a glance, their interlocking wood pieces, well-placed screws, and assiduous dabs of paint give the sculptures a sense of cohesion. Each individual artwork manages to absorb the torrent of snapped twigs, fraying ropes, and bleached chicken bones, the anomalous furniture knobs and jewelry pieces that appear inexplicably fused into their new contexts. These repurposed materials never completely lose their definition, revealing their tangled past lives in vague but visceral flashes.
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“St. John,” Mixed Media, 34″ x 18″ x 19″, Mixed Media, 2005. Image courtesy of Cavin-Morris Gallery.
It was a chilly January afternoon when Sampson and I finally found time for a studio visit. Sampson, 61, is a father of three. With the untimely passing of his wife, he raised his children mostly on his own. To this day Sampson, a recent grandfather and a teacher at schools and art institutions, radiates parental love and attentiveness. Days, hours, and minutes before our meeting, he sent instructions on how to get to his Newark apartment from Manhattan, proposing at the last minute to meet me at Newark Penn Station where my train would arrive. When I stepped out of the exit he had specified, Sampson, dressed solemnly in a black jacket and a charcoal gray fedora, met my eyes with his. His mouth, tightly sealed and framed in thick, trimmed strokes of facial hair, opened into a smile. He greeted me with a jovial handshake, and I could recognize in an instant the charismatic warmth I had sensed in our correspondence, as well as the melancholy of his art, the dreaminess that seems inextricable from a familiarity with hardship and pain.
“I’ve been here over 20 years, and I still don’t feel like I’m Newark,” Sampson told me as we walked from the train station to his apartment and studio a few blocks away. We were in the Ironbound neighborhood, a community of mostly Portuguese and Brazilian immigrants that weathered the boom and bust of industrial growth as well as the riots that swept through Newark in 1967. As a widower, Sampson chose to relocate his family to the Ironbound from Englishtown, New Jersey in the early 1990s, leaving suburban living for a less conventional residence in an artists’ colony that occupied an old factory space. Sampson had decided to leave law enforcement to pursue art full-time. With a long career as a composite sketch artist, he studied illustration at the Newark School of Fine and Industrial Arts — soon teaching there — and took classes at Parsons School of Design and the Art Students League in New York. The pen and ink illustrations he showed me are arresting, many resembling poster and mural designs, with their animated lines of text and whimsical, often eerie, imagery of faces and machines. Sampson has in fact worked on a number of publicly commissioned murals in the area.
"The Madjet," Wood, Metal, String, and Found Materials, 27" x 25" x 8", 2015. Image courtesy of Cavin-Morris Gallery.
“The Madjet,” Wood, Metal, String, and Found Materials, 27″ x 25″ x 8″, 2015. Image courtesy of Cavin-Morris Gallery.
But Sampson prefers working with three-dimensional media. While illustration, for him, requires prolonged contemplation, sculpture has a spontaneity that currently holds greater appeal for Sampson. “I’m a total process-oriented artist,” he told me. In this sense, art and life seem inseparable for the sculptor, who considers his time spent watching the news (“before CNN got so bad”), walking down the street, talking to people, and collecting discarded objects, to be part of one continuous artistic act. With his ships, Sampson will often build a basic framework for each vessel with materials from a hardware store and then set off on an Odyssean journey around the neighborhood to collect the centerpieces and accessories for his vessels. Sampson has often felt predestined to find the things he finds. When asked how his sculptures are made, he responds by saying they were made “out there,” out in the world beyond his studio, where he has often chanced upon exactly the objects and conversations he had been searching for. “I remember something Randall Morris said that really stuck with me,” Sampson recalled of the cofounder of Cavin-Morris Gallery and an early supporter of his work. “He said that artists like me live with their work.”
Sampson currently lives in an open, second-story space above a large Brazilian restaurant. He built the interior himself, starting with an empty, stripped-down shell. Over the years, his residence has filled up with created, inherited, acquired, and found objects. The first large room hums with the rhythms and melodies of Sampson’s own sculptures. Other seafaring vessels — including the satirical “U.S.S. Sarah Palin,” bedizened with toy figurines like a nightmarish parade float — can be seen alongside Sampson’s earlier works, his polychromatic, modified musical instruments as well as the shrine-like memorials to friends, family, and loved ones. Sampson had initially turned to sculpture as a private activity, a means of dealing with personal tragedies as well as the impact and aftermath of the AIDS and drug epidemics in the 80s and early 90s. Now, when Sampson’s sculptures are not being displayed in galleries and museums, many of them hang on the walls or sit on the floors and tables of his apartment, where they commingle with a sundry collection of busts, statuettes, icons, and dolls.
Them Twins, Mixed Media, 20 x 29 x 15, 2002
“Them Twins,” Mixed Media, 20″ x 29″ x 15″, 2002. Image courtesy of Cavin-Morris Gallery.

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“Them Twins” (detail).
Sampson apologized several times in advance for the “total mess” in his apartment. His tone, however, was more playful than apologetic. Implicit was a respect for his way of working, of finding meaning amid apparent disorder. Indeed, his apartment reverberates with a contained chaos. Nothing feels superfluous, nor essential or permanent. Objects glow with the potential for use and change, from the wall of books slightly obscured by larger artworks by Sampson’s friends, to the boxes of cleaned chicken bones for his sculptures, to the jars of homemade pickles on the kitchen counter, repeatedly replenished for friends, family, and current and former students that regularly come through Sampson’s home. Sampson is clearly a dedicated father, grandfather, and community organizer, effortlessly adopting the traits of his own father, who was a prominent civil rights leader. A photograph of Stephen Sampson at a demonstration hangs by the door to his apartment.
“I was the black sheep — or white sheep — of the family,” Sampson joked. His father, a Sunday school teacher and independent scholar of black history, wanted his children to be well-educated and empowered members of their communities. Unable to identify a career path early on, the young Sampson devoted himself to law enforcement because he had to “do something.” Though he made bold decisions and concerted efforts to shift his focus to art, Sampson expressed that his recognition as an exhibited artist seems to him almost incidental. He still thinks little of his success as an artist, despite having often found himself in the company of elite politicians, artists, actors, and other members of what seemed a distant world. “I came into the art world after Basquiat, Keith Haring, all the drug addicts. I think the galleries and the museums were just happy to have a functional person,” Sampson said, chuckling at himself. “I still feel more policeman than artist.”

2/15/16

ARTSHIP OLYMPIA Kevin Blythe Sampson upcoming Exhibit

http://www.philasculptors.org/olympia/

ARTSHIP OLYMPIA

June 25th, 2016 – September 25th, 2016
Spruce Street Harbor Boat Basin
301 S. Columbus Blvd.
Philadelphia, PA

Philadelphia Sculptors is embarking on a new voyage during summer, 2016.  No need for sea legs – just bring your imagination!  In collaboration with the Independence Seaport Museum, Philadelphia Sculptors will launch “Artship Olympia,” an exhibition of site specific installations on the historic Cruiser Olympia, moored in the boat basin at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia.  Artists will creatively reinterpret Olympia, giving voice and vision to its history, stories, and culture. Artworks will be bold, subtle, loud, calming, invigorating, and disruptive. What they won’t be is predictable. Visitors will have access to the exhibition during Olympia’s normal visiting hours with additional special events to be scheduled.

1/22/16

Kevin Blythe Sampson photos of my work By John Foster Outside the Lines Design Observer

http://designobserver.com/feature/outside-the-lines/39178



 
Kevin Blythe Sampson
Spawn of the South, 2014
Mixed Media
16 x 20 x 14 inches
Cavin-Morris Gallery
 
 

John Foster

Outside the Lines


This weekend marks the twenty-fourth showing of the Outsider Art Fair in New York, one of the world's most exciting art fairs if you are looking for art that is authentic, honest, and surprisingly fresh. It has taken nearly a quarter of a century for this fair to mature into what it is today, thanks in part to new ownership by Andrew Edlin, who has become one of the power players of the field. That said, you will never meet a more down-to-earth or friendlier person. The Outsider Fair began in 1993 as a celebration of art that had, for too long, been bypassed and largely misunderstood by the rest of the art world. This was art that did not fit neatly into defined boxes, and before 1993, struggled to find a market.

The fact is "outsider art" has always been an evolving form. If we go back to the early twentieth century, there were a few visionaries who did much to bring awareness to the genre. Sidney Janis (1896–1989) was one of the first American art dealers to champion the work of what was then called “primitive artists.” His book They Taught Themselves, published in 1942, was one of the first serious books to take on the notion that serious art could be made by everyday people. It took on the idea that artists could be self-taught. 

In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this art was called “folk art” and was characterized by exhibitions and early publications showing Limner painters of colonial times, weather vanes, quilts, and cigar store Indians. It was quaint and charming, but nonetheless important for what it was. In his book, Janis pointed out that important art was still happening within that earlier context—but what he had discovered was decidedly different. Though he represented leading avant-garde European and American artists, it was Janis who introduced an array of self-taught masters such as Morris Hirshfield, John Kane, Joseph Pickett, Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma) Moses, and Horace Pippin. At that time, Janis had such influence in the art world he could promote just about anyone he wanted, and he used his clout by making others aware of art by the self-taught. 

Europe had its own recognition of this art, with Jean Dubuffet and André Breton collecting art within a genre they called Art Brut (quite literally “raw art”). The art they collected were by so-called psychotic individuals who existed almost totally outside of mainstream culture. This was, to these two artist/collectors, “unaffected art”—art that welled up and manifested itself from sources unknown. And while the term art brut is still used today—the meaning of that and the term outsider art is very close in definition. 

Aside from Janis, it would be a mistake not to mention Otto Kallir (1894–1978), who established Galerie St. Etienne in New York, in 1939. Kallir was Grandma Moses' dealer, and he promoted her (and others) throughout her life.

It would be more than thirty years, in the 1970s, before Janet Fleisher (1917–2010) and John Ollman began showing exciting new work by self-taught artists like Bill Traylor (his work sold for $100 apiece then) and Sister Gertrude Morgan, in Philadelphia. In Chicago, during that same period, it was now retired art maverick Phyllis Kind (b. 1933) who began showing some of the same artists, as well as work by the Chicago Imagists like Jim Nutt, Ray Yoshida, Roger Brown, and others. 

By the 1990s, the evolution of this art was in full swing, with many galleries and collectors from around the world exhibiting it, researching it, and art magazines devoted to it. 

So, as we celebrate the 2016 Art Fair, it’s good to look back at just how long it has taken for this art fair to fully develop. As longtime art dealer John Ollman told me for this article, “I’ve long been over calling this work by this name or that. It’s just art. We show art we that we like.” 

The 24th Annual Outsider Art Fair is being held now through Sunday at The Metropolitan Pavilion at 128 West 18th Street.