The art of Kevin Blythe Sampson

THE ART OF
KEVIN BLYTHE SAMPSON

4/15/14

Utopian Vision Born of a Harsh Truth New York Times

Photo
From left to right: “The Marked Man” (2011, printed 2014), Jayson Keeling, photographed by Andy Brown; “Face Morph #134” (2009-13), by Janet Henry;  “New York Quotidian Series” (2012), by Carl E. Hazlewood. Credit Left to right: Courtesy of Jayson Keeling and Andy Brown; Janet Henry; Carl E. Hazlewood
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The exhibition “Aljira at 30: Dream and Reality,” at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton, starts with a video revisiting the 1967 Newark riots, titled “5 Days in July,” by Chuck Schultz and Esther Podemski. Made in 2007, it was shown that year at Aljira, an alternative exhibition space in Newark for emerging and underrepresented artists. The two-screen piece shows the city on fire and footage of the National Guard overrunning the rebellion of the African-American community after the arrest and beating of a cabdriver for a traffic infraction.
For Victor Davson, a Guyanese immigrant who in 1983 found cheap, expansive studio space for himself and a group of students, and a community still deeply scarred by these events, the riots were pivotal to the birth of Aljira. “There was this connection between a sense of decay and abandonment in the neighborhood and seeing an opportunity to somehow try to use it positively,” Mr. Davson said in a telephone interview. 
When a friend of Mr. Davson’s who had also emigrated from Guyana, Carl E. Hazlewood, visited the studio the next year, the two young artists envisioned starting a gallery there that would offer possibilities to artists of various racial and cultural backgrounds who were not often finding places to show their work. They named their utopian art space Aljira, the Aboriginal word for “dream time.”
Photo
“Now Is the Time” (2009), by Willie Cole. Credit Willie Cole
“We didn’t have a big mission at the time,” said Mr. Hazlewood, who focused on the curatorial side as artistic director while Mr. Davson raised money as executive director. “We were just expressing our own multicultural perspectives and what we wanted the world to look like.
“Our first criteria was that the art be good, and all the other things came along with it: to show female artists who were good, to show black artists who were good, to show Latinos. We wanted to reflect our environment, to develop something that was interesting to Newark especially, but also to reflect the world at large.”
“Aljira at 30: Dream and Reality,” on view through Sept. 28, traces how this grass-roots organization has grown into a vibrant center for both local and nationally known artists and provides diverse cultural and educational services in its underserved community.
“We want people to know what Aljira is and why it’s important,” said Margaret M. O’Reilly, curator of fine art at the State Museum. She said she had been consistently exposed to new artists through Aljira exhibitions and had bought art from its yearly fund-raising auction for her institution’s collection. Ms. O’Reilly organized the exhibition with Mr. Hazlewood and two other artists, Jaret Vadera and Cicely Cottingham. It includes ephemera telling the story of the organization’s evolution decade by decade, and artworks by 41 of the roughly 1,800 artists affiliated with Aljira over the years.
Photo
“Sweet Dreams” (2010), by Philemona Williamson Credit Courtesy of the artist and the June Kelly Gallery
A wall of archival photographs, fliers and invitations from the 1980s shows how Aljira found its footing. In 1984, while the founders were cleaning floors and painting walls to create an acceptable gallery space, they engaged the neighborhood children in a project painting a mural across the exterior of the building. From there, exhibitions included the inaugural show that year of Rafael Sanchez, a Cuban-born artist and one of the original students working in the building, and the 1989 show “Promise of Progress,” organized by Fred Wilson and including Mel Chin and Willie Cole, who are all prominent in the art world today.
Installed near the archival wall are mixed-media works by Mr. Cole, who lived in Newark and was little known before his ongoing association with Aljira, and by the seminal players in the gallery, including Mr. Davson, Mr. Hazlewood, Ms. Cottingham and Elizabeth Seaton. Almost all of the artworks in the show are contemporary, to emphasize how the opportunities afforded by Aljira have helped these artists continue to practice actively today.
A section devoted to the 1990s, when Aljira moved to a space downtown on Washington Place, underscores how far it had come as a nationally and internationally recognized contemporary art center in just a decade. In 1994, an Aljira project was selected to represent the United States at the IV Bienal Internacional de Pintura in Ecuador with works by artists including Donald Locke, also born in Guyana, and Philemona Williamson, of Montclair. Both have recent works in the Trenton show.
In 2002, with the help of a major grant from the Newark-based Prudential Foundation, Aljira relocated to its current street-level space at 591 Broad Street in the city’s cultural district. On view in the section devoted to the 2000s is work such as “Obama in the White Man’s Land,” a 2009 sculpture of a nightmarish landscape in carnival colors by a local self-taught artist, Kevin Sampson, and a 2013 four-panel piece of African-American women’s hairstyles “painted” in shimmering black rhinestones by Mickalene Thomas.
Over the past decade, Aljira has expanded its range of educational and professional development programs, which are highlighted in posters and reproductions papering a reading room installed within the exhibition. Culture Creators, for instance, is a program co-sponsored by Rutgers University for Newark teenagers who have limited access to the arts; they visit museums, meet artists around the region and participate in art-making workshops. “Bending the Grid” is a series of exhibitions devoted to artists over 65. The first of these retrospectives, in 2003, focused on Frank Bowling, a classmate of David Hockney’s at the Royal Academy of Arts in London who never received the recognition commensurate with his decades of work (he was voted the first black Royal Academician by his peers after the Aljira exhibition).
For artists just starting their careers, the Emerge program offers practical tools not taught in art school, such as finding gallery representation and managing financial issues. Artists who have participated in the program and now have national profiles include Leslie Hewitt, Jeffrey Gibson and Shinique Smith. “In my generation,” Mr. Hazlewood said, “you did the work and eventually hoped one day someone would respond to it. But now, when there are so many artists, you need to strategize. I’m glad that we’re able to pass this on to a younger generation of artists.”
Correction: April 13, 2014
An earlier version of this article misspelled the surname of an artist who was involved in Aljira’s beginnings. She is Elizabeth Seaton, not Seton.

4/9/14

PraiseSongs for the Numinous at Cavin-Morris Gallery

PraiseSongs for the Numinous at Cavin-Morris Gallery

The exhibition of new sculpture at Cavin-Morris Gallery shows a sense of curatorial care which imbues the space with the feeling of a dining room methodically organized for a dinner party, where the attention is paid not only to the detail of the space, but to the preferences and tastes of the soon to be arriving guests:
“In the case of this exhibition, PraiseSongs for the Numinous, and these artists presented we had to, as curators, build a familiarity with the artist, the work, and its context in the artists’ world to know just where that intentionality was. There are common threads here, but possibly the most common one is that of animism, the belief in spirit contained in organic and inorganic objects.”
Guillaume Couffignal Théâtre, 2014 Bronze 41.5 x 32 x 25.5 inches 105.4 x 81.3 x 64.8 cm
Guillaume Couffignal
Théâtre, 2014
Bronze
41.5 x 32 x 25.5 inches
105.4 x 81.3 x 64.8 cm
The cohesivity of the show gives rise to this collective animism which pervades the space like a unified voice, a voice both old and recognizable yet palpably new and invigorating. What might pass as a collection of anthropological finds en route to a museum of history, the sculptures collected here carry a weight of the past with them despite being so recently crafted. The dynamic animism which the curators so rightly saw in the artists they brought together is an animism of mythical spirit, an energy of old which makes the works feel like sacred relics that were uncovered rather than produced. For some of the artists, this feeling of discovery opposed to production for the purpose of sale is intrinsic to the pieces; Gregory Van Maanen’s amulets were not made for sale but as gifts to family and friends as objects of healing: “they are extensions of his intimate observations of Nature and its occult unpredictabilities.” Kevin Sampson’s works, too, are meant to be amulets; they’re the “spirit yards of the south in miniature,” tiny representations of a larger, sweeping feeling meant to preserve and pay homage to communal memory.
Gregory Van Maanen Untitled, 2014 Acrylic and ink on stone 2.75 x 2 x .25 inches 7 x 5.1 x .6 cm GVM 2344
Gregory Van Maanen
Untitled, 2014
Acrylic and ink on stone
2.75 x 2 x .25 inches
7 x 5.1 x .6 cm
GVM 2344
The curators call Mark Perez’ work “messengers,” as if their existence isn’t the ‘art’ or finished products themselves, but simply a means of conveying a larger experiential message to whomever happens to stumble across them. It’s for this reason, this sense of conveyance opposed to the explicit itinerary of selling, which makes the exhibition feel both unassuming and inviting. Ghyslaine and Sylvain Staelens’ sculptures reign over a “mystical landscape,” being more about “the voices in the woods: gypsies, pagans, witches,” than they are about the contemporary environment in which they’re situated. In this sense, all of the artists embody this sense of space/time displacement, or a place of “timelessness” which the curators themselves admit to trying to bring about in the exhibition. They say “we wanted to show work that moved backwards as well as forward temporally.” The show certainly succeeds, and the movement (the animas, spirit, and animism) makes it worthwhile to spend the time in the gallery’s space, which may or may not feel like a time in the present.
Sylvain and Ghyslaine Staelens Le Chamane, 2013 Wood, metal, cloth, found objects 68 x 37 x 25 inches 172.7 x 94 x 63.5 cm
Sylvain and Ghyslaine Staelens
Le Chamane, 2013
Wood, metal, cloth, found objects
68 x 37 x 25 inches
172.7 x 94 x 63.5 cm
Marc Perez Yak bâté , 2012 Mixed media 13.25 x 11.25 x 5.5 inches 33.7 x 28.6 x 14 cm
Marc Perez
Yak bâté , 2012
Mixed media
13.25 x 11.25 x 5.5 inches
33.7 x 28.6 x 14 cm
New sculpture by Jane Wheeler, Phyllis Sullivan, Tim Rowan, Melanie Ferguson, Monique Rutherford, Sarah Purvey, Kevin Sampson, Gregory Van Maanen, Guillaume Couffignal, Sylvain Corentin, Marc Perez, Sandra Sheehy, and Ghyslaine and Sylvain Staelens are on view now at PraiseSongs for the Numinous at Cavin-Morris Gallery at 210 Eleventh Ave., Suite 210. The show continues through April 26, 2014.
- Amie Zimmer
All photos courtesy of Cavin-Morris Gallery

3/27/14

Kevin Blythe Sampson Gallery 1978 presents: Art, Newark Past, Present, Future, A panel discussion



Gallery 1978 presents: Art, Newark Past, Present, Future,
A panel discussion
April 6, 3-5 PM  2014
Join Gallery 1978 as we explore Newark's illustrious art: past, diverse present and exciting future. The forum will provide an opportunity for members of the creative community to gain an insight into the recent history of the Newark Art Movement; how it has evolved, its current state and plans for the future.
Members of our distinguished panel will include:
·      Steven Kern, recently named Director & CEO of the Newark Museum, former executive director of the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse.
·      Gladys Grauer has been called the mother of Newark artists. Over the last fifty years she has been a vital part of the development of the Newark art community.
·      Barbara Kukla, author, journalist, Newark historian, and award-winning former, Star-Ledger Editor
·      Evonne M. Davis, photographer, Artistic Director Gallery Aferro, Newark,
·      Kevin Sampson, artist, teacher, retired police officer, and community organizer gallery artist with Cavin-Morris Gallery, NY, Senzala Fine Art Studio, NJ. In the permanent collections of: the Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, the American Folk Art Museum and at the Delaware Art Museum. 
Moderated by Kevin Darmanie, artist, printmaker, and muralist.
A Reception with refreshments from 5:00-5:30 PM
Gallery 1978 is a division of the Township of Maplewood Department of Recreation and Cultural Affairs, located at 1978 Springfield Ave, at the corner of Broadview in Maplewood
Website 1978artscenter.org Contact us 1978artscenter@gmail.com

3/26/14

Kevin Blythe Sampson at The Noyes Museum of Art of Stockton College



 Kevin Blythe Sampson is part of a group show at the:

The Noyes Museum of Art
of Stockton College

May 16 - September 21, 2014
Detour: Self Taught Artists
Painting, drawing, and sculpture by American self–taught artists of the Mid-Atlantic region. Out of the ordinary works made in aesthetic isolation with the drive of the human spirit to create.

http://www.noyesmuseum.org/upcoming_exhibits.html

 The Noyes Museum of Art
of Stockton College
733 Lily Lake Road
Oceanville (Galloway TWP.), NJ, 08231
(609) 652-8848

1/14/14

Kevin Blythe Sampson's Installation "An Ill wind A Blowing" currently on display in the Exhibition “All That Glitters”


 Photos of Kevin Blythe Sampson's
 Installation "An Ill wind A Blowing" currently on display in the Exhibition

“All That Glitters”  

Thursday, January 16th    – Thursday, March 20th

Opening Reception: Thursday, January 16th 6 pm – 9 pm


About The Gateway Project:
Located in the heart of Newark
ʼ

Gateway Project is a series of pop up art exhibitions adjacent to Newark Pennsylvania Station
 
 
About The Gateway Project:
Located in the heart of Newark
ʼ
s Gateway Center, crossroad of
over 30,000 people daily, the
Gateway Project is a series of pop up art exhibitions adjacent to Newark Pennsylvania Station,
The series is made possible by art organizations Solo(s) Project House in Newark, New Jersey.
Gateway II owner, C&K Properties is sponsoring and hosting the events
 

 Exhibiting Artists: Willie Cole, Ryan Trecartin, Katherine Bernhardt, Shoplifter, Akintola Hanif, Shoshanna Weinberger, Raul de Nieves,
 Kevin  Blythe Sampson, Richard Wislocky, Alexandria Despris, Mary Edna Fraser, Ayana Evans, Angelina Dreem, Andrew Baron, Ashli Sisk, Brendan Mahoney, Benjamin Phelan, Eric Barry Drasin, Fernando Montiel Klint, Hannah Craft, Katya Grokhovsky, Jessica Bowman, Melvin Jones, Labanna Babalon, Luca Cusolito, Sid Art and Whitney Lea Sage.


 Photos By  Elzbieta Kaciuba
Elzbieta Kaciuba Photography.LLC
 




















1/5/14

ALL THAT GLITTERS

ALL THAT GLITTERS

Curated by Athena Barat
& Rebecca Jampol
Thursday, January 16th  –
Thursday, March 20th
Opening Reception:
Thursday, January 16th
6 pm – 9 pm
Exhibiting Artists: Willie Cole, Katherine Bernhardt, Shoplifter, Akintola Hanif, Shoshanna Weinberger, Raul de Nieves, Kevin Sampson, Richard Wislocky, Alexandria Despris, Mary Edna Fraser, Ayana Evans, Angelina Dreem, Andrew Barron, Ashli Sisk, Brendan Mohaney, Benjamin Phelan, Eric Drasin, Fernando Montiel Klint, Hannah Craft, Katya Grokhovsky, Jessica Bowman, Melvin Jones, Labanna Babalon, Luca Cusolito, Sid Art and Whitney Lea Sage.
Performances Opening Night by:
Colin Self and Chez Deep
Katya Grokhovsky
& Ayana Evans

“All that Glitters”, a group exhibition about abundance, luxury and decadence, flirtations with vulgarity, and the ache for exaltation.
About Guest Curator, Athena Barat:
Through her role as creative director of the Barat Foundation artist, curator and educator, Athena Barat, has reinvigorated public art in Newark New Jersey by producing the largest collaborative projects and events in the city’s history. Her projects bring a special blend of celebration, high art and craft; are often interactive and ask viewers to exercise their freedom. Ms. Barat has participated in residencies in France, Iceland, Belgium and Holland; is part of the international fashion collaborative Andrea Crews, writes music and performs, and is this year’s Garden State Woman of the Year in recognition of her work with Newark’s youth.
About The Gateway Project:
Located in the heart of Newark’s Gateway Center, crossroad of over 30,000 people daily, the Gateway Project is a series of pop up art exhibitions adjacent to Newark Pennsylvania Station.
The series is made possible by art organizations Solo(s) Project House in Newark, New Jersey. Gateway II owner, C&K Properties is sponsoring and hosting the events.
 Above image:
“May U Alwayz Align Urself w/ Abundance”
by Jessica Bowman

12/25/13

On Kevin Blythe Sampson By Randall Morris, Cavin-Morris Gallery, NY,NY



On Kevin Blythe Sampson By Randall Morris, Cavin-Morris Gallery, NY,NY
 

There is finally a plethora of information out about the integrity and the
deep importance of what has become known as the 'yard show' or what I now more realisticllt refer to as spirit yards. Anyone who has
driven through the South has encountered the phenomenon whereby place is
challenged by survival and homeground comes into being as a niche within the
larger landscape.
We know Mary T. Smith's yardshow, we know Thornton Dials' yardshow, Ralph
Griffin, Lonnie Holley, and many others. We don't know by name but we
understand the vision of the unsellable manifestations of wheels, faces,
dolls, bottles, funerary decorations etc that become tips of the hat,
libations and obeisances to ancestors, order, the hearth, and a taunt in the
face of never-ending oppression.

Grey Gundaker was one of Robert Farris Thompson's students when he turned her on to Judith McWillie's deep and immersive work on yard shows, cemeteries and the vernacular art of the American South. She and Judith McWillie are major repositories on the deep sources of the true American art. Their book No Space Hidden is a must for anyone who claims to love African-American art trained or untrained. Her anthology of
essays: Head to the Skies African-American Home Ground (sic) ; (the book is in my office I'll post the correct title tomorrow) as well as her analysis of
vernacular writing: Signs of Diaspora:Diaspora of Signs, Literacies,
Creolization and Vernacular Practice in African America have thrown my
perspectives awry in great ways again. In signs of diaspora she questions
what we mean by illiterate when a culture is so rich and so encoded and so
into language; she disputes this hierarchy of reading as the only literacy
and posits that "Distinct from script literacy on one hand, and oral culture
on the other, these creolized vernacular practices include writing in charms, use of personal or nondecodable scripts, the strategic renunciation of reading and writing as communicative tools, and writing that is linked to divination, trance and possession."

The first book is only about spirit yards. A spirit yard is a homage to
ancestors, shows the relationship of the maker to his community and to
himself, reveals personal virtuosity and creates a sacred ground out of Place
that takes place on the cycle between the home and the cemetery. But what
set me up was a sentence where she explained that yard shows could be
miniaturized and taken indoors and from that small sentence I will never see
the work of African-American self-taught artists quite the same again. It
all stems from this carving out of a place inside another one whether for
home or for temporary shelter. Not everyone has, understands or is aware of
the yard show but I think you will not find an artist in this part of the
field who is not aware of its umbrella with every inch of their being.

It also gave me gift of understanding even more deeply what it is Kevin
Sampson does. I read that phrase and walked into where his sculptures were
and understood for the first time that they were yard shows. That in the
bastardized darkness of Newark he had taken them indoors; that he had been
making them always and that they incorporated into their complex and intense forms everything that was in the Southern yards.

When I first visited him in Newark there was part of a chainlink fence in his
home on which hung dried peppers, chicken feet and dolls. In another room
was a circle on the floor of large stones over which dangled a cross. A
wagon wheel leaned against the wall. Random parts of the house were painted
blue. It didn't shout at you; it was just there if you looked. His pieces
were in different places every time I visited, constantly being reconformed
into the space.

As we got closer I saw the incredible intensity of the cards life was dealing
him. It wasn't quite an urban story it wasn't country it was often surreal
and never letting up on him for one second with its intensity. You could die
laughing and just when that laughter was peaking someone would really die and
a deeper music would take over and yes one or two works of art than joined
the family in a function of remembrance.

And I also have come to realize that his discomfort with the role of artist,
of the artworld, of the reluctance of those close to him to accept him as
artist, of the stark and clear visions of heaven and hell in his dreams, of
his soul restlessness that draws him to feel other peoples lives like an
uncontrollable magnet was also what other African-American spirit yard artists
have gone through everywhere with their communities and their families. I
wrote the other day that Spirit doesn't die, quoting RFT, and it was Kevin I
was referring to, thinking of those who might have trouble with his age, or
his intelligence, or misperceptions of his roots.

The pieces are sections of spiritual landscape that he has reinvented on
earth. That he protects. There are hidden things in the pieces noone will
ever unravel. But there is no piece he does without ancestors, without God
in whatever forms, without Oldtime Religion, without black people in them. I
was glad to see people flock to his pieces this last January even though it
was after five years of wondering why it wasn't seen earlier. He deserves
it. And though we have a friendship that is reverent and irreverent at the
same time I would like to put in a word of respect here for Kevin Sampson as
artist that has nothing to do with marketplace. And he knows how true that
is. Sampson is why I am in this field and a sign to me of the fields rich
and wonderful continuing future. The books mentioned above, the photos in
the Arnett book, and thinking hard about where this field goes for black and
white people have made me understand better the genius some of us non-visual
artists are privileged to see and touch almost everyday. And how satisfying
it is, for people like Dial, for Sampson, for my other deep artist friend Gregory Van Maanen etc that they are alive in their too short hours of recognition.

12/13/13

Kevin Blythe Sampson .......Joan Mitchell Grant Recipient 2001

 Kevin Blythe Sampson .......Joan Mitchell Grant Recipient 2001

Joan Mitchell Foundation

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http://joanmitchellfoundation.org/artist-programs/artist-grants/painter-sculptors/2001/kevin-sampson






Joan Mitchell Foundation

Search Form

Painters & Sculptors Program

Kevin Sampson

Newark, NJ
- See more at: http://joanmitchellfoundation.org/artist-programs/artist-grants/painter-sculptors/2001/kevin-sampson#sthash.xcqGjLoi.dpuf

Joan Mitchell Foundation

Search Form

Painters & Sculptors Program

Kevin Sampson

Newark, NJ
- See more at: http://joanmitchellfoundation.org/artist-programs/artist-grants/painter-sculptors/2001/kevin-sampson#sthash.xcqGjLoi.dpuf

Joan Mitchell Foundation

Search Form

Painters & Sculptors Program

Kevin Sampson

Newark, NJ
  • Beulah's Ball, 1997, mixed media, 57 x 32 inches.
  • Children of the Dome, 2000, mixed media, 20 x 19 x 12 inches.
  • Grape Factory, mixed media, 16 x 16 x 16 inches.
  • The Thorn Bird, 2001, mixed media, 36 x 22 x 14 inches.
Artworks shown are selected from works submitted by t
- See more at: http://joanmitchellfoundation.org/artist-programs/artist-grants/painter-sculptors/2001/kevin-sampson#sthash.jI5s9fFJ.dpuf