The art of Kevin Blythe Sampson

THE ART OF
KEVIN BLYTHE SAMPSON

8/31/14

KEVIN SAMPSON: IRONBOUND September 14, 2014–February 1, 2015

http://www.jmkac.org/index.php/upcomingexhibitions2/this-must-be-the-place/kevin-sampson-ironbound

 

KEVIN SAMPSON: IRONBOUND
September 14, 2014–February 1, 2015

The assemblages of artist Kevin Blythe Sampson trace the past and present of his neighborhood, known as Ironbound, as well as aspects of his entire Newark, NJ, community.
Sampson’s father, Stephen Sampson, was committed to civil rights and community issues. In fact, local marches and meetings were often organized at his kitchen table. National leaders, such as Ruby Dee, Malcolm X, and Robert Ferris Thompson, came to meet with his father about their challenges and victories. Those experiences had a profound effect on the younger Kevin; as a result, themes of activism, place, and identity recur throughout his work.
Primarily self-taught, Sampson continues to tackle the difficult issues of concern to him and his neighborhood. Reflecting what he calls the “community conscience,” his sculptures are made from found objects and gifts from neighbors, thus documenting his intimate understanding of the contemporary African American experience.
Photo: Kevin Sampson. Photo: Fred Scruton.

8/29/14

"The Roots of the Spirit: Lonnie Holley, Mr. Imagination, Charlie Lucas and Kevin Sampson: Four self-taught American artists invited — and later controversially disinvited — to take part in the 2011 Venice Biennale show together for the first time on the West Coast

My Drawing in the San Franciso Chronicle

Fall Arts Preview: Visual art
Kenneth Baker is The San Francisco Chronicle’s art critic

"The Roots of the Spirit: Lonnie Holley, Mr. Imagination, Charlie Lucas and Kevin Sampson: Four self-taught American artists invited — and later controversially disinvited — to take part in the 2011 Venice Biennale show together for the first time on the West Coast. Sept. 19-Nov. 26. Wiegand Gallery, Notre Dame de Namur University, 1500 Ralston Ave., Belmont. (650) 508-3595, www. wiegandgallery.org.
By Kenneth Baker." 

http://www.sfgate.com/art/article/Fall-Arts-Preview-Visual-art-5691423.php

8/27/14

Wanted Project-Collaborators Kevin Blythe Sampson

 

 

Collaborators

Dread Scott

Dread Scott makes revolutionary art to propel history forward. In 1989, the entire US Senate denounced his artwork and President Bush declared it “disgraceful” because of its use of the American flag. His work is exhibited internationally including in the Whitney Museum, MoMA/PS1, Pori Art Museum (Finland), BAM Fisher and galleries and street corners across the country. He is a recipient of a Creative Capital Grant and his work is included in the collection of the Whitney Museum.
http://www.dreadscott.net/

No Longer Empty

No Longer Empty’s mission is to widen the audience for contemporary art, to promote socially conscious artists, and to build resilience in communities through art. We do so by presenting professionally curated, site-specific art exhibitions where a community of artists, educators, scholars and the public come together to create and experience art, free of market imperatives and institutional constraints.
No Longer Empty draws together the vitality of the contemporary art world and the values of building community.
http://www.nolongerempty.org/home/

Stop Mass Incarceration Network

The Stop Mass Incarceration Network is building a movement to stop the injustice of mass incarceration and police brutality; and the racially biased policies and practices of the police, the courts and the U.S. legal system; and to support the rights of prisoners and the formerly incarcerated. We call on all to join us. SMIN was started by Cornel West and Carl Dix.
http://www.stopmassincarceration.net/

Kevin Blythe Sampson

Kevin Blythe Sampson, 59, is a sculptor, painter, Muralist, and a Retired Police Officer- Composite sketch Artist that is recognized for tackling difficult issues that concern him and his Newark, N.J., neighbors. His has accomplished this, both through his work and his activism in the city of Newark as it concerns its youth. Kevin has been a gallery artist with Cavin-Morris Gallery, NY.NY for over 22 years. Sampson created the sketches for Wanted, based on verbal descriptions of “witnesses” who described a youth they had seen only briefly.
For inquiries about his work, contact Cavin-Morris Gallery
http://www.cavinmorris.com/home.html

Street Attack

Street Attack is Creative Disruption Factory for an overstimulated world.  They assisted with some of the creative disruption that is Wanted.
http://streetattack.com/

8/22/14

THIS MUST BE THE PLACE Opening Celebration Friday, October 3, 6:00–9:00 p.m.

 http://www.jmkac.org/index.php/this-must-be-the-place-opening-celebration
THIS MUST BE THE PLACE
Opening Celebration Friday, October 3, 6:00–9:00 p.m.

Heather Benning, The Dollhouse: Blue Night #3, 2007. Digital C-Print 20x30.

Experience the emotion we feel for places despite distance in time or space. The Arts Center presents original installations, sculpture, photography, film, and work by vernacular environment builders that reveaI powerful places of influence in twelve artists' lives.

Heather Benning  
Brent Green  
Martin Prekop
Beverly Buchanan  
Frank Albert Jones  
Kevin Blythe Sampson
Scott Carter
Sanford Darling  
Alexandre Larose
Kim Morgan  
Sebura & Gartelmann

Enjoy a musical performance by Painted Caves, complimentary hors d'oeuvres, and a cash bar.

7:30 p.m.-Tour the galleries with curator of the series, Karen Patterson, and artists.

TICKETS
General public: $10. Arts Center members: Free
For membership information, call 920-458-6144 or click here to become a member today!

Our gratitude is extended to BMO Harris Bank, Herzfeld Foundation, and the Wisconsin Arts Board,with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National  Endowment for the Arts, for rma jor su pport of THIS MUST BE THE PLACE. Arts Center programs are also made possible by the generous su pport of its mem bers.

THIS MUST BE THE PLACE-IRONBOUND

http://www.jmkac.org/index.php/upcomingexhibitions2/this-must-be-the-place
Original installations, sculpture, photography, film, and work by vernacular environment builders reveal powerful places of influence in twelve artists’ lives.
This series of five exhibitions invites consideration of “place” as far more than a particular point on a map. Rather, it brings to light the humanity, meaning, and identity that can be drawn from and invested in a place when the experience of it transcends materiality.
Kim Morgan: Range Light, Borden-Carleton, PEI, 2010
               September 14–January 4

Martin Prekop: House
               September 14–January 4

Kevin Blythe Sampson: Ironbound
               September 14–February 1

Building Stories: Including works by Heather Benning, Beverly Buchanan, Scott Carter, Sanford Darling, Frank Albert Jones (1900–1969), Alexandre Larose, and Sebura & Gartelmann
               October 3–February 15

Brent Green: Gravity Was Everywhere Back Then
               October 3–February 1

8/18/14

On the 'A' w/Souleo: Artist Creates Mock Police Sketches To Address Issue Of 'Wanted' Youth

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-souleo-wright/on-the-a-wsouleo-artist-c_b_5679679.html
Peter 'Souleo' Wright Headshot

On the 'A' w/Souleo: Artist Creates Mock Police Sketches To Address Issue Of 'Wanted' Youth

Posted: Updated:
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Over a nearly three decade period from 1980 to 2008, U.S. incarceration rates have accelerated from an estimated 500,000 to 2.3 million people. Disproportionately, African-Americans and Latinos totaled 58% of all prisoners in 2008, despite only representing one quarter of the U.S. population. So what does this have to with the world of visual art? If you're Dread Scott it has everything to do with art and what he believes is its responsibility to be a catalyst for change.
2014-08-14-WantedMockPoliceSketch_Courtesy_DreadScott.jpg
Wanted Mock Police Sketch/Courtesy: Dread Scott
Scott a longtime political artist--perhaps most famously known for his controversial 1989 work What is the Proper Way to Display a U.S. Flag? --has collaborated with the organization No Longer Empty for a project addressing mass incarceration and the criminalization of youth titled, Wanted. The multilayered project includes a series of mock police sketches created in and posted throughout Harlem depicting youth wanted for innocuous non-illegal behavior. This act of subversion is meant to call into question society's negative perceptions of youth of color that often leads to increased police harassment, arrests and death as evidenced by recent high-profile tragic cases such as the killing of Michael Brown. [Full disclosure: writer served as creative director of No Longer Empty's programming].

Check out images from the project and highlights from our conversation with Scott about the intersection of art, politics and revolution.
On the politics of mass incarceration:
"America is a country that was founded on slavery and genocide. But the war on drugs policies started by [Ronald] Reagan and presided over by all presidents, including [Bill] Clinton and [Barack] Obama have served to quadruple the prison population since 1980 with most of those prisoners being Black or Latino. The war on drugs systematically targeted this population and has resulted in what Michelle Alexandar appropriately labels The New Jim Crow. And coupled with the laws, police focus, prosecutorial proceedings, sentencing, and parole control; there is a cultural rationalization and ideology that Reagan put forward that was widely touted in the major media at the time that depicted Black youth as unredeemable criminals and monsters.
2014-08-14-Wantedposter_Courtesy_DreadScott.jpg
Wanted poster/Courtesy: Dread Scott
This continues to this day to the point where George Zimmerman can murder Trayvon Martin and get away with murder or where Staten Island police can choke Eric Garner to death, get caught on video and have no indictment for three weeks and counting."
On art as a tool for change:
"We need a revolution and anything short of that is not going to end the oppressive conditions people are confronted with. I'm not trying to change laws and while I hope for broader media coverage, I don't evaluate a project based on this. My work raises important questions that are confronting humanity. I hope to create space for people to think about these questions and in some cases think in new and deeper ways about them. This contributes to a broader process of people building a movement for revolution."

2014-08-14-PassersbyreadsWantedposter_Courtesy_DreadScott.jpg
Passersby reads Wanted poster/Courtesy: Dread Scott
On feedback from the community:
"The youth really got what Wanted is about and got what this was about right away. They saw it as a way to be defiant about how they are being treated. Some older folks were more hesitant and I believe that this cautiousness is unfortunately too common amongst older people who tend to overly focus on potential risks."
"Overall the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. When taking the Wanted project flyers to put up in barber shops, nail salons and bodegas people were overwhelmingly receptive. We talked with people and many shared stories of how the police had abused or harassed them or their friends and often wanted copies of the flyers to have. I'm certain that there will be some in the community who don't like this project, but I have not heard that sentiment yet."
2014-08-14-Wantedposters_Courtesy_DreadScott.jpg
Wanted posters/Courtesy: Dread Scott
On the future of Wanted:
"Wanted is going to be increasingly visible in Harlem in the coming days. And right now people can download copies of the poster and expand its reach, including to new cities. Beyond this, now that it is out in the world, I have to assess where things are at with the project and see what else I want to focus on and plot any next steps."
****
The weekly column, On the "A" w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture entertainment and philanthropy in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.

8/16/14

Dread Scott-Wanted Composite Sketch By Retired Police Artist Kevin Blythe Sampson


Dread Scott


flyers, community meetings, performance and website
Wanted is a community-based art project that address the criminalization of youth in America.  It is presented in an art exhibition as well as on the streets of Harlem, New York. It resembles a series of police wanted posters which each features a “police sketch” of a young adult, a description of them and a statement of what they are wanted for.  For example “On Saturday May 17, 2014, at approximately 12:30 AM, a male black, 16-24 years of age was wearing a black waist length jacket and dark pants.  The male was observed engaging in conversation with other males.  The police allege that the suspect moved suspiciously when officers approached…”
It is a multifaceted project that included: public forums on the criminalization of youth, the creation of Wanted posters, for things aren’t illegal but for which the police harass Black and Latino youth, a forensic sketch session as performance art where adults described specific youth to a composite sketch artist, and the posting of the posters in barbershops and other business in Harlem and the dialogues needed for the posting.
A more detailed description of the project with full resolution downloads of the Wanted posters, documentation photographs and videos of the sketching can be viewed at wanted-project.com

8/11/14

Wanted Project | The Project






 Dread Scott

 http://www.wanted-project.com/about/

The Project

Wanted is a community-based art project that address the criminalization of youth in America. It is presented in an art exhibition as well as on the streets of Harlem, New York. It resembles a series of police wanted posters which each features a “police sketch” of a young adult, a description of them and a statement of what they are wanted for. For example “On Saturday May 17, 2014, at approximately 12:30 AM, a male black, 16-24 years of age was wearing a black waist length jacket and dark pants. The male was observed engaging in conversation with other males. The police allege that the suspect moved suspiciously when officers approached…“
Through laws and police enforcement, the US has criminalized a generation of Black and Latino youth. America has the highest incarceration rate in the world with 2.4 million people imprisoned. Most of those are Black and Latino, with 1 in 9 Black men aged 20-34 in prison. In New York, by March 2013, the New York Police Department had stopped and frisked over 5 million people, most of whom are Black or Latino, the overwhelming majority who were completely innocent.
The sketches of the youth on the Wanted posters were drawn by a former police sketch artist, based upon descriptions from adults who only briefly saw the young person they described. Like the drawings on actual police wanted posters, the sketches are simultaneously specific and generic. The text on the posters are based on actual non-illegal activity that youths are frequently stopped by police for.
The posters are displayed in inside of the 2014 exhibition If You Build It, organized by No Longer Empty and presented in partnership with Broadway Housing Communities. In addition to the exhibit, young community activists are taking the Wanted posters out to the community to have hundreds displayed in bodegas, barber shops, pizza joints, etc. They will have conversations with the owners and employees in the establishments about why they want to place a Wanted poster in their store. Through hundreds of conversations, a dialogue will develop about how young people are targeted by police.
An aim of the project would be to have people step out and embrace the youth in this community. It is vital to “come out of the shadows” and be visible and declare that being young and living in Harlem (or Brownsville, Brooklyn or South Central LA) is not a crime. We, with our faces have nothing to hide. The last line on all of the posters reads “The suspect is wanted by his family, friends and neighbors.”
Please feel free to download and post Wanted posters in your community. Wanted is conceived of by Dread Scott and developed collaboratively with No Longer Empty, The Stop Mass Incarceration Network and young adults in Harlem. The sketches were drawn by Kevin Blythe Sampson.


8/10/14

This Must Be the Place Presented by John Michael Kohler Arts Center at John Michael Kohler Arts Center


This Must Be the Place

Presented by at John Michael Kohler Arts Center

The artists in this exhibition illuminate what it means to be in a relationship with the places that shape a sense of self. Confronting notions of nonfulfillment and alienation, the works illuminate places that resonate deeply and explore the recesses of our collective psyche. This exhibition features the work of regional emerging artists, established international artists , and works from the Arts Center’s collection of vernacular art environment builders, including sculpture, photography, and film.
http://www.milwaukee365.com/event/detail/441864470/This_Must_Be_the_Place

Artists include: Martin Prekop, Beverly Buchanan, Frank Albert Jones, Brent Green, Kevin Blythe Sampson, Sanford Darling, Kim Morgan, Heather Benning, Sebura & Gartelmann, Scott Carter, Alexandre Larose.

8/4/14

Dread Scott-WANTED drawings rendered by Retired Police Composite Sketch Artist Artist Kevin Blythe Sampson


click image to view/download ‘wanted’ posters
WANTED is a community-based art project that address the criminalization of youth in America. It is presented in an art exhibition as well as on the streets of Harlem, New York. It resembles a series of police wanted posters which each features a “police sketch” of a young adult, a description of them and a statement of what they are wanted for. For example “On Saturday May 17, 2014, at approximately 12:30 AM, a male black, 16-24 years of age was wearing a black waist length jacket and dark pants. The male was observed engaging in conversation with other males. The police allege that the suspect moved suspiciously when officers approached…“
Through laws and police enforcement, the US has criminalized a generation of Black and Latino youth. America has the highest incarceration rate in the world with 2.4 million people imprisoned. Most of those are Black and Latino, with 1 in 9 Black men aged 20-34 in prison. In New York, by March 2013, the New York Police Department had stopped and frisked over 5 million people, most of whom are Black or Latino, the overwhelming majority who were completely innocent.

6/19/14

Gentrification fuels rift among Newark’s local artists | Al Jazeera America

Gentrification fuels rift among Newark’s local artists | Al Jazeera America
Longtime residents feel left out of resurgence as newcomers land prime art spaces
Gilbert Hsiao, 58, has bounced among various studios, from Berlin to the concrete shell of a defunct oil tank in Brooklyn before landing space in downtown Newark, New Jersey, where he now paints his colorful, geometric art pieces.
Once overlooked as an art destination and better known for its 1967 riots and urban decay, Newark’s downtown hosts a growing visual arts scene that has attracted outsiders like Hsiao with cheap rent, good public transportation and a constellation of cutting-edge galleries that have garnered outsize praise. There are more than a dozen art galleries in Newark in addition to spaces that double as coffee shops or beauty parlors.
But as these newcomers increasingly flock to Newark, some older artists — many of whom are black and are longtime residents — are feeling overlooked, especially as a few gallery owners and artists who are relatively recent arrivals have snagged prime real estate. Tension within the visual arts community is brewing as the downtown area is poised for gentrification. New, luxury apartments are for rent, upscale cafes and restaurants are coming soon, and a Whole Foods is slated to open in a few years.
“There a lot of whites coming into Newark now,” said Kevin Sampson, 59, a black artist known for his elaborate sculptures made of found objects. A resident since 1993 who has been involved in the city’s art scene longer than that, Sampson has led the debate on Newark’s older artists versus its newcomers, whom he describes as “carpetbaggers” and “white hipster refugees from Brooklyn.”
Sampson wants the new artists and gallery owners to pay their dues and respect the history of the artists who have been in the city for years or decades. He said a few galleries and artists have received space for free or at reduced rents and bluntly described it as white privilege.
“They use privilege to set something up,” he said. “They are getting free buildings. Its landowners say they trust you.”
Bisa Washington, a 63-year-old Newark resident and artist who has been involved in the art scene since the 1970s, agrees with Sampson.
“It was a question of access,” she said. “You look around, and you wonder how these things are happening, why the artists who are already here weren’t pulled into that loop.”
Sampson said he plans to hold a round table on the topic in the fall.
You look around, and you wonder how these things are happening, why the artists who are already here weren’t pulled into that loop.
Bisa Washington
Newark artist

newark artists gentrification

Kevin Sampson, 59, is an artist known for making elaborate sculptures out of found objects. He has lived in Newark for more than 20 years.
Sharon Adarlo

Rebecca Jampol is the owner and one of the founders of Solo(s) Project House, an art gallery in downtown Newark that rents its space. She’s also a founder of the Gateway Project, a series of pop-up exhibitions at the Gateway Center, a commercial complex adjacent to Newark Pennsylvania Station. C&K Properties, a real estate company, donated the space for the Gateway Project.
“My interactions with all the older artists who have been here a longer time have always been positive,” Jampol said. She added that she acknowledges the groundwork they’ve laid and is aware of the criticisms lobbed by Sampson and others.
“I am here the same reason they are here,” she said. “To indulge in a city that has a lot of inspiration.”
Evonne Davis, a founder of Gallery Aferro in downtown Newark, where Hsiao works, swatted away criticism that she, as a white woman, was favored for free space. The RBH Group, a major real estate developer in the city, donated space for the gallery after she and her partner, Emma Wilcox, had started another gallery, she said.
“We have already proven we got it done,” she said. “The idea we got the space for any other reason than hard work is, frankly, insulting.”
Davis said she and Wilcox work hard to pay the gallery’s hefty heat and electricity bills by selling work, fundraising and working other jobs. Davis said she does not get a salary running the gallery and works as a consultant, art handler and photographer.
“We are not above criticism. We are not perfect,” she said. “We try hard to be part of the solution, not part of problem.”
Gallery Aferro has shown many works by local artists, including well known Newark artist and performer Jerry Gant, who recently had a large solo show. The Gateway Center has shown Sampson’s work.
“This tension is long-standing,” said Clement Price, a history professor at Rutgers University. “There has always been an insider-outsider dynamic.”
Price says tension within the arts community was also revealed when the New Jersey Performing Arts Center opened in 1997. Critics, he said, believed “NJPAC was a larger plot to bring whites back into city.”
Redevelopment has accelerated in recent years, and Hsiao says Newark is an increasingly attractive option as people are pushed out of Manhattan, Brooklyn and Jersey City, which has a vibrant arts community and faces increasing gentrification too.
At least one longtime Newark artist applauds the changes.
“I feel really good about it,” said visual artist Gladys Grauer, who at the age of 90 is considered the godmother of the city’s art scene. “There are so many artists now.”
Grauer, a black artist, has watched the city evolve since she moved there in the early 1950s. In 1972 she opened the Aard Gallery, the first art gallery in the city since the Great Depression and the only local place for visual expression besides the Newark Museum, she said. It was in the city’s South Ward, where she currently resides.
The arts community grew as galleries like City Without Walls (1975) and Aljira (1983) were founded, both fixtures in the city. The nonprofit Newark Arts Council formed in 1981 and has promoted artists ever since with open studio events and other programs.
Grauer said the more recent arrivals over the past 15 years have established themselves in Newark rather than coming and going, as they did in the past.
“People started to think there was something great here,” she said. “[Artists] were looking to seek their fortune in New York. They are now seeking their fortune here, which I think is excellent. They want to stay here and work.”







5/18/14

The Roots of the Spirit: Lonnie Holley, Mr. Imagination, Charlie Lucas, Kevin Sampson will be on view at the Wiegand Gallery from September 15 to November 15, 2013

Select Upcoming African American Art Exhibitions: Highlights for 2013

This highlight features a few exhibitions that will be on view this coming year, 2013. Presenting the exhibitions as they approach their opening dates assures a freshness and currency of information for the visual art enthusiasts. A number of important traveling exhibitions from 2012 or earlier will still be on tour in 2013, and they are accessible from the sidebar of this Blog, Highlights of African American Exhibitions....  This sidebar is updated on a weekly basis by either adding newly discovered exhibitions or removing those that are approaching their expiration date. Its intent is to provide comprehensive coverage of current ongoing exhibitions on view for the current quarter of the year.

Black Art Project (BAP) welcomes any information or leads that you might have relating to Black art exhibitions, particularly regional exhibitions that are not traditionally marketed on a national scale. BAP will verify the accuracy of any information submitted. Thank you for any assistance that you provide.

Mr. Imagination, Ghost Dress - 2000
Wire mesh, mother of pearl buttons - 48 x 36 x 36 inches
Created in 2011 for "The Roots of the Spirit" exhibition at L'Espace Re-Evolution, Venice, Italy.

The Roots of the Spirit: Lonnie Holley, Mr. Imagination, Charlie Lucas, Kevin Sampson will be on view at the Wiegand Gallery from September 15 to November 15, 2013. This exhibition was originally on view at L'Éspace Re-Evolution (Venice, Italy) where these four artists were invited by the American Folk Art Museum to exhibit during the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011.
Each of these artists "has acknowledged that divine intervention played an essential role in showing them their path. With the conviction of their African legacy, they began making art that honored their ancestors as an antidote to death and private grief. To witness Kevin Sampson’s shrines to deceased friends and relatives; the ancestor thrones of Lonnie Holley and Mr. Imagination; and Charlie Lucas’ metal sculptures that honor his grandparents by their material and method, is seeing through the eyes of the artists’ ancestors. Art is their testament to memory, healing and ultimately spiritual renewal."

Read more about these artists and view their works at The Roots of the Spirit.http://blackartproject.blogspot.com/2012_11_01_archive.html

5/8/14

DETOUR:SELF-TAUGHT ARTISTS AT THE NOYES MUSEUM

The Noyes Museum of Art of The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey
733 Lily Lake Rd, Oceanville, NJ
08231 • 609
-652-8848 •
www.noyesmuseum.org
PRESS RELEASE
FOR
IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Media Contact:Nicole
Ellis, Visual Communications Manager
April29, 2014
publicrelations@noyesmuseum.org
(609) 652-8848 ext. 305
DETOUR:SELF-TAUGHT ARTISTS AT THE NOYES MUSEUM
Artists present their own personal universe and a pure
desire to create
OCEANVILLE (GALLOWAY TWP.), NJ
The Noyes Museum of Art of Stockton College presents
Detour
a group exhibition showcasing American self-taught artists
from the region
from
May 16
through
September 21, 2014.
An opening reception
is planned for
June 6,5:00-8:00pm.
For more information call
(609) 652-8848 or visit
www.noyesmuseum.org
.
Self-taughtart typically refers to artwork that is created by artists who do not have any formal training.It is direct, honest, and accessible to the viewer. It is art straight from the soul.
 
This unique exhibition has been
assembled from The Noyes Museum’s
permanent collection, as well as galleries and private collections.
There are a range of personal histories of the artists represented in the exhibition.
However,what they do have in common is that they are not trained in an academic fashion.
It is theidea that is of most importance.
Self-taught artists follow their own intuition—
their own need to create.It is their pure, organic, and sincere
approach to the work that imbues it with powerful resonance.
The work presented holds n
ational importance and local relevance.
 
Acclaimed artists including Malcah Zeldis,
Minnie Evans, Victor Gatto, and New Jersey artists A
lbert Hoffmann, Janice Fenimore, Quinton Greene,
and Kevin Blythe Sampson 
pack the exhibition with raw emotion and visual intrigue.
 
Hoffman, born in
Philadelphia,moved to Abseconwhere heoperated a junkyard with his uncle.Entirelyself-
taught, Hoffman carved wooden reliefs and free standing sculptures of American life.
It was common to seeHoffman on theboardwalk in Atlantic City with an audience gathered around him
admiring the dramatic scale and forth right clarity of his carved images.
 
Janice Fenimore, of Madison, New Jersey, taught herself how to use woodworking tools after
she raised her two children.
She began by working with traditional designs from early America
n crafters, making wood carvings
and then painting them. Her interest in whirligigs inspired her to bring her work into the third-dimension.
Fenimore’s pieces are found in the permanent collections of the Museum of American Folk Art in New York City, Newark Museum, and The Smithsonian Institution/Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C.
 
Kevin Sampson, born in Elizabeth, NJ, grew up in a household devoted to civil rights and community concerns.
For years, Sampson served as a police sketch artist and took early
retirement after the death of his infant son and his wife. He utilized art as not only a release, but as a different way of providing service to his community. The creation of these sculptures are quite unique, involving molding, cementing, painting over, sometimes
concealing, or never revealing the items used such as animal bones, chili peppers, hair, jewelry, tile, wax and pieces of wood.
 
This exhibition challenges and surprises the viewer at every turn. The unique works prove why self-taught art is now a global phenomenon.
These passionate artists create powerful works that can stand alongside the best of
modern and contemporary art.

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
Continue reading the main story Share This Page
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.