Through Oct. 24. Galerie Lelong & Co., 528 West 26th Street, Manhattan; 212-315-0470, galerielelong.com.
The painter Ficre Ghebreyesus (1962-2012), who makes his New York solo debut with the show “Gate to the Blue,” traveled a long way in his cut-short life. He was born in Eritrea, East Africa, and left at 16 to escape the country’s brutal war of independence with Ethiopia. He traveled on foot to Sudan and lived as a refugee in Italy and Germany. In 1981, he settled in the United States, where he studied painting at the Art Students League in New York and at the Yale School of Art and supported himself for years as a restaurant chef in New Haven, Conn.
During these years in exile, he became fluent in multiple languages, spoken and visual. In a mural-size painting on unstretched canvas titled “Zememesh Berhe’s Magic Garden,” an enclosing “wall” of Eritrean-style geometric patterning serves as backdrop for an African-American bottle tree. And much of his work — semiabstract, opaquely autobiographical — has a dreamlike cast. In “Mangia Libro,” titled for a nickname — “book-eater” — that his family gave him as a child, he depicts his younger self absorbed in reading as he walks away from what looks like a line of monumental buildings toward a subaqueous realm of fantastic fish and plants, all done in colors Matisse would have relished.
And large histories, beyond the personal, are ever-present in his art. These include repeated references to the Middle Passage of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. In a few cases the subject of exile is directly named, yet it can be read obliquely everywhere in the show. Taken together, two small pictures, one of an unmanned boat, the other of a soaring seabird, might be asking: What is the difference between being cut adrift and flying free?
Mr. Ghebreyesus’s appetitive colors makes his art instantly magnetic, but it is his images — boats, animals, musical instruments, angels — that write stories in the mind. Visual poetry is a phrase overused and underdefined. But you know it when you find it, and you find it here.
Through Oct. 31. Postmasters, 54 Franklin Street, Manhattan; 212-727-3323, postmastersart.com.
During the early years of U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the New York painter Steve Mumford traveled numerous times to those war-torn countries as an embedded artist with American troops and made drawings he would often turn into oil paintings.
“Drawings From America’s Front Lines” at Postmasters finds Mr. Mumford back in the combat zone — only this time the scenes are shockingly local and recent: New York in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, Black Lives Matter protests and campaign rallies for Donald Trump. A field hospital set up in Central Park for Covid-19 patients brings home the warlike trauma of dealing with the virus, as does a drawing like “Photojournalists Outside Wyckoff Medical Center, Brooklyn, NY, Apr. 7, 2020,” an ink and watercolor work on paper depicting a scene of a virus hot spot. Other works, like “Anarchists Campsite, Lownsdale Square, Portland, OR, Jul. 25, 2020,” and several drawings and watercolors of Trump rallies and supporters capture the tumult of our time.
Rendered in pencil, ink and watercolor Mr. Mumford’s drawings — including texts from overheard conversations — are reports from the field, but also vividly expressionistic. (He also works from photos taken with his iPhone.) Thousands of photographs of these events are circulating on the internet, but Mr. Mumford’s drawings show what it means for an artist — expert draftsman and commentator — to bear witness and document history.
Through Oct. 25. Interstate Projects, 66 Knickerbocker Avenue, Brooklyn; interstateprojects.org.
The wall-mounted works that make up most of Manal Kara’s exhibition at Interstate Projects offer an enjoyable kind of sensory overload. The arched ceramic frames are textured and bulky, evoking old stone windows, but with modern, often cryptic images and texts embedded in them. They enclose photographs printed on cotton and held in place with string looped through grommets, recalling the D.I.Y. aesthetic of camping gear. Those pictures have other, smaller fabric photos pinned to them.
The meaning of the pieces is hard to decipher; they seem diaristic and observational, structured by their own logic. They create the effect of a mood board: Your eye doesn’t quite know where to land.
Kara, a self-taught artist and poet who uses the pronoun “they,” includes many photos of wildlife. Often, they seem to be drawing connections between the natural and man-made worlds, as in “cherry grape blueberry (syntax error system shutdown)” (2020), where the coiled form of a snake echoes an image of a tire. The phrase “yesterday was here today” is written on the frame like a koan — but maybe also a clever advertisement. After all, the tire image is part of a commercial sign.
One conceptual key may be in the show’s title, “The Viewing-Room vs. the Adoring-Gaze,” and the news release, which comes from the artist’s dream journal. It’s a surreal, parodic script for an infomercial, narrating a journey from a series of clinical spaces, called “viewing rooms,” to a field filled with cows “gazing intently with their huge beautiful fringed eyes.” This exhibition is a product of Kara’s own adoring gaze. The artist is modeling a way to look.
Through Oct. 10. Chapter NY, 249 East Houston Street, Manhattan; 646-850-7486, chapter-ny.com.
You have just a day or two left to catch Cheyenne Julien in her New York solo debut, “Phantom Gates and Falling Homes,” at Chapter Gallery. (The online viewing room remains live through the end of the month.) I’ve been trying for weeks to articulate what’s so exciting about how this young painter from the Bronx handles color, and her knack for including drips and unfinished but patently purposeful brush strokes. And my mind keeps coming back to a line I recently overheard in a children’s cartoon: “A rainbow only comes out when it’s rainy and sunny at the same time.”
The line goes especially well with a small painting called “Treading Water.” When Ms. Julien began the piece, according to the gallerist Nicole Russo, it showed an apartment window filled with hand-drawn thank-you signs for essential workers. Later, in response to news of police officers destroying water bottles and other supplies at Black Lives Matter protests in Asheville, N.C., Julien overlaid the window with the arm of a heavily uniformed man stabbing plastic bottles with a knife. You can still see a rainbow on one of the signs, part of it through the officer’s forearm. But the painting’s two subjects don’t synthesize: They’re simply both happening at once.
It’s an honest way to confront an overwhelming moment, and while simple enough on its face, it’s hardly easy to do so adeptly. But what’s most striking is seeing Ms. Julien use the same confident iridescence to take in the complexities of memory, race and her native city in more straightforwardly personal views. In “Master of House,” the artist’s father rests one bare foot on a copy of Marvin Gaye’s album “What’s Going On”; in “Black Out,” Ms. Julien recalls, with children playing at an open hydrant, a moment of joy during New York’s 2003 blackout.
Hamilton says thank you to health-care providers through public art – Global News
The City of Hamilton is turning to public art to pay tribute to health-care workers.
With the help of a citizen-led volunteer jury, the city has announced 15 winning designs that will be printed and installed on utility boxes outside four of Hamilton’s hospitals.
The tourism and culture division’s Ken Coit says the winning designs, chosen from 92 submissions, celebrate and support the role of health care providers in managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Coit notes that one design depicts people hanging out the windows of a building, “saying thank you, just like we had that tradition of banging pots out the windows” when the pandemic started last spring.
He says other winning submissions are “just fun and say thank you and have happy heart,” while others are “really compelling images of health-care workers.”
Installation of the graffiti-resistant wraps should be completed in the spring on traffic signal boxes outside of Hamilton General Hospital, Juravinski Hospital and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton — Charlton and West Fifth locations.
Coit notes that the project is an extension of public art on 35 utility boxes in the downtown core last year, around the theme of “celebrating urban life.”
He says that initiatives help “prevent graffiti,” “reach out to young artists to give them an opportunity to have the stuff displayed” and “create a sense of pride of place.”
Artists will receive $650 for the use of their work.
The project is funded by Hamilton’s transportation, operations and maintenance division and through the contributions of developers to the Downtown Hamilton Public Art Reserve.
The city spends more than $2 million each year to clean up litter and graffiti, which Mayor Fred Eisenberger has described as a “pervasive problem.”
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Concordian Ashley Raghubir wins 2020 Canadian Art writing prize – Concordia University News
Raghubir’s award-winning essay explores the depiction of water and air in the works of Afrofuturist artist Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum and the poet Nathaniel Mackey. The Paris Review literary magazine recently featured both Phatsimo Sunstrum and Mackey.
“I was thinking about water; I was thinking about air and breath. And I was writing this essay toward the end of June, so I was very much thinking about George Floyd’s death,” Raghubir says.
“Nathaniel Mackey was responding to Eric Garner’s death in 2014, who uttered the same words about being unable to breathe.”
Raghubir notes that there is a deeply sad series of connections in this portfolio.
“My essay was thinking about those ideas and incorporating different theorists and writers and other poets whose work informed my master’s research.”
A different take on the Middle Passage
Artist and writer Gelare Khoshgozaran, a member of the prize jury, described Raghubir’s writing in a press release for Canadian Art magazine.
“It departs from the blue of painting to navigate water and air through their material and symbolic connections to Black diaspora breath,” Khoshgozaran notes.
“Framing Sunstrum’s new and recent paintings as ‘a representation of thrivance,’ Raghubir posits care and protection as constants that define the past and future of Black diaspora life and kinship.”
The prize, offered annually by Canadian Art, is meant to encourage new contemporary art writers. Raghubir will receive a $3,000 award and will be commissioned to write a feature story for a future issue.
For Raghubir, there are meaningful connections between the works she explored in her essay — particularly in Sunstrum’s depictions of her subjects near and sometimes created out of water — and the two pieces she’s focusing on for her thesis. South African Afrofuturist artist Mohau Modisakeng’s Passage and American photographer Ayana V. Jackson’s Take Me to the Water are at the core of her current research.
Both pieces engage with the Middle Passage, the forced transatlantic voyage of enslaved Africans. Modisakeng’s series of three projections depicts three Black characters in small boats that are eventually submerged by black water. Jackson’s portrait series captures Black women in regal dress against a pitch-dark background.
“I’m looking at how these artists are representing the Middle Passage in an Afrofuturist way through focusing on the concept of ancestral Black waters. I’m also looking at the use of dress in both artists’ work, the apparel and adornment, as a way to examine the Afrofuturist representations of these historical traumas,” she explains.
“I’m really interested in these works as artistic interventions into Black diasporic histories. I think that through Afrofuturism, there’s a very clear historic intervention. But it’s also a way to understand the origins of present-day contemporary anti-Black racism and violence.”
Launch of the new Afrofuturisms Research Collective
Raghubir adds that the archive of those passages is incomplete and doesn’t meaningfully reflect the stories of African men and women who experienced them, contributing to the erasure of their personal histories.
“In a way these artists representing something like the Middle Passage or other events in Black diasporic histories is a way to intervene in the representation of history that in some ways has been denigrated and not explored.”
Raghubir points to the way Modisakeng and Jackson afford their subjects the power archival records may have denied them by portraying them looking directly at the camera “in a way that conveys self-possession and agency, resistance and resilience.”
Her work is supervised by Alice Ming Wai Jim, professor of art history and Concordia University Research Chair in Ethnocultural Art Histories. Raghubir is also a core member of the Ethnocultural Art Histories Research (EAHR) student group, where she’s helped host exhibitions, galleries and public talks with Black, Indigenous and people of colour researchers.
This year, Raghubir launched the Afrofuturisms Research Collective under the EAHR’s umbrella, with fellow Concordia graduate students Ojo Agi, Anastasia Erickson and Olivia McGilchrist. The collective is hosting a virtual public lecture series during the fall and winter, and they’re considering writing together.
“We’re collaborating and supporting one another’s work through a collective practice,” Raghubir says.
“There’s clear synergy among our individual practices, and it was a really beautiful idea to come together, launch a public lecture series and really formalize what we’ve begun to do over the last few months. We’re trying to activate different theoretical frameworks on Afrofuturisms and different artistic practices.”
Find out more about Concordia’s Afrofuturisms Research Collective and the Ethnocultural Art Histories Research Student Group.
Student group organizes art therapy project for seniors during COVID-19 pandemic – CBC.ca
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Asad Makhani worried that the seniors he worked with in long-term care, who already struggled with isolation, would see those feelings of loneliness amplified by the pandemic.
To address the problem, Makhani, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Alberta, created the Seniors Advocacy Movement with other students.
Makhani, who also works as a recreation aide at the Devonshire Care Centre, wanted to give back to the community.
The group soon came up with using art therapy, after learning how helpful it can be for people with dementia or who are in long-term care. It was especially helpful for residents with limited options for activities during the pandemic.
“It’s therapeutic for them and also gives them something to do during COVID times when a lot of activities are limited,” said Makhani, who was interviewed on CBC Radio Active on Wednesday.
“It allowed the seniors to express themselves, to draw themselves, and it’d be a venue to let out their feelings of how they’ve been isolated during the pandemic.”
The Seniors Advocacy Movement group takes the acronym for its name from Danielle Portnoy’s father Sam. Portnoy is a fellow driving force behind the group with Makhani.
The art project asks participants to draw their own faces and how they would see themselves. Many created a painting of themselves smiling, with some guidance through the process from Makhani.
The art pieces are an ongoing project that started over the summer. Currently, there about 25 completed. They’re hanging up for the public to see in a storefront at Southgate Centre. In mid-November, they’ll be displayed at a University of Alberta art gallery as well.
“It really helped me connect with them, and it’s something that I’m glad I’m able to do. It helped them improve their quality of life, and I’m pretty grateful for the opportunity,” Makhani said.
The project has only been held at Devonshire, Makhani said, due to the difficulty in getting access to other care centres during the COVID-19 pandemic. But once restrictions are reduced, Makhani said he’d like to bring this art project to other care centres.
The Seniors Advocacy Movement also held an online fundraiser earlier this year, putting the money toward essential items like toiletries for Devonshire residents. Makhani said they’re also hoping to hold another fundraiser later this year to buy Christmas gifts for care centre residents.
The art project was exciting for some participants who had experience painting before coming to the centre, Makhani said, adding it reminded some residents of their youth. One participant, Brian Wilkie, said he’d painted a lot in his life before and enjoyed being able to pick up this activity again.
“I felt very good when I could paint something and put some detail to it, and put some background to it,” Wilkie said.
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