Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New Art: Portrait of Jack McCray

Jack McCray was a Charleston icon who passed away about a year ago. He was passionate about documenting the legacy of jazz from a Charleston perspective and was a founding member of the Charleston Jazz Initiative which continues to offer residents and visitors a fervent taste of Charleston's jazz tradition. I knew him, but not all that well. For some reason I felt the need to pay homage to him and decided to use a photo of him taken by a co-worker, Post and Courier photographer, Wade Spees (thanks Wade for letting me use the image).  I have no real plans for the piece as of yet but nonetheless, here it is:

"Jack McCray" - 43" x 43" - Oil on Canvas

Leah Suarez, a local musician and executive directyor of the Jazz Artists of Charleston, penned a piece in the Charleston City Paper after his passing:

I write this with many caveats, as a heart in mourning and through blurry contacts. I am not sure that I have fully realized that my friend, colleague, mentor, confidant, advisor, and father figure has left this mortal world. It has felt like one continuous day since being one of the first to find Jack lifeless, not even one week ago.

I write this in the midst of being intimately involved with his immediate family and his jazz family, in making funeral arrangements, oftentimes working from the same office that we shared, a place that was more a home for both of us than our own homes. His picture proudly anchors the wall and reminds us that he is with us, but it's just not the same. It will never be.

Jack has known me since I was six years old. But it was just in the past five years — what will now be remembered as the last five years of his life — that I have had the honor and pleasure of working every day, side by side, with this gentle man in many different capacities. We worked together, as many in our community did with him, on purposeful and passionate projects. Most often, Jack spoke. I listened. What has become strangely clear in this surreal time is that Jack made me find my purpose. In a time that I struggled with my own identity and place in this world, personally and professionally, Jack stood as a constant in my life, encouraging and steadfast. He was, and forever will be, my family. For this, I am eternally grateful and will spend a lifetime working to fulfill that very purpose he instilled in me. We were just getting started.

Jack McCray did not just stand for something. He lived for everything. He was a walking testament, quite literally, for "carpe diem." Jack knew how to have a grand time and make lasting relationships. He was genuinely human. He was a citizen of the world. He valued time, language, music, and the art of humanity.

He worked to preserve history. He equally worked to create history. Jack was on a mission and, in many ways, I feel as though his mission had just begun.

What Jack has left behind is a massive to-do list — one that is never-ending and, as he would have said, "a constant work in progress." He left us a wealth of knowledge, a physical archive, stories, memories, advice, and blessings. He was a visionary who realized his visions — not by "magic," but by hard, tiresome, selfless work. In our most challenging times, he reminded me that the pioneers are the ones who end up with the dust in their faces. Jack was certainly a visionary pioneer for Charleston, the culture of jazz, and all of life.

The next week and a half will be especially difficult to get through without our Jack. As we move forward, we will do the best we can and rely on our community for strength. We will also find comfort in the very music Jack advocated for, promoted, produced, and loved.

Though I cannot tell you that I am personally finding much comfort at the moment, I do find peace in knowing that Jack fully lived his 64 years of life, blessing us all, just by being himself. Because of that fact, Jack McCray's legacy will never die.

Forward ever. Backwards never.

Sooooooo....Am I A Winner?

Winners, losers, and folks we'll miss from the past year

The Artsy Side of 2012

by Erica Jackson Curran

Katie Grandy file photo
Artist Colin Quashie offered an unflinching look at the effects of slavery in the south in the Plantation (Plan-ta-shun) exhibition at Redux

Unlike last year's lineup of scandals and shake-ups, 2012 was a quieter time for Charleston's art scene. It was about slow changes, implementing plans, and working toward a better future

1. Ellen passes the torch ... slowly.
It's been nearly a year since we got the official word that the Office of Cultural Affairs was seeking a new director, but rumors of Ellen Dressler Moryl's retirement had been floating around for a long time prior to that. Moryl has been with the OCA since its founding in 1977, and she also helped create the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, making her an integral part of the city's arts community for decades. This past November, she announced her successor in Scott Watson, a New Yorker boasting experience with arts organizations like the Dublin Fringe Festival and the New York Theater Workshop. Watson will take on his new duties in January, though Moryl will stay on as the artistic director of Piccolo Spoleto. We know we're not the only ones curious to see how this shift will affect the arts in Charleston.

2. The Charleston Ballet Theatre stumbles ... and tries to bounce back.
Last year was tough for the CBT, and 2012 didn't start out much better. In February, a handful of board members stepped down, and the company subsequently struggled to secure funding from wary donors. But by the time October rolled around, the CBT was attempting to sing a new tune. The board welcomed 19 new members and Joe Kelly took over as director of artistic operations, while Jill Eathorne Bahr lost her post as CEO (she now serves as the resident choreographer). According to Bahr, dancers are now more involved in planning, policy decisions, and community involvement, and the staff, board members, dancers, and the community are all considered shareholders in the company. The CBT kicked off a small, quiet 26th season in 2012.

3. Goodbye Manning.
Charleston's contemporary art community mourned when artist Manning Williams passed away in June after a long illness. He was 73. The Charleston native, a College of Charleston grad and professor, was exceptionally versatile but best known for the boldly colored, cartoon-inspired abstract work he created in his later years. He exhibited at the Corrigan Gallery, the Gibbes, and the Gaillard, and you can still find his paintings at the Charleston Airport

4. The Village Repertory Company finds a home downtown.
At the end of 2011, the Mt. Pleasant-based Village Repertory Company announced they'd be making a big move downtown, and in June, they started renovating the old Meddin Bros. warehouse on Woolfe Street. They had ambitious plans to open in October, but the opening kept getting pushed back due to construction delays and a lack of funding. The theater finally opened to the public last week for The Man Who Came to Dinner, though they've still got a ways to go to complete the project

5. City breaks ground on the Gaillard.
While the Village people struggled for funding, the Gaillard Auditorium got a good chunk of theirs. We've been hearing plans about the auditorium's extensive renovations for years, and this summer, construction crews finally got to work on the project. Major demolition started happening in October, when crews removed the roof and eventually pretty much demolished the entire building. The finished product will be a new arts center with city offices, a 15,000-square-foot ballroom and exhibition hall, and a theater with 1,800 seats. They're shooting for an October 2014 completion date

6. Mike Daisey puts the national spotlight on Spoleto.
Spoleto Festival 2012 had its share of memorable shows, from Montreal's gravity-defying Traces to 1927's creepy-cool The Animals and Children Took to the Streets to the sold-out return of Jake Shimabukuro. But nothing was more buzzed about than Mike Daisey's show. The monologist was slated to discuss technology and international business in two shows: The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs and Teching in India. Then in March, Daisey landed in the hot seat when it was revealed that he had falsified some of the information in Agony and Ecstasy, which he'd performed on This American Life. When he finally took the stage in Charleston in June, he gave us a bold updated version of the show and something new as well: a guilt-laced confessional. Our reviewer gave it a C+.

7. The storytellers descend.
Daisey wasn't the only storyteller who spun a yarn in Charleston this year. Charleston native Jack Hitt joined Daisey on the Spoleto lineup, ironically presenting a show called Making Up the Truth. The music- and monologue-driven Unchained Tour, featuring Neil Gaiman and Edgar Oliver, rolled into town on a big blue schoolbus. And NPR's StoryCorps trailer parked in Ansonborough Field for a few weeks, gathering locals' sure-to-be-juicy tales. In more traditional literary news, Blue Bicycle Books' YALLFest returned for its second year with hundreds of YA authors and tween fans descending on downtown.

8. Colin Quashie mounts a powerful show at Redux.
The city's visual arts scene was on its game in 2012, with admirable exhibitions at City Gallery (Mermaids and Merwomen in Black Folklore) and the Halsey (Don ZanFagna, Aggie Zed, and Motoi Yamamoto), just to name a few. But the one that's really stuck with us was Colin Quashie's The Plantation (Plan-ta-shun) at Redux last spring. The artist took a deceptively playful look at issues like slavery and racism in the South by using coloring books, a customized Monopoly board (painted as a mural on the side of the building), and an ad campaign for "J. Crow" featuring a photograph of a slave with brutal scars all over his back. The gallery has never been as quiet as it was during that eye-opening reception. Here's to more work from the talented artist.

9. Contemporary artist exodus.
Last year, we lost some of our best contemporary art galleries. This year, we bid adieu to several of our artists. Painter Tim Hussey moved to Los Angeles. Scott Debus, a founder of Kulture Klash, moved to Austin. Street artist Patch Whisky moved to Savannah, leaving behind a number of local murals including one in City Paper's office. Photographer Cyle Suesz moved to NYC, and Rebecca West Fraser (Contemporary Charleston 2011) moved to San Francisco. There are still some major contemporary players residing in Charleston — we just hope they'll stay here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

'Plantation' review - The Item - Sumter

Exhibitions provoke discussion, reflection

Wednesday, November 14, 2012
By Jane G. Collins - Special to The Item

Colin Quashie's "Faces of Color: John" can be viewed at the Sumter County Gallery of Art through Jan. 11.
The two current Sumter Gallery of Art's exhibits - Colin Quashie's "The Plantation (Plan-ta-shun)" and Fahamu Pecou's "Native Sun" - are not for the fainthearted or people with single-sided vision. They afford, however, provocative situations for discussion and reflection.

I am "treading on eggshells" when I suggest leaving preconceived notions at home, recalling that the very act of depolarization has, in some ways, led to greater polarization, whether it be music, art, politics, ethnicity, body types or even clothing. Quashie believes that nobody really wants to discuss slavery or confront the real issues; no one really is comfortable with the topic. His intent is to encourage discussion and acknowledgement of the impact of plantation life. The issues go way beyond slavery.

Quashie's often acerbic humor gains strength thorough his concept of suggesting what plantation life would have been like IF it had the advantages of today's media marketing (or what it would be like in today's society).

Be prepared to read as well as visually respond, for his use of sarcasm, satire and irony are reinforced through both avenue.

The three paintings at the Ackerman entrance proclaim Quashie's skill. They represent the present and his neighbors and lead the focus into the relationship of the past to the present and people's connection to the past. His delicate portraits are fused with the background - present with the past - and avoid forcing the eye to see past layers of paint or complex technique to respond to the three. The large drawing at the end of the aisle invites the viewer into the plantation while the two "Resumes," taken from archival advertisements for runaway slaves, suggest his clever irony.

In today's society, there seems to be a magazine for everything from makeup to motorcycles, travel to trash. Quashie's IF concept is projected in "Plantation Digest," a publication every plantation owner would have enjoyed. The topics are filled with sarcasm, yet an honest assessment of issues which often faced plantation owners. The ads visually increase his concern of the seriousness of his topics: "Look Solid with Stripes" features a slave whose back has been severely whipped, and, as on several pages, is sponsored by "J. Crow" (yes, the pun is intended). "Tradition White Is Timeless" with the starched white tux shirt and black noose tie is a fitting foil for editor William Lynch's comment on the master's nighttime strolls. Of course, the FLED EX and Harriet Tubman Twitter (and the website DunceKKKap) ads further satirize the benefit of modern communication to plantation life. Even the pull-out perfume strip for Mandingo - a helpful way to scent out African deserters - and the address label project the aura of "seriousness."

Equally as provocative and evocative are his "Plantation Properties" - remember "The future is right behind you " - and his "Plantation Palette." There is no avoiding the issue in his "Savory," sponsored by the Bar-B Crew. Just like paint swatches from Lowe's, there are even degrees of hues and tints. His carefully reworked Monopoly game and coloring book add to the message. Quashie's pieces emphasize his desire for a "reality check." In his "Rainbro Row," he alludes to the false history perpetuated by connecting Rainbow Row in Charleston to the "glorious past," since it really wasn't even in existence until the buildings were painted the pastel colors, according to Quashie, in 1917 in an effort to clean up the neighborhood.

When he was stopped by a drawbridge several years ago, Quashie looked toward the McLeod plantation and saw a row of whitewashed houses. What if they were colored in pastels? Then would more people be drawn to the real history of the area? Another important painting is his Louis Vuitton/slave picture on the back side of the "Resumes." Both figures are moving rapidly, one with a noose around his neck and the other "toting" a brief case. However, both seem to be making no progress: they move, but always in the same direction and the same awkward movement.

Quashie often gives color to the present and relegates the past to black and white. In the delicate portrait in the hall, the gentleman in the rumpled blue suit is dignified by his white hair and erect posture. He is wearing his best. The woman in the background in black and white represents the past. The artist admits that the desk, blackboard and notepad are important to his goal. He is hoping that people will take time to acknowledge the topic, to confront the reality, and to work toward the truth of the times.

Pecou's paintings are lively, colorful and strong. Since he uses himself as the focal vehicle, at first glance the exhibit seems less controversial. However, he implies much about perception and preconceived notions, particularly about the black male, in today's society. Using himself as an allegory for people's preconceived notions of the black male mystique, Pecou creates a visual discussion, his own slender shape an interesting contrast to the strong, muscular stereotype.

"Shades" dominate many of the pictures. There is the blatant "in your face" smoky haze in "Irony," part of Pecou's "All that Glitters Ain't Goals" series. The humorous posture in his "Stupoman," complete with cape, the covers for "Efface the Nation Art Books for Blak Presidential," with the glasses, cigar and mustache and the figure seeming to search for his identity in "Baby Boi" colorfully reveal his "parody on our obsession with celebrity, our exploitation of black masculinity and the divide that racial ignorance and stereotypes perpetuate." The "HVY Weight Chump" and "Role Model Citizen WWSDay" further encourage the viewer to rethink the concept of typical black males and what motivates both the culture and perception.

"Shiny Things" and "Lush" focus on the male form loaded with "typical" black male accessories - glasses, smokes, tons of jewelry. Yet "Lush" seems to push the negativity - he is sporting more chains with skulls and other "hood" and "gang" symbols; in the background is the muted shape of a liquor bottle forming the statement "RIP," a specific indictment of where this type behavior often leads black males.

Pecou also uses black and white contrast to suggest time and relationship. "When We Were Kings" and "You Don't Know the Half of It" cleverly use the technique as discourse for position, power and potential problems. His video "i/EGRESS/ion" includes a somewhat tongue-in-cheek visual of his trying to put on the mantle of masculinity and rise to the stereotypical occasion.

The two exhibits work well together. Although their artistic styles seem different, Quashie and Pecou communicate important concerns of culture and perception, especially about the black's role in history and society and differing cultural viewpoints. The exhibits encourage contemplation and soul searching through creative and well articulated art.

The Sumter County Gallery of Art, 200 Hasell St., Sumter, presents exhibitions by Colin Quashie and Fahamu Pecou from Nov. 9 to Jan. 11, 2013. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call (803) 775-0543 for more information.

The Item - Sumter Article

2 exhibitions at Sumter gallery examine black experience
Wednesday, November 7, 2012
From Staff reporters

It may be difficult to spot Colin Quashie's second-story studio if you aren't explicitly looking for it. An indistinct C and Q pasted to a glass door are the only clues that something else goes on in this standalone brick-and-concrete building on Upper King Street besides the haircuts that take place in the first-floor barber shop. It doesn't help that the logo gives a better impression of a cloud than a formal set of initials, the puffy and bulbous letters joined together in a cartoonish fashion. So instead, a better sign of what happens on the second story may be in the downstairs shop, where one of Quashie's works hangs on a wall near the wide windows.

Both artists in the new exhibitions at the Sumter County Gallery of Art examine cultural issues related to the black experience in America through images of the past and the present. Charleston resident Colin Quashie's "The Plantation (Plan-ta-shun)" and Atlanta-based Fahamu Pecou's "Native Son: Fahamu Pecou, 2009 to Now" open Friday with a 5:30 to 7 p.m. reception.

Quashie's mixed-media show examines the way "the South glorifies the past," while avoiding the subject of slavery.

"The Plantation is not about slavery," he explained. "No one, black or white, wants to talk about slavery. Instead, the show deals with different aspects of plantation life, the pros and the cons. Ultimately, it is about the past and the present.

"As far as they (some Charlestonians) are concerned, the past isn't the past. It's still the present. So that's what we market, that's what we sell, but we do it in a lot of different ways, and plantations are a mirror of that. Plantations are in the present, but they reflect the past, and depending on your sensibilities and the way you look at the plantation system tells a lot about what your sensibilities are."

The exhibition does have a "softer side," Quashie said, "both in meaning and in presentation. ... I realized I was kind of getting out there a little bit as far as the cynicism was concerned, and so I wanted to pull it back in, because the bottom line is I also wanted to talk about who were the real people who lived on these plantations ... ."

Quashie was born in London, England, in 1963 and raised in the West Indies. When he was 6, his parents immigrated to the United States and settled in Daytona Beach, Fla. He briefly attended the University of Florida on a full academic scholarship and then joined the Navy as a submarine Sonarman. He has also worked as a comedy sketch writer on "Mad TV" and six other comedy series. He was an associate producer on an independent feature film and in 2001 received an Emmy award for documentary writing. He lives in Charleston, where he paints while developing work for television and freelancing as a graphic artist.

Pecou is an American painter, performer and video artist based in Atlanta. His work utilizes self-portraiture to challenge and dissect society's representation of black masculinity in popular culture today, said gallery director Karen Watson. "An early and ongoing ruse includes a series of paintings featuring the covers of art magazines bearing his likeness - and how these images come to define black men across generational, geographical and economic boundaries."

Pecou said his work "can be viewed as meditations on contemporary popular culture. I began my career experimenting with practices employed in contemporary branding strategies, particularly as they pertained to hip-hop music. These experiments ultimately led me to question not only the stereotypes that drive consumerism, fame, celebrity-worship etc., but how an unspoken racial and cultural divide often influenced these factors.

"I appear in my work not in an autobiographical sense, but as an allegory. My character becomes a stand-in to represent black masculinity and both the realities and fantasies projected from and onto black male bodies. I seek to challenge the expectations around black men and, to a larger extent, society in general. Adopting the traits typically associated with black men in hip hop, I appropriate their more popular associations and distort or exaggerate them by placing them within a fine art context. The end result is a parody on our obsession with celebrity, our exploitation of black masculinity and the divide that racial ignorance and stereotypes perpetuate. These ideas are expressed in paintings, videos and live performances. Each medium allows me to articulate various nuances around my themes and further distort the assumptions we tend to make about one another."

Pecou grew up in Hartsville and has been featured in several solo and group exhibitions in the U.S. and abroad. His work has been reviewed and featured in numerous publications.

Both artists have been awarded prestigious residencies and have exhibited widely. In fall 2012, Pecou exhibited a series of new work: "All Dat Glitters Ain't Goals" at the Lyon-Weir Gallery in New York City. The show in Sumter, his first in South Carolina, includes several pieces from the NY show.

Watson observed that it has been a few years since SCGA has had two challenging exhibitions such as these. She expressed confidence in the sophistication of the audience in Sumter as well as beyond, "to be able to view and discuss provocative art and perhaps come away with a better understanding and appreciation of how historical, social and psychological forces shape our individual lives in different ways."

Pecou will give an artist talk following Friday's reception, to which the public is invited. Gallery members are admitted free, non-members for $5.

With public funding still greatly reduced because of the economy, Watson noted, the gallery "would not be able to present important exhibitions like these without the support of businesses and individuals who support SCGA's efforts to offer a wider art world to the citizens of Sumter. Special thanks to SAFE Federal Credit Union, DeAnne and Elielson Messais, Palmer Memorial Chapel, Rep. and Mrs. J. David Weeks and Carolina Diabetes & Kidney Center for making this show possible."

With public funding still greatly reduced because of the economy, Watson noted, the gallery "would not be able to present important exhibitions like these without the support of businesses and individuals who support SCGA's efforts to offer a wider art world to the citizens of Sumter. Special thanks to SAFE Federal Credit Union, DeAnne and Elielson Messais, Palmer Memorial Chapel, Rep. and Mrs. J. David Weeks and Carolina Diabetes & Kidney Center for making this show possible."

The Sumter County Gallery of Art, 200 Hasell St., Sumter, presents exhibitions by Colin Quashie and Fahamu Pecou from Nov. 9 to Jan. 11, 2013. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and 1:30 to 5 p.m. Sunday. Call (803) 775-0543 for more information.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Why artists do what they do...

I recently received an email that I want to share with you:
Good evening,
I am Annie Purvis, former student of Herb Parker's (interactive sculpture installation artist) and Arts Educator & Fine Arts Director at Lincoln-Middle High School in McClellanville, SC. I always look for interesting (thought provoking imagery) exhibits to take my rural art students to and we found your Plantation exhibit provided just that! It was amazing!

I have one picture of my student in front of your work. I thought you might like to have it. She was hypnotized by it. I use it as our face book cover photo. I love your work!! Feel free to use it or any others from our art page. Students parents have signed publishing agreement for school arts program promotions-we are trying to save our little school. Enjoy! and Thank you for your amazing work, it is so refreshing to see this in Charleston.

I don't make much money with my art and don't really give a shit about that. What I do care about is this image - having the ability to pass along a little something through my art to others the way it was passed along to me. I never take for granted that sacred honor and hope that I have humbly done my little part to inspire at least one who in turn will carry on and make my talent pale in comparison to what they accomplish in the future.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Funny and true!

The 20 Most Powerless People in the Art World: 2012 Edition
by The Editors on October 25, 2012

It’s that time of year again. Art Review just had their fun bringing the art world their directory of the rich and powerful, and now it’s our turn to flip the script and point out that not everyone is rich, famous, or powerful in our beloved community. Here is our infamous Hyperallergic Powerless 20!

The art world can suck, but for these people it sucks just a little bit more.

1 — Gallery Girls, the Bravo TV reality show of the same name set you and feminism back at least 30 years.

2 — Trained Curators, everyone’s a curator (which means no one actually is, but never mind), so maybe you should all be asking for a refund from Bard College or wherever you learned to do what everyone is doing on Tumblr “naturally.” Honestly, couldn’t LA’s MOCA just hire some all-star Pinterester to replace Paul Schimmel or something?

3 — Progressives in the Art World, Manhattan gallerists Larry Gagosian, William Acquavella, Susan Aberbach, and Nathan Bernstein are all Republican donors, and we’re sure there are tons of super-collectors who also give to the GOP, not to mention some artists (you know who you are). So, where is that mythic liberal, progressive art world? Not in the top 1%, that’s for sure. And how about the politically engaged progressives, like the Indian cartoonist, the Syrian filmmaker or the progressive cause célèbre, Pussy Riot? Not much hope.

4 — New media artists who try to sell their work to anyone not backed by Intel. And you internet artists whose work only exists on Twitter and Tumblr? LOL.

5 — Manifesto writers, you guys want to change the world, but no one cares. Why not try it in GIF form instead?

6 — Cecilia Gimenez, she created the Beast Jesus viral sensation after fucking up a conservation (we think that’s what she was doing) job, and then cried foul when the church, which had started to charge admission in an effort to reap the benefits of the Beast Jesus tourist boom, wouldn’t share the wealth. She goes against the grain, doesn’t care what other people think, creates an icon, becomes famous as a result, and doesn’t get paid… Hell, she’s starting to sound like a real artist.

7 — Occupy Wall Street, one year later income inequality is up in NYC.

8 — Appropriationists, losing ground in court, and being attacked by purists. The courts are creating the perception that you’re stealing, and it’s a little frightening that lots of people in the art community agree with the courts.

9 — Clarity, which has taken a real beating from International Art English.

10 — Young art critics who are instructed that a critical reviews can ruin them for life. They learn that flattery is the best policy, which completely crushes whatever idealism they might have been secretly harboring.

11 — The “democratized” art market is something everyone wants to do: art for less, more multiples, make art free… Anyway, the problem is that this new wave of democratization, or whatever you want to call it, means we’re all drowning in cheap kitsch.

12 — Big Bird, he’s not strictly an artist, but he is a performance artist in our hearts, and Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney wants to fire him … umm, even though our big feathered yellow friend doesn’t get federal funding (oops, Mittens!). We’ll soon find out if a Big Bird in the crosshairs of the GOP is worth millions of votes in the ballot box.

13 — The poor suckers who post regularly on Jerry Saltz’s Facebook’s page. We understand the appeal of the social media cult, but we don’t understand what people get out of it. Jerry’s not going to review your show, even though I’m sure he’d love to do you the favor.

14 — Thomas Kinkade, the “painter of light” died tragically in April of ”acute intoxication” from alcohol and Valium. Then people started to question the claim that he was “America’s most-collected living artist,” with some outrageous estimates suggesting 1 in every 20 American homes owned a copy of one of his paintings. Then his ex-wife and girlfriend began to fight over his legacy (i.e. money). As in life, Kinkade’s idealized universe is a mess.

15 — Odd Nerdrum, the outspoken Norwegian artist, considers himself a political prisoner (few others do), but when he appealed his sentence over tax charges and then received a LONGER sentence as a result, we felt a little bad for him. But the real injustice is that the painter will be banned from creating art when he’s locked away because it would be considered a commercial activity.

16 — Charles Saatchi, oh, how the mighty have fallen. Once the reputed kingmaker of the Young British Art scene, Saatchi is having trouble giving away his vast art collection. When he entered into talks with the UK’s Arts Council, they asked if they could pick only what they wanted. Saatchi thought that was rude. Dude, maybe they’re just not that into you.

17 — Re-performers, performance art guru Marina Abramović often treats you badly, no one really seems to respect you (i.e. pay you much), but you’re still going at it. Good luck.

18 — Art Unions, they’re crumbling. Sotheby’s did rather well in their hardball negotiations with their art handlers union, the San Francisco museum unions has their troubles as well, and only the most diehard optimist will say that unions in the art world are ascendant when in reality they are anything but.

19 — Christo, once the king of “I can do anything I want to nature.” He has been rather humbled with his latest Colorado project on federal lands. Maybe the world has changed (we know we have) and the idea of overtaking pristine natural vistas for the purpose of art and drawing hundreds of thousands of temporary tourists isn’t as appetizing as it used to be. Then again, maybe projects like Christo’s are the art/nature version of gentrification and we’ve finally admitted that to ourselves.

20 — Getty Art Educators, once renowned for their art education department, the future of art educators at the billionaire Getty is more uncertain than ever before as the institution has chopped $4.3 million from their education budget in favor of more art acquisitions. What’s the point of more objects if there is no one there to educate a young generation about them?

Monday, October 29, 2012

I Quit......hmmmmm....

Doyen of American critics turns his back on the 'nasty, stupid' world of modern art and
The Observer

Dave Hickey condemns world he says has become calcified by too much money, celebrity and self-reverence
Dave Hickey says he is quitting the art world. Photograph: Nasher Museum Of Art

One of America's foremost art critics has launched a fierce attack on the contemporary art world, saying anyone who has "read a Batman comic" would qualify for a career in the industry.

Dave Hickey, a curator, professor and author known for a passionate defence of beauty in his collection of essays The Invisible Dragon and his wide-ranging cultural criticism, is walking away from a world he says is calcified, self-reverential and a hostage to rich collectors who have no respect for what they are doing.

"They're in the hedge fund business, so they drop their windfall profits into art. It's just not serious," he told the Observer. "Art editors and critics – people like me – have become a courtier class. All we do is wander around the palace and advise very rich people. It's not worth my time."

Hickey says the art world has acquired the mentality of a tourist. "If I go to London, everyone wants to talk about Damien Hirst. I'm just not interested in him. Never have been. But I'm interested in Gary Hume and written about him quite a few times."

If it's a matter of buying long and selling short, then the artists he would sell now include Jenny Holzer, Richard Prince and Maurizio Cattelan. "It's time to start shorting some of this shit," he added.
Hickey's outburst comes as a number of contemporary art curators at world famous museums and galleries have complained that works by artists such as Tracey Emin, Antony Gormley and Marc Quinn are the result of "too much fame, too much success and too little critical sifting" and are "greatly overrated".

Speaking on condition of anonymity to Will Gompertz, the BBC's arts editor, one curator described Emin's work as "empty", adding that because of the huge sums of money involved "one always has to defend it".

Gompertz, who recently wrote What Are You Looking At? 150 Years of Modern Art, sympathised with Hickey's frustration.

"Money and celebrity has cast a shadow over the art world which is prohibiting ideas and debate from coming to the fore," he said yesterday, adding that the current system of collectors, galleries, museums and art dealers colluding to maintain the value and status of artists quashed open debate on art.

"I hope this is the start of something that breaks the system. At the moment it feels like the Paris salon of the 19th century, where bureaucrats and conservatives combined to stifle the field of work. It was the Impressionists who forced a new system, led by the artists themselves. It created modern art and a whole new way of looking at things.

"Lord knows we need that now more than anything. We need artists to work outside the establishment and start looking at the world in a different way – to start challenging preconceptions instead of reinforcing them."

Gompertz said Hickey was not a man who ever regretted a decision but that he did not agree with the American that the whole contemporary art world was moribund. "There are important artists like Ai Weiwei and Peter Doig, who produces beautiful and haunting paintings in similar ways to Edward Hopper," he said.

As a former dealer, Hickey is not above considering art in terms of relative valuation. But his objections stem from his belief that the art world has become too large, too unfriendly and lacks discretion. "Is that elitist? Yes. Winners win, losers lose. Shoot the wounded, save yourself. Those are the rules," Hickey said.

His comments come ahead of the autumn art auctions. With Europe in recession and a slowdown in the Chinese and Latin American economies, vendors are hoping American collectors, buoyed by a 2% growth in the US economy, andnew collectors, such as those coming to the market from oil-rich Azerbaijan, will boost sales.

At 71, Hickey has long been regarded as the enfant terrible of art criticism, respected for his intellectual range as well as his lucidity and style. He once said: "The art world is divided into those people who look at Raphael as if it's graffiti, and those who look at graffiti as if it's Raphael, and I prefer the latter."

Hickey, who also rates British artist Bridget Riley, says he did not realise when he came to the art world in the 1960s that making art was a "bourgeois" activity.

"I used to sell hippy art to collectors and these artists now live like the collectors I used to sell to. They have a house, a place in the country and a BMW."

Hickey says he came into art because of sex, drugs and artists like Robert Smithson, Richard Serra and Roy Lichtenstein who were "ferocious" about their work. "I don't think you get that anymore. When I asked students at Yale what they planned to do, they all say move to Brooklyn – not make the greatest art ever."

He also believes art consultants have reduced the need for collectors to form opinions. "It used to be that if you stood in front of a painting you didn't understand, you'd have some obligation to guess. Now you don't," he says. "If you stood in front of a Bridget Riley you have to look at it and it would start to do interesting things. Now you wouldn't look at it. You ask a consultant."

Hickey says his change of heart came when he was asked to sign a 10-page contract before he could sit on a panel discussion at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

Laura Cumming, the Observer's art critic, said it would be a real loss if Hickey stopped writing commentary. "The palace Hickey's describing, with its lackeys and viziers, its dealers and advisers, is more of an American phenomenon. It's true that we too have wilfully bad art made for hedge fund managers, but the British art scene is not yet so thick with subservient museum directors and preening philanthropists that nothing is freely done and we can't see the best contemporary art in our public museums because it doesn't suit the dealers.And that will be true, I hope, until we run out of integrity and public money."

Hickey's retirement may only be partial. He plans to complete a book, Pagan America — "a long commentary of the pagan roots of America and snarky diatribe on Christianity" — and a second book of essays titled "Pirates and Framers."

It is the job of a cultural commentator to make waves but Hickey is adamant he wants out of the business. "What can I tell you? It's nasty and it's stupid. I'm an intellectual and I don't care if I'm not invited to the party. I quit."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Louis Vuitton celebrates Muhammad Ali

My son-in-law turned me onto these series of commercials. They are a stunning tribute to what may have been the most hated and now loved man of the 20th century. I feel sorry for youth of today who have no real reference for who he was in his prime. These are just a couple - go to YouTube to see more:

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Book Review

I was recently asked by Adam Parker to read and review a book for the Post & Courier. This is the first time I have ever reviewed a book for a publication. It was a fascinating read and a book that I highly recommend. I guess I'll have to come up with my own rating system now!

Book reviewed by Colin Quashie:

The oft maligned, misunderstood and/or misinterpreted history of minstrelsy is explored in Darkest America: Black Minstrelsy from Slavery to Hip-Hop by Yuval Taylor and Jake Austen. This superbly researched text is presented in scholarly detail and offers surprising anecdotes and insights into the birthright of the dark art, the rise and fall of blackface and the subsequent fallout of both art forms with contemporary audiences. It presents a thesis of the practical means, and speculates on the debatable motives of practitioners of what many consider to be ‘the only completely original contribution America has made to the theater.’

The book covers a huge swath of territory. It theorizes how early survival-based acts of coonish buffoonery by plantation slaves to ‘feign stupidity and sloth to trick and lower overseers expectations’, provided the comic framework on which highly structured and staged performances would be fashioned. Barnstorming troupes of innovative actors and transcendent personalities ignited a popular explosion of minstrelsy that reached its zenith (some shows were on the enormous scale of modern day traveling fairs), shortly after the reconstruction era. The contentious transfer of blackface from nineteenth century stagecraft to twentieth century tool of ridicule and racial divisiveness eventually lead to the demise of minstrelsy and sped its absorption into vaudeville.

The combination of a renaissance of black cultural expression and the development of radio and television converged to not only challenge and redefine the historic relevancy of black minstrel sensibilities, but fuel public clashes amongst detractors and aficionados. Black literati, the likes of W.E.B. DuBois, Richard Wright and Zora Neale Hurston, publicly weighed in on both sides of the cultural divide and forecast future conflict (Bill Cosby vs. Stepin Fetchit, Stanley Crouch vs. Tupac and more recently, Spike Lee vs. Tyler Perry). The controversial broadcast of Amos ‘n’ Andy, which capitalized on the best while projecting the worst, would ultimately become the epicenter of discussion for generations to come. However, it would be the rise of the black power and civil rights movements along with the cinematic projection of dignified ‘super negroes’ that would forever denounce and stigmatize the minstrel legacy.

The book comes full circle with the alleged adaptation and reintegration of minstrel motifs by black musical acts and contemporary comics. The curious case of Dave Chappelle’s ‘awakening’ is eye opening and emblematic of the emotional toll exacted by past and current handlers of race based material. Sitcoms, from Good Times to Sanford and Son and Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, which were and are heavily dependent upon actual characters and characterizations rebooted from the minstrel era, are exposed and questioned, while hip-hop’s and rap’s minstrel tag is rebuffed. An entire chapter is dedicated to the effectiveness of Bamboozled, Spike Lee’s magnum opus, which satirized the minstrel movement on every level from producer to performer to viewer.

Darkest America provides a comprehensive narrative into the factual aspects of minstrelsy’s improvisational genius and beguiling legacy while offering commentary on the myriad complexities of racial antics. It will not end the debate, but rather provide both critic and advocate a well-researched platform to support their argument.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Undefined Magazine

It's amazing that I have to find out about press about me from other people. You would think that I would get a heads up from the editor(s) that they are publishing an article on my art. Either way - thanks! Mary Bentz Gilkerson is a wonderful artist and terrific critic and arts writer. Thanks for the article Mary!

If you're expecting a subtle, tasteful discussion of social justice issues in contemporary American culture, then Colin Quashie is not the artist for you. But if you are moved by engaged visual criticism and see its potential to have an immediate impact on viewers then you'll love Quashie's unflinching examination of the lingering effects of racism in contemporary American culture.

The artist uses humor and satire, mixing wit and irony, to convey a message that needs to be seen. The recent events in Florida make it painfully obvious that the conversation about race needs to continue.

Quashie doesn't exhibit his work that often, but over the last eighteen months there have been several opportunities for viewers to participate in that dialog, two in Columbia and one in Charleston. Subjective Perceptions, the first solo exhibition of Quashie's work in Columbia was on view at Benedict's Ponder Fine Arts Gallery in the fall of 2010, and the artist was selected for 701 Center for Contemporary Art's first Biennial this past fall.

Just this past April he had a major solo show, "Plantation (plan-ta-shun)" at Redux Contemporary Art Center in Charleston. The title of the exhibition gives a clue that while Quashie lives in Charleston, he does not in any way fit the stereotype of the "Charleston artist". In fact, turning that stereotype on its head is one of his most effective strategies.

Born in London in 1963 and raised in the West Indies, Quashie immigrated to the US with his parents at age six and grew up in Florida. He attended college for a couple of years, but left to join the Navy working on submarines. After his discharge in 1987 he began actively pursuing his art career.

Quashie's demanding content challenges cultural gatekeepers, sometimes leading to censorship. The first instance back in 1995 devastated the artist, and he stopped making art for two years. In a move that ultimately served to sharpen his commentary, he moved to the West Coast and started writing comedy for Mad-TV. His hiatus from art making was short-lived, and although he continues writing for the film and television industry, Quashie has been an active part of the state cultural scene ever since.

The artist pulls imagery from wide variety of sources that range from contemporary pop culture to 19th century historical photographs. He packages these images in familiar formats, ones that use both the visual and verbal language of the media to address issues of race, gender and social equality, or rather, inequality. Real estate advertisements, product and package designs, billboards and coloring books become the framework for his witty and satirical dissection of our lingering cultural stereotypes.

His seductive use of the familiar makes his work very accessible. The viewer is lured in by images associated with comfort, ease and even style that are then revealed to be cultural inconsistencies that create a sense of unease and discomfort.

Quashie's ability to manipulate the allure of the familiar is exactly what makes his work so challenging to both the average viewer and art insiders as well.

Quashie has used the metaphor of a children's coloring book many times and the most recent version, Plantation Coloring and Activity Book, uses the commonplace motif to present images that appear neutral and naïve until a closer examination reveals images of brutality and horror. The jarring quality of the combination only adds to the power of the images.

The cover shows a smiling Aunt Jemima, her face wreathed in a pattern of cotton bolls. But inside are "activities" like "Connect the Dots" where the tag line reads, "Help Master whip the uppity slave and show him who's boss!" The dots connect to form scar lines on the back of the simplified outline of an African-American man. The image is derived from a mid-19th century photograph - which appears in "Plantation Digest" – now in the collection of the Library of Congress.

"Plantation Digest" is a series of large acrylic and gel transfers on board, fairly dripping with bitingly dark satire. Using the format and slick presentation of the magazine and advertising world, Quashie reconfigures a series of images pulled from contemporary media with 19th century period images and text to point out the continuing systems of gateways and gatekeepers, just as powerful now as 200 years ago.

The plantation gates on the "Cover" served to mark a boundary, the outer limit beyond which the most of the inhabitants were not allowed to pass. Similar gates are still used, marking boundaries that are just as clearly defined by race as before. With the headlines, Quashie makes a clear connection between the overt racism of the 19th century and the covert racism that remains in the 21st. The goal of plantation management was to maintain a quiet, compliant workforce. His choice of contemporary images and text points to the degree to which that is still true

Colin Quashie speaks openly about the two ton elephant in the living room of American culture, pulling it from the corner and placing it squarely in front of the TV where we all have to look at it and acknowledge its presence. What happens from there is up to the rest of us.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Unexpected press

So much for flying beneath the radar. I hadn't planned on any press for my latest mural project...yet, but Erica Jackson, the eagle eyed arts writer for the Charleston City Paper, somehow stumbled across my blog post and webpage outlining my goals and decided to post the info on the paper's 'Culture Clash' section.

I initially started the webpage as a way to communicate more effectively with the few people I have decided to involve at this point. I'm still in the process of trying to secure permission to have MUSC host the mural. To that end, I emailed my MUSC boss, Dave Neff, in an appeal to point me in the correct direction. I sent him a link to the site so that he could get a better scope of my intentions. He responded favorably and  passed my request along until I received an email from Roberta Sokolitz, MUSC's Curator and Art Collections Manager (silly me - I had no idea they even had one). We had a wonderful conversation this morning and I sent her some amplifying information so that she could take and process the request.

I was shocked when I received a Google Alert informing me that my name was posted on a site and saw this in the online art blog of the City Paper:

Gotta give it to them over there at the City Paper - they don't miss much. It's a bit premature, but I appreciate the ink. The City Paper has always treated me kindly so I can't be mad at them. Thanks, Erica. I'll make sure I contact you first when this project really gets off the ground and hopefully starts gaining momentum. 

I hope to have the list of names finalized in about a month. If MUSC grants me permission to unveil the final painting at their site, I can them make plans to start laying out the painting and begin fundraising in earnest. You can read more about the project by clicking here on 'Charleston Memorial Mural'. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

New Journey Begins

I'm preparing to do something I've always wanted to do since working on the UNC mural - a mural for Charleston to celebrate the contributions of African Americans to this historic city. In It's time to get this done. I just launched a few new pages on my website that outline the project and lists the names of the individuals that will be featured in the mural (so far). The tentative location for the mural will be at the MUSC Women's Health Center - location of the first hospital for blacks in the city. They have a gorgeous lobby that is dying to have a painting placed on its walls. You can read about the project by clicking here. More to come soon.

MUSC Women's Health Center - 135 Cannon Street

 MUSC Women's Health Center lobby with example of mural

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New logo's

2 more happy clients! The first logo is for a close friend who just started an event planning business on the side.It incorporates her initials and reflects a festive mood. I see a bouquet or a table piece setting, others see a burst from a champagne bottle. Either way, she's happy with it.

The next one is for my dear friend, Orlando Jones. He is increasing his presence on the web via social media and needed a mark that reflects that. I decided to use the ever popular text emoticons to push his comedic talents. What I like most of all about this is that it can be typed on any keyboard and used in actual text messages.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fuck you, pay me.

Trailer for a great talk on getting paid for your creative endeavors. 

See the full video here:

Tyrone Geter Logo Design

Due to my graphic arts background, I often get requests to update logos for people and organizations. It's a great way to make a little extra cash, but more importantly, I love doing it. It's like a mini challenge to listen to a client and tailor a visual that incorporates everything they want their creative and professional lives to project in a simple mark.

I spoke with my old friend Tyrone Geter about his logo, which was little more than his initials in standard font. He wanted something that reflected a more global feel to his art. I began to get a feeling how living and creating art in Africa had influenced his creativity and shows up throughout his art. He also stressed simplicity - how he was trying to deconstruct his art. With all that in mind, this is what I came up. Tyrone Geter Art (TGA) with the "G" prominent and circular for the global reach bisected in relief with the "T" & "A" to create an African styled mask.

You can see a few more logo design jobs I have created here: Quashie Design

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Tyrone Geter Undefined

Tyrone Geter recently had hip replacement surgery and was getting around with a stick, good for, he noted, keeping away dogs and writers. He was sitting in the den in an easy chair before the fireplace which, this August morning, was not in use, since at 10 a.m. the temperature was already above 90. His sister Liz had come from Ohio to give him a hand since the July operation and he had one of her hearty breakfasts perched on his lap, a glass of carrot juice on the table beside him. And his stick.

After eating and talking a bit, Geter gets ready for the trip upstairs to the two huge rooms that constitute his studio.

“You better not stand behind me in case I come back down,” he says. “This is only the second time I’ve been up here since   July 15.”

His daughter Hafizah recently cleaned out the downstairs and brightened up the house with gold and blue and purple paint. She didn’t quite get upstairs and things are piled up. As usual Geter has a batch of works in progress, lots of finished older works in racks, various pieces of machinery (printers, a gadget that spiral binds books), but to hang a piece of art on the wall he has to pound in the tacks with a tape measure because the hammer has disappeared.

The dominant image in the room is a drawing of Barack Obama. Like much of Geter’s art this drawing is a fairly traditional realistic drawing that’s not very traditional at all.  The drawing is in mostly white and black on black paper. It’s not on one piece of paper, but a bunch of torn sheets of paper. And the president is starting to disappear.

“I thought I was done with it,” Geter says. When he thought it was finished Obama looked strong and confident.
“Things had started to get complicated and there was like this fog rolling in.”

Now the president looks a little lost, his head in a murky gloom.

“We’ll have to wait and see what happens,” says Geter, an art professor and gallery director at Benedict College in Columbia.

Like most of his artworks this one has a mind of its own. Geter considers each work a journey and he doesn’t have a map for the trip; the art making shows him the way.

“I never start something knowing where it’s going,” Geter says. “I let it lead me.”

If the individual works are segments of a trip his overall output and various approaches have also come about organically and often by lucky turns.

Recently he’s been concentrating on black on black drawings because someone asked him how to work with charcoal on black paper – and there are a lot of shades of black charcoal and black paper and he uses them all – and he got hooked.

The torn paper works began when he was doing a drawing and tore it. He liked the drawing so rather than tossing it he pieced it back together, adding more torn paper. It was a long learning process.
“I’d get one right and the next one wouldn’t be,” Geter says.

These torn paper pieces aren’t collages in strict sense; they’re more like relief sculptures made of paper.

Another time, frustrated with a drawing of a head he was doing, he took a walk that led him past a local nightclub where a cleaning crew was tossing out trash – including hundreds of bottle caps. He grabbed a couple pocketfuls, took them back to the studio and attached them to the drawing.

Starting to build up the images led him more toward sculpture. The big jump came when he bought a little frame that had a little shelf jutting out. He had a drawing of a baobab tree that fit into the frame perfectly. In Africa the solitary, elephant-like tree has spiritual significance. Although it can survive on little water in harsh climates, it is easily toppled by storms. That got him thinking about water and who controls water, which is always an issue in many parts of the world.

He took another walk, this one around a lake near his home in Elgin and found a rusty old water faucet handle. It fit perfectly on a hole in the shelf.

“I dropped it in and it was finished,” Geter says.

The pieces grew larger, incorporating drawings in elaborate framing devices, found objects, from rocks and sticks and bottles to small pieces of furniture. They become true sculptures and at times installation art pieces.
“If you trace where I come from every next thing I do is completely logical,” Geter says.

(Some of these works are on display in a solo exhibition at the Sumter Gallery of Art through Oct. 29. He also has a show scheduled for Gallery 80808 in Columbia for October.)

Along with making his art and teaching, Geter also had a parallel career illustrating children’s books, among them “Sunday Week,” “White Socks Only” and “The Little Tree Growing in the Shade.”

“I never painted like an illustrator – I did the book the same way I would have painted anything,” he says. “They let me do whatever I wanted.”

Nearly all the books he did were put out by major publishers and sold well. But the books were taking him away from his art and he was only asked to do works with an African-American subject matter.

“I was just drawing and painting the same little girl over and over again,” Geter says. “I wanted to branch out.”

During the past few years, Geter has also done several large murals. The first was for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. Tom Feelings, a Columbia artist who taught at USC, started the mural, but became too ill to finish it and asked Geter to complete the work.

Geter was also commissioned by the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center to do a mural celebrating the dance craze “The Big Apple” that was created at a Columbia nightclub in the 1930s. He recently did another large piece, “Look Beneath the Surface” for the Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

A native of Alabama, Geter’s family moved to Ohio when he was 15.  He studied art at Ohio University and taught at the University of Akron. In 1979 he and his wife Hauwa moved to Nigeria, her home country.

“We’d been married for seven years before we got a chance,” he says. “We packed up the house and went.”
They stayed for eight years which surprised Hauwa.

“She didn’t think I could handle it,” says Geter, who taught at Ahmadu Bello University while they lived there.

They returned to the U.S. in 1987 because their children, daughers Hafizah and Jamila, were getting to be school age and it became almost impossible to get hard currency in Nigeria. The family moved to Columbia in 1999.

His first few years in Columbia went well. He took an active part in the arts community and provided the Benedict College art gallery with a much higher profile. Then came 2003. Feelings, who had befriended Geter when he came to Columbia, died. His wife Hauwa died suddenly of a stroke in 2003. A few weeks after her death, Geter had emergency open heart surgery.

As he slowly worked his way back from all these things, his hips began troubling him. He had the first replaced about two years ago, but the other has nagged him incessantly since.

“This last year or so I’ve really slacked off,” he says. “That’s not like me. “But this leg was causing so much pain.”

He had been considering retiring next year. Now that he has two good hips, he probably won’t.

“I feel better than I have in a long time,” he says. “I’m looking forward to getting back into the classroom. I like teaching foundation – drawing, painting. I think that’s where I’m supposed to be. And I’ll stay until I think it’s time to go.”