There’s a clichéd epitaph that began 70 years ago around the birth of abstract art and is still echoed today:
“I can do that… a five year old can do that!”
What the uninitiated viewer may think they’re seeing– a seemingly unstructured and nonsensical melange of shapes, colors, materials and movement– is in fact, a highly deliberate visual; a loaded statement, executed with whimsical precision and strong personal intention.
So for artists, the last thing an abstraction makes is no sense.
“In abstract art, you won’t see the things you normally recognize and connect to in normal life situations,” said artist Che Baraka, director of The Skylight Gallery at Restoration Plaza. “Because the conversation isn’t visual, it’s a feeling. The conversation is between that art… and your heart.”
Curated by Danny Simmons and Oshun Layne, I Kan Do Dat features 87 abstract artists– some very talented emerging artists and several artists rarely seen outside of major museums and private galleries– with displayed works of drawing, painting, collage, printmaking and sculpture.
Throughout the 1950s, the dominant genre in modern art was set into motion by a seminal group of young artists living in New York City’s Greenwich Village. They were called “Abstract Expressionists.” Today, their names have become iconic with that movement: Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankthaler…
“They also had contemporaries: Men and women of color, black masters of abstraction,” said Baraka. “But that story has never been told; the connection between these individuals. They lived in the same areas for the most part and they influenced each other.”
But like a number of jazz artists and performers of that time, unfortunately, they dealt with harsh, restrictive racism. A number of these artists ended up traveling frequently to Europe and other countries to experience personal creative freedom and to exhibit their work.
The works of many of these talented artists, such as Norman Lewis, Frank Bowling, Ed Clarke and Frank Wimberly, are on display at the exhibit.
The abstract expressionists in the exhibit share a similarity of outlook rather than of style, Baraka explains– an outlook characterized by a spirit of revolt and a belief in the freedom of expression.
I Kan Do Dat is showing now through February 22, 2014, at Rush Arts Gallery, located at 526 W. 26th Street, Ste. 311, New York, NY; Skylight Gallery, located at 1368 Fulton Street, 3rd fl., Brooklyn, NY; and Salena Gallery, located at 1 University Plaza (LIU), Brooklyn, NY.