OCTOBER 18 - NOVEMBER 24, 2012
The links between the Pan-African populations of North America, the Caribbean, Central American and South America have produced some of the greatest art in the world along with the art of the Native American population. With this exhibition, featuring the culture bearers of that African diaspora who make art from Africa, the Caribbean, and the Southern States of North America, Cavin-Morris Gallery begins to trace and demonstrate some of the issues and triumphs of creolization. It is commonly thought that when the subject of African American vernacular art is brought up, we are going to see an argument for African retentions in post-slavery America. HomeGround: Works from the Pan-African Diaspora takes a different path. Proceeding from predominantly West and Central African moral codes and ethics the slaves and their future descendants remembered and reinvented Africa in such a way as to make a cohesive although not uniform culture in the West.
This exhibition is about how those who have chosen or been chosen to make and integrate that once African now diasporic ethos into their lives through a methodology where art is integrated into everyday survival. They are charismatic personalities who have taken multi-valenced roles in their communities as mediators between the living world and the spirits, the Ancestors of the pan-African cosmos.
We take the Southern yard show as the Rosetta stone for this culturally received knowledge. In a way it can be seen that all vernacular African American art rises from the cultural codes embedded in the multi-tiered language of the kept yard show from Bill Traylor (Montgomery, Alabama) to Errol McKenzie (Manchester, Jamaica). The Africanized Church was created to fulfill ethical mandates and continue a legacy of connections with Spirit (spirits). Versions of the ring shout are danced in coastal Georgia and in Jamaican Revival to this very day. They move counterclockwise like the sun's movements through time. Immediate references to the sun can be found in some of the works of Bill Traylor, Everald Brown and J.B. Murray. This art serves a utilitarian purpose. It only accidentally coincides with modernist and post-modernist mandates. It is bigger. It is more timeless. It is astonishing that Haitian, Jamaican and North American work has never before been seen together in this contest except in the most generalized fashion.
The Yard show is a name given to certain manmade and maintained domestic landscapes in the Diaspora, which contain within them symbolic references through objects and juxtapositions of objects that speak to African-American culture. As Grey Gundaker says in Keep Your Head to the Sky four themes prevail: protection and safekeeping, personal virtuosity, community improvement, and honor to family and ancestors. To this we would add healing, didacticism, storytelling, deterritorialization, and a culturally resistant method of recycling the over-culture. All of this adds to what Gundaker first called Home Ground. Ultimately it is all a form of cultural resistance.
Every artist in this exhibition is a spiritual mediator on some level whether from Haiti, Jamaica or the US. Artists from the US will include Bessie Harvey, Minnie Evans, Bill Traylor, Osker Gilchrist, Kevin Sampson, and we are reintroducing to the art world the estate of the major American artist, J.B. Murray. Gilkerson and Evans have Caribbean connections. From Haiti we will show work by Vodou priests Hector Hyppolite, Robert St. Brice, and Andre Pierre and works with Vodou subjects by Castera Bazile, and a special private collection of sculpture by Georges Liautaud, the first Haitian artist to work in metal. From Jamaica we will show work by bush doctors Vincent and Lloyd Atherton, both Bongo men from the Port Maria area, as well as spiritual works, including musical instruments by Everald Brown, Errol Mckenzie, yard show work by Leonard Daley, sculpture by Kingsley Thomas and Woody Joseph. We will show drawings from an Angolan expatriate living in Paris, Franck Lundangi.