Project brings black artists to the forefront

The ART | BLACKNESS | DIASPORA project is bringing premiere African-American artists to Brandeis

Jennie C. Jones and Melvin Edwards will visit Brandeis this semester.

A collaborative project is bringing premiere African-American artists and scholars to Brandeis to engage with students and the community.

As part of the ART | BLACKNESS | DIASPORA project, Cairo-based multimedia artist Lara Baladi visited campus this past November to discuss art created before, during and after the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. A month earlier, award-winning artist Mark Bradford met Brandeis students for an informal lunch, and later engaged in a conversation with Professor Anita Hill that filled the Rose Art Museum, where his “Sea Monsters” exhibition was on display.

This spring’s events will include visits by artists Jennie C. Jones and Melvin Edwards, and by art historian and African American Studies specialist Dr. Christina Knight.

This yearlong series is organized by the departments of Fine Arts, African and Afro-American Studies and the Rose Art Museum and funded by the Brandeis Arts Council.

"We proposed this residency program well over a year ago to highlight the significant contributions of African and African American artists to contemporary culture," said Gannit Ankori, professor of Art History and Theory and head of the Division of Creative Arts. "It advances the foundational social justice mission of Brandeis University and the Rose Art Museum, challenges racial biases that have excluded innovative artists of color from the art historical canon, and supports our commitment to exhibit, teach, and research the histories and cultures of Africa and the African Diaspora.


Jones, an award-winning artist based in New York, will hold a residency that will include two public events: A talk followed by a question and answer session and a reception Thursday, Feb. 26 at 5 p.m. at the Barbara Mandel Auditorium, and a gallery talk at the Rose Art Museum Friday, Feb. 27 at 1:30 p.m. Jones' "Decrescendo with Ledger Tone" is currently on display in the Rose's "Collection in Focus" exhibition, along with objects from the museum's collection.

Jones describes her work as an overlapping of histories, residing "at the intersection of art history, music history and black history, layering the formal language of modern art—abstraction and minimalism—over the conceptual and technical strategies of avant-garde jazz."

Knight, a postdoctoral fellow at Bowdoin College, will hold a talk March 11 at 3:30 p.m. at the Rose focused on abstraction in African American art.

Edwards will join Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of African and Afro-American Studies Chad Williams and Christopher Bedford, the Henry and Lois Foster Director of the Rose Art Museum, on April 17 at 1:30 p.m. for a conversation in front of sculptures from his "Lynch Fragments" series, currently on display as part of the Rose's "New Acquisitions" exhibition. Edwards has been creating the small welded metal works since the 1960s, and they serve as a metaphor for the struggles confronted by black Americans.

"The Lynch Fragments have changed my life," Edwards has said. "They are the core to all the work. If anybody ever knows I lived, this is going to be why."

As a whole, ART | BLACKNESS | DIASPORA examines of the role of art in raising questions about blackness and identity, according to Jasmine Johnson, assistant professor in the Department of African and Afro-American Studies and the Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program.

"The speakers' creative works urge us all to think complexly about race, place, and creative practice," she said. "It's an awesome line up of guests, and I am excited to learn from and exchange with them."

More information on the series and upcoming events is available on the Department of Fine Arts website.

Categories: Arts

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