Contemporary African American Art
January 13–July 15, 2007
The Delaware Art Museum is pleased to announce Dr. Robert Abel and his wife Mike have donated six works of African American art to the Museum. These works are We Know, 1986, from the Lynch Fragments series, by Melvin Edwards; Ogun’s Shield, 1989, by Jack Whitten; Sunday Samba, 1988, Nature/Culture/Blues, 1990, and Bell for Cheena Ireli, 1990, by Tyrone Mitchell; and Equn, Ancestral Spirits, 1989, by Juma Santos. An exhibition titled Nature/Culture/Blues: Contemporary African American Art, featuring these donated works and more, will be on view now through July 29, 2007, in Gallery 16.
“It’s so exciting to discover art of this quality in our community,” said Heather Campbell Coyle, the curator of Nature/Culture/Blues. “It’s incredible to think that Bell for Cheena Ireli was sitting in the corner of the eye doctor’s waiting room!”
Melvin Edwards (born 1937) has taught at Rutgers University for more than 30 years. He has work in the collections of The Brooklyn Museum, the Newark Museum, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Edwards began the Lynch Fragment Series in 1963, combining found objects with welded steel elements to create sculptures that incorporate farm implements, weapons, chains, and the shackles of bondage. The sharp edges, acute angles, and jutting elements inspire a visceral response from viewers, as they call up the violence and horrors of lynching.
Jack Whitten (born 1939) has taught at Fordham University, the Cooper Union, the Pratt Institute, Brooklyn College, and New York’s School of Visual Arts, and he has work in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Newark Museum, and the Wadsworth Atheneum. An abstract painter, Whitten employs innovative processes to create his art, pushing acrylic paint through screens, cutting dried paint into tiles, and combing pools of paint with Afro picks, brooms, saw blades, and homemade rakes. His processes lead to interesting and heavily textured surfaces. Ogun’s Shield is named for Ogun, a Yoruba god of war, energy, and metal who is responsible for tools.
Tyrone Mitchell (born 1944) has had solo exhibitions at several galleries and at The Bronx Museum of Art and the Newark Museum. He currently lives in New York and teaches at Queens College. An abstract sculptor, Mitchell turned to African arts and culture for inspiration in the mid-1960s and traveled to West Africa where he became interested in the Dogon people of Mali and the Yoruba of Nigeria. His sculptures from the 1980s and early ’90s, including Sunday Samba, Nature/Culture/Blues, and Bell for Cheena Ireli, fuse his interests in the traditional, ritual objects that he encountered in Africa with contemporary forms of art.
Equn, Ancestral Spirits, 1989
Ink on paper, 32 x 51 inches
Gift of Mike and Rob Abel, 2006
Juma Santos holds a B.A. from the New College of San Francisco, an M.A. from the University of California, Los Angeles, and an M.F.A. from the City University of New York. He is a master drummer, Afromusicologist, photographer, printmaker, educator, and composer living and working in New York. He has performed with world-class musicians including Nina Simone, Miles Davis, Taj Mahal, Tito Puente, David Sanborn, and The Four Tops. He has traveled throughout North and South America, Europe, and the Caribbean. The rhythm of Equn, Ancestral Spirits reflects Santos’s primary occupation as a drummer.