Culture & Beyond: The African American Sculptors Tour
10 Locations / Curated by Destyni Green
Throughout history there has been an erasure of African Americans and other minorities from the arts. African-Americans have been left out of the history of the arts, for they were not seen as important enough to the progression of art. Western art history does mention African American painter Jacob Lawrence and the Harlem Renaissance, however there is hardly any other mention of African Americans in art history. In the 1970s, African American artist Kerry James Marshall was struck by the lack of black artist in the canon. The history of art is rich in diversity, however this lacks in textbooks and other educational resources for history has lightened black people in paintings, removed them during restorations and cropped out of text book images. Marshall since then has spent his career as an artist fighting erasure and doing his best to correct the absence of black artist in western art history. It is a goal here by the curator, Destyni Green, to correct the absence here in our very own database.
This tour highlights the works of the following African American sculptors: Omar Shaheed, Baba Olugbala, Andrew F. Scott, Charles McGee, and Melvin Edwards. Each artist in this tour not only celebrates the culture of African Americans but also goes beyond this subset. These sculptors and their works not only contribute to heavily to the arts, but they also engage African-American viewers and fellow artist understand their contribution to modern society. Pay close attention to the descriptions for each piece, for they touch more on these themes.
The tour starts at Andrew F. Scott’s “Baobab Tree and Adinkra Fence” and ends with Charles McGee’s “Life Force”. The tour is organized by proximity, starting at the Kwanzaa Playground in Columbus, moving towards the King Arts Complex of Columbus, taking off towards Downtown Columbus and finally ending with “Life Force” in Wilberforce, OH. Driving would be the best option, for this tour has multiple locations, however you may walk to some (Such as the Andrew F. Scott pieces at King Arts Complex).
About the Artist:
Artist Omar Shaheed is a stone and bronze sculptor from Columbus, Ohio. Shaheed’s abstract sculptures reflect the life of African Americans in aspects such as family, love, musical influence and the “ghetto”. Each piece vibrates with pride, comfort and awareness to the black experience and expands upon the themes of love and community. Omar has expressed that he started off by using his artwork as a means to leave behind his early struggles and poverty.
Artist Baba Olugbala is an artist, curator and founder of the William H. Thomas Gallery and Urban Cultural Arts foundation. This Columbus native used his arts and culture to not only inspire those around him, but to make a change in the inner city of Columbus. Baba’s gallery is known as the “gallery in the hood” and stands proudly at 1270 Bryden Road in Columbus. Baba’s work in sculpture and art also reflects his love of African culture and art.
Artist Andrew F. Scott is a multimedia artist and sculptor whose work falls in the intersection of digital fabrication technologies, traditional fine arts practices and collective cultural ideals. Scotts’ artist statement is as follows : “My artwork serves as a bridge through which I can reconcile and communicate collective cultural ideals. African American art and culture play an essential part in the development and conceptualization of my ideas. Personally, I view traditional African and African American art in the spirit of Sankofa. That is, I see them as a means of retrieving my past so that I am better prepared to step into the future. In both traditions, dynamic formal qualities work in a symbiotic relationship with concepts that evoke collective cultural ideas. Through synthesis, manipulation, and abstraction, I reinterpret these traditional forms and ideas and bring them into a modern context”.
Artist Melvin Edwards (b.1937) a pioneer in the history of contemporary African-American art and sculpture, became the first African-American sculptor to have works presented in a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum in 1970. This artist works in steel to create wonderful abstract sculptures that oftentimes have political context such as his Lynch Fragments , an over 200 piece sculpture series that as inspired by the Civil Rights Movement, due to beginning his art career during the peak of the movement in the 1960s.
Artist Charles McGee a Detroit native artist whose works have made a cultural landmark for Detroit. Morgan Meis, of The New Yorker, has said “If McGee’s art is about anything, it’s about how symbols, shapes, and designs leap out of their immediate context into a realm of free play. In that realm, the importance of a bird or a snake is not what the bird or snake might mean, or where it originated, but about how its shape adds energy and movement to the composition as a whole. He has also said that his work is about “the power of togetherness … It’s all connected just like we are all connected.”