Feature Articles

January 2011

Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts & Culture in Charlotte, NC, Offers Exhibits Bridging Africa and the New World

The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts & Culture in Charlotte, NC, will present three new exhibits including: Cash Crop, featuring an installation by Stephen Hayes; Rhythm-a-ning: James Phillips, Charles Searles and Frank Smith, features art that visually reflects the qualities and characteristics of jazz; and Contemporary African Photography: Malick Sidibé & Zwelethu Mthetwa, featuring works by two African photographers. A reception will be held on Jan. 13, beginning at 6pm. The event is free for members and $5 for the general public. Guests can RSVP online at (www.ganttcenter.org).

“With the opening of Cash Crop, we are establishing a tradition of presenting groundbreaking work here at the Gantt Center,” said David Taylor, the organization’s president & CEO. “This 3-D installation will allow viewers to place themselves among images that may elicit strong emotion. Coupled with African photography and abstract paintings in the two other galleries, this season’s exhibits will show the breadth of work created by artists of color working today.”

Stephen Hayes encountered an image of a slave ship diagram in a printmaking class and began a process that would eventually lead to Cash Crop, which includes adult content - invites viewers to walk into an emotional and psychic space to confront the past, present, and future.

Cash Crop, is comprised of fifteen life-size relief sculptures of former slaves that serve as a symbolic representation of the fifteen million Africans imported to the New World from 1540 to 1850.

A native of Durham, NC, Hayes has been working at some form of artistic expression his entire life. He earned a BFA from North Carolina Central University as well as an MFA from Savannah College of Art and Design. Hayes has also studied ceramics under John Gill and Walter McConnell at Alfred University.

Hayes is a young artist with a fascination for connecting the historical to the present. Cash Crop is an installation borne of curiosity, passion, and the artist’s inventive and symbolic re-visit and re-articulation of the Atlantic slave trade and its human cargo. As an undertone, Hayes has linked this historical transportation of humans with today’s transportation of products made by the exploitation of people through sweat shops and cheap labor in Third World nations.

In the exhibit, Rhythm-a-ning, James Phillips, Charles Searles and Frank Smith have produced art that visually reflects the qualities and characteristics of jazz. Each artist - in his own way - has improvised with color, rhythm, patterns, and forms to abstractly produce work which can soar and challenge in the way listening to Thelonious Monk might do. Though Searles is no longer with us, Phillips and Smith still work as colleagues in the innovative art group, AfriCOBRA. This exhibition is filled with light, color and sound and is an abstraction emerging from cultural experiences and practices. It is a visual embodiment of the idea of improvisation.

Photography in Africa has grown in the past four decades and certain photographers have become synonymous with the field. One of these is Malick Sidibé from Mali. In 2007, he received the Venice Biennale’s Golden Lion Award for lifetime achievement.

South African photographer, Zwelethu Mthetwa, has developed a powerful reputation in recent years because of his large color images documenting working people and working conditions in his native country.

The two photographers bring a sense of different places and cultures to their respective work and offer audiences the chance to feel the emotional and aesthetic differences in their approaches to similar subjects. Their virtuosity and unique vision compares favorably to the best photographers working anywhere in the world.

Friday’s, Jan. 13 exhibition opening will launch a series of activities designed to celebrate the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Weekend. On Saturday, Jan. 14 at 10:30am, Stephen Hayes will lead a plaster mold-making workshop. Participants will create unique face and hand molds with Hayes providing assistance. The cost for the workshop is $10 with museum admission and is limited to twenty participants. At 2 pm, Hayes will talk about the inspiration that led to Cash Crop. The discussion will be moderated by Tanure Ojaide, a renowned Nigerian poet and writer who has won major national and international poetry awards, including the 2011 Cadbury Prize for Poetry.

The Gantt Center will reduce general admission to $5 on both Saturday and Sunday. On MLK Day, Monday January 16, 2012, admission for the exhibition and all activities will be free.

Founded in 1974, Charlotte’s Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture (formerly the Afro-American Cultural Center) exists to present, preserve and promote African-American art, culture and history. The Harvey B. Gantt Center is an epicenter for the best in visual, performing and literary arts and leads community outreach initiatives and arts education programs. Built to museum standards, it is also the permanent home for the John & Vivian Hewitt Collection of African-American Art and is a celebrated wedding and event venue.

For further info check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call 704/547-3700 or visit (www.ganttcenter.org).

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