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September 2011

Sumter County Gallery of Art in Sumter, SC, Offers Works by André Leon Gray and Sheila Pree Bright

The Sumter County Gallery of Art in Sumter, SC, will present two new exhibits including: André Leon Gray: …until victory is won, featuring mixed media assemblage and installation works and Sheila Pree Bright: Young Americans, both on view from Sept. 1 through Oct. 28, 2011. A reception will be held on Sept. 1, from 5:30-7:30pm. If you are not a member of the gallery, there is a $5.00 charge for the opening reception.

Gray is a self-taught artist from Raleigh, NC. He produces thought-provoking mixed media assemblages, sculptures, installations, tar paintings, and drawings inspired by the African-American experience. He incorporates discarded materials of civilization into a tableau of history, spirituality, and politics, which he calls ‘eye gumbo.’

As he describes it, “Eye gumbo is a visual meal for the mind, thickened with a roux of Black culture, marinated in social commentary and seasoned with consciousness.”

With an interest to create a dialogue among his diverse audience, Gray has chosen venues that emphasize access and education over profit. His exhibition at the Sumter County Gallery of Art is a venue that fulfills the artist’s intention as SCGA serves an underserved community that is geographically isolated from the major art centers in the country. The opportunity to view art that presents the African American perspective and experience is especially important for the youth in our community.

Gray has exhibited at the Green Hill Center for North Carolina Art in Greensboro, NC; Artspace in Raleigh; the Mary Lou Williams Center for Black Culture at Duke University in Chapel Hill, NC; the Waterfront City Gallery in Charleston, SC; and Transylvania University in Lexington, KY.

Gray states: “My interest as an artist born and raised in the South is one akin to an African griot or storyteller, who passes on a culture’s history, myths and legends to the next generation. Learning from the past moves us into the future. Being in North Carolina versus New York City gives me the opportunity to observe the true state of race relations in the mythological post-racial America, which supposedly began when Barack Obama was elected president.”

The Sumter County Gallery of Art is also proud to present the work of Sheila Pree Bright. Bright is a fine art photographer based in Atlanta, GA. Her large-scale works combine a wide-ranging knowledge of contemporary culture, while challenging perceptions of identity.

Bright received national attention after winning the Santa Fe Prize from the Santa Fe Center for photography in 2006 for a series of work entitled “The Suburbia Series”. This series took aim at the American media’s projection of the “typical” African American community and depicts a more realistic depiction of African American life. The series also explores the variations and similarities of an existence that subverts lifestyle and culture, particularly as it relates to Americanism.

Bright has emerged as a new voice in contemporary photography with her portrayals of urban and suburban themes, as well as her provocative commentary about American beauty standards. Bright has called herself a cultural anthropologist. Her inventiveness coupled with the sitter’s creativity allows her to create portraits that show both the universality and the distinctiveness of the human subject.

The “Young Americans” series of portraits, presented here, uses 18 to 25-year-olds, and the American flag, to answer the question “What does it mean to be an American in the 21st century?” The themes of individualism and diversity sets Young Americans apart from other projects that have attempted to capture the spirit of America. Bright is aware of the distorted messages circulating about Generation Y and she sees “Young Americans” as a way to give this generation a voice.

“Whether born in America or migrating from other countries, this ethnically diverse, politically engaged group of young people express a great sense of pride about their country,” says Bright. “I’m giving them a platform and they are so excited to talk about America. Many told me that no one has ever asked them about this before. Bright sees this series as a key to understanding not only our present moment but also the future of America.”

The “Young Americans” project was underwritten by a grant from the Aetna Foundation and premiered as a solo exhibition at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta in May 2008.

André Leon Gray will give an Artists’ Talk on Sept. 1, starting at 6:30pm.

For further information check our SC Institutional Gallery listings, call the gallery at 803/775-0543 or visit (


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