By Taki S. Raton
Over 100 people were in attendance during the five hours of the January 21 gala reception opening Friday, January 21 at the Peltz Gallery African American artist’s exhibit according to gallery owner Cissie Peltz
“At one point, it was very difficult even getting to the kitchen to refill the vegetable tray due to the number of guests,” says Peltz of the 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. reception of “Vision, Voices, Viewpoints and Victories of African American Artists.”
She adds that this exhibit of 31 African American artists is “probably the largest attended showing that we have sponsored which is amazing given the nearly below zero temperature outside,” she adds.
Curated by nationally and internationally known local artist Della Wells, this prominently anticipated gallery night opening features a wide range of outstanding work of African American artists, 21 of which are from Wisconsin. Eminent local artists selected for this exhibition include Evelyn Patricia Terry, Reginald Baylor, Brad Bernard, Portia Cobb, George McCormick, Sharon Kerry-Harlan, Darlene LaMar and Wells to cite a few.
“Peltz Gallery had an extremely well received African American artist show in 2007. We thought it was time for a new show and we are so happy that Della was willing and able to be our guest curator,” says Peltz.
She adds that some of the artists from 2007 have been invited back with new works for this exhibit and that “Della has introduced us to many artists in Milwaukee and around the country to fill the gallery with colorful and exciting work.”
“I was good to see so many people come out for the opening of this exhibition,” says Wells. “Too often, there is a lack of awareness about African American artists and our work,” she adds.
The exhibit listing included artists who are locally, nationally and internationally known, 21 of which are from Wisconsin.
“Della Well is to be commended for the effort of putting together such a dynamic show with such a wide range of generational and artistic talent,” says area artist Brad Bernard.
“It is an honor to be included in this exhibit among such a wide selection of distinguished and well recognized artist that are locally, nationally and internationally known.”
A professor of art at Mount Mary College, Bernard presented canvasses from his latest series, “Blues Route”:
“The development of this body of work serves as a visual documentation of hill country, delta blues and gospel musicians that I have seen perform over the course of seven years while living in Mississippi,” notes Bernard.
The imagery of road maps and quilts are used in Bernard’s series to represent the travel of leaving and eventually returning home.
“Although many blues musicians have been known and performed internationally, they often choose to remain or reside close to their place of birth, never forgetting where they came from and always returning home from where they have been,” he shares.
After moving to Milwaukee 11 years ago, Beloit College Art Professor George Williams, Jr. exhibits in his second show, “Current Tendencies: Ten Artists from Wisconsin” at Marquette University’s Haggerty Museum in 2009. Williams would additionally earn the distinction of becoming the first African American professor to receive tenure at Beloit College.
Reflecting a commendable broad range of national invitational showings numbering a biographical notation of 21 exhibitions from such venues as the San Diego Art Institute in 1996 to Beloit’s Wright Museum of Art in 2007, Williams canvases are included along with Bernard’s’ in the Peltz “Vision, Voices” selection along with the works of University of Wisconsin – Parkside Associate Professor of Art Trenton Baylor, the famed silhouetted renditions of renown artists Kara Walker, the fabric creations of Sonji Hunt and the quilt designs of Trish Williams.
Walker, Trish Williams, George Williams, Chrys Carroll, Willie Cole, Jamea Edwards, Zeph Farmby, Sam Gilliam, Alison Saar, Kehinde Wiley, and well received local artists and muralist Ras Ammar Nsoroma are among the Peltz gallery exhibitors.
“In bringing all the artists for ‘Visions, Voices, Viewpoints and Victories of African American Artists,’ my goal was to also give the viewer a glimpse into what African American artists are producing particularly here in Wisconsin,” says curator Wells.
She adds that “we must not lose sight of the importance of our African American art and African American art history that is an integral part of our vast cultural landscape,” she positions.
Wells is the founder of ABEA – African American Artist Beginning to Educate Americans About African American Art.”
An art advocacy group comprised of artists and art supporters dedicated to contributing to cultural enrichment by educating communities about African American art and artists, ABEA since its 2001 inception strives to provide art related services and create opportunities for all artists to work together for prosperity and growth.
The exhibit is open for two months through Saturday March 19, 2011 at the 1119 East Knapp gallery address. For any additional information on this most exciting African American visual experience, please contact the gallery at (414) 223-4228.