Jenkins Johnson Gallery San Francisco is pleased to present Voices of Home, featuring works by Noel Anderson, Kajahl Benes, Elaine Bradford, Elizabeth Colomba, Jamal Cyrus, Nathaniel Donnett, Zak Ové, Leslie Smith III, Devin Troy Strother, Felandus Thames, and Christine Wong Yap. Each of these artists visually articulates works inspired by their diverse and rich cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Voices of Home premiered at our New York gallery where it was highlighted in NYC-ARTS: TOP 5 and appeared in the NYC-ARTS segment on WNET/Channel Thirteen. The San Francisco show will run from March 23 to May 5, 2012. There will be an opening reception on Saturday, March 24th from 3:00 – 5:00pm.
Elaine Bradford, Zak Ové, Devin Troy Strother, and Christine Wong Yap use mixed media, and draw on their childhood experiences to reference the paradoxes of their current environments. Representative of the approach is Trinidadian artist Zak Ové, who uses sculpture, film, found objects and photography to reinterpret lost culture and explore his Caribbean identity. His work emanates from an anthropological interest in African mythology, diaspora, tribalism and history, including the origins of the Trinidadian Carnivale.
Through their use of visual narrative and storytelling, Noel Anderson, Kajahl Benes, Elizabeth Colomba, and Leslie Smith III examine racial realities and issues of identity. Through her classical and painterly representation of traditional figures as African American, Elizabeth Columba hopes to address years of misrepresentation of blacks in art and illustrates well the effectiveness of the narrative style. Her strong use of symbolism is apparent in works like “Mama Legba,” a reference to the Haitian Voodoo spirit, Papa Legba, who takes on the shape of the mama and serves as an allegory for Haiti. Similarly, the visible rooster represents watchful vigilance against evil, the cat a symbol of freedom, and the basket of fruit a re-interpretation of a Cornucopia, a symbol of food, abundance and female fertility.
In contrast, artists like Jamal Cyrus, Nathaniel Donnett and Felandus Thames create racial discourse through their reference to historical events and their subsequent contemporary relevance. Nathaniel Donnett’s work is an example of this approach; his mixed media work on brown paper bags offers direct references to crucial events in the history of American culture, like Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, while drawing parallels to contemporary tensions in the African American community. His Sweeten the Deal depicts an Imperial Sugar bag and highlights the lack of racial progress as the Imperial Sugar plantation site in Texas once used African American slaves to harvest and is now the site of a prison where over 85% of inmates are of color.