Exhibiting Artists: May 26- June 25, 2016
“En Theos: A God Within, Photographs by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe”
Photographer Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe has produced a wide-ranging body of work examining the ramifications of the historical outcomes of slavery, the expressly intimate moments of a family in the face of personal tragedy and a broad engagement of the history of photography. She has been featured in numerous publications and has had many solo and group exhibitions around the world, including The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., Galerie Hervé Odermatt in Paris, France, The Excelsior in Florence, Italy, the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Art + Culture in Charlotte, North Carolina and the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art and The Leica Gallery in New York City. The author of five books, including the 25th Anniversary Edition of Daufuskie Island: Photographs by Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, winner of the Essence Literary Award in photography. In 2011 she traveled to Nepal on behalf of healthcare organizations to document healthcare workers’ efforts to address medical issues the country.
Ms. Moutoussamy-Ashe has lectured at various educational and cultural institutions around the country and taught photography to high school and college level students. In 1995, President Clinton appointed her as an alternate representative of the United States to the United Nations General Assembly. Currently, she is a director of the Arthur Ashe Endowment for the Defeat of AIDS and serves on the President’s Council of The Cooper Union, of which she is also a former Trustee.
In 2008, she founded the Arthur Ashe Learning Center (AALC), an educational nonprofit organization. From 2012 - 2013 the AALC raised more than $1 million to support the AALC Inspirational Tour Exhibit, an educational exhibit that examines the life and legacy of Arthur R. Ashe, Jr. through the lenses of tennis and sport, youth and education, health and wellness, civic engagement and citizenship. Under her leadership, the AALC successfully installed the Inspirational Tour in Richmond, VA and Queens, NY during the summer of 2013. She arranged a permanent home for the exhibit at the University of California Los Angeles, with funding to support its installation and upkeep, where it will be open and available to the public in perpetuity, alongside other items and representations of her late husband’s legacy.
In 2013 Ms. Moutoussamy-Ashe received a Ford Foundation grant to conduct research on photographs from the 1963 March on Washington and curate an exhibition. In 2014, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture obtained the Daufuskie Island collection as part of their permanent collection, recognizing the importance of the Gullah people and their distinguished place in American history. Examining these myriad accomplishments alongside the intersection of documentation and fine art photography reveals as a common precept: her work reflects a commitment to recording her environment as a fine artist and employing that record to engage a greater cause.
John Frederick Walker
“Split Images and Lost Texts 2006-2016”
In some ways it was inevitable that books would become a focus of my art—but not simply because I’m also an author. Over the years I was immersed in various modes of minimalism, many of the artistic devices I gravitated towards then would eventually allow me to do more with volumes than write them. My preoccupation with the division of pictorial space into diptychs and quadrants, the iteration of images and openings, all brought me to the book as a visual object.
My initial book-based pieces evolved haphazardly from empty sketchbooks, journals, notebooks and damaged bindings I was reluctant to part with, even though I’d torn or sliced out their contents. I kept them going, in effect, by treating them as experimental surfaces for the compulsive drawing I’ve done since childhood. The loose facing pages of broken-backed texts became armatures for mark-making, which essentially reconstituted them as drawings.
The glossy shimmer of graphite hatching on this first generation of experiments let light play over their surfaces like fleeting references. This process obliterated the former meanings of the texts but at the same time called up the presence of lost ideas—all those vanished sketches, journals, plans, lists, stories and arguments—that still echoed from the missing pages ripped from their spines.
These books surprised me by coming to life again, like whole creatures conjured from skins and pelts. The process became its own force, and I turned to library discards and other dumped and forgotten volumes as sources of raw material and inspiration. Among the shelves of defaced, dog-eared, foxed and musty tomes I found specimens waiting to evoke a nimbus of new meanings.
Along with the narrative of loss clinging to those broken books, their flattened, often eviscerated forms suggested wings, petals, giant moths…. Inevitably, images erupted in the work, not only carrying their own meanings, but adding a gloss, another layer of associations to the radically altered books underneath. Bits of text, sometimes legible, sometimes not, started to appear along with figures and anatomical diagrams, animals, mathematics, and mountain ranges. Mute open mouths added their voices, metal bolts silenced others.
The book persists in a digital age that threatens to render it extinct. But now that it is increasingly viewed as superfluous, antique technology and a waste of space, we are reminded of how utterly remarkable the book is. A simple, side-hinged block of sheets of paper, given life by written language and graced with illustrations, has functioned for a millennium as a near-universal means of encoding vast amounts of human culture.
What one has done artistically often becomes apparent only in retrospect. I see now that I’ve been captivated by the splayed book, caught in the moment when the volume is open and proffering to the imagination a fragment of the lost world that was once between its covers.
In any one day, how all the things get mixed together
“In any one day, how all the things get mixed together” – is the beginning point for my work. I come to the studio with an accumulation of thoughts and plans for my day and for the work I am in the midst of making. Invariably there are interruptions or detours from my original intention and I find myself going down a rabbit hole that leads me to a line of inquiry or several overlapping inquiries.
This takes the form of drawn sections with layers of color, texture, and tape, and extemporaneous writing with pencils and ink. I move back and forth between the verbal and non-verbal sections, crossing out parts that are irrelevant. Throughout this process I repeatedly write the phrase “start here” as a way to bring my focus back to the current moment and use that experience in the drawing – I will take whatever thoughts or sensations I am aware of and use them as material in my work.
It’s a circular process that allows me to connect mundane concerns with life-changing events, personal experiences with things I read or think about. For me this is a way to process information, ideas, and emotion. It is a way to make a picture of the constant flow of thought, noise, need, and distraction.