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|Hot 'n Cool
by Joy Garnett
|Featuring 42 dealers from the United States, Haiti and Canada, and exhibiting artworks produced over the course of the last century, the fourth annual National Black Fine Art Show opened to an elegant crowd at the Puck Building on Thursday night, Feb. 4. The show is hosted by actor Danny Glover, who was on the scene, as was attorney Johnnie L. Cochran, who recently established a fund to help advance the careers of artists of color. Also spotted at the opening was comic Chris Rock, along with scores of artists, dealers and patrons.
Top wares at the fair range from classic Romare Bearden works and vivid gouaches by Bob Thompson at Merton D. Simpson Gallery to funky-hip paintings by Barkeley Hendricks and eye-opening wall-hangings by Faith Ringgold at ACA. Otherwise, exhibitors at the show lean toward folk and decorative art. Several dealers are carrying heavily sequined Haitian wall-hangings, for instance. If you are interested in cutting-edge or conceptual works by the kind of Black artists who show in SoHo and Chelsea galleries, with rare exceptions, this is not the place to look.
On the other hand, if your tastes veer toward art that is abstract, pattern-laden, color-saturated and African textile-influenced, you can find choice pieces. At N'Namdi Galleries are several color constructs by Al Loving, including one rather large piece bearing his signature swirls and squeegee colors. At Corridor Gallery, a wall-sized, beaded and crocheted hanging by Xenobia Bailey will stop you in your tracks. Evocative of African American '70s patternalia, its funkadelic stateliness is a high point of the show.
At Sragow Gallery is a rack of choice screen prints and lithographs that includes some affordable ($2,500) classics by Elizabeth Catlett, Reginald Gammon and a Kathe Kollwitz-like work from 1956 by Calvin Burnett called Vote-Victim.
The Pardee Collection, based in Iowa City, Iowa, offers up a collection of painted African barbershop signs as well as works by several outsider artists. These include the bright na´ve paintings of Emitte Hych, a former share-cropper, and ingenious "scarecrows" made by the blind sculptor Hawkins Bolden. Fashioned from aluminum pots and cookie pans, with punched-out eyes and rubber hose arms, Bolden's works are strangely poetic in their utilitarianism.
The National Black Fine Art Show is on view at the Puck Building in SoHo through Sunday. For additional info on hours and special events, go to the NBFAS website.
JOY GARNETT is a New York artist.