Folk exhibit has affecting African-American work

November 26, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Richard Edson's second group exhibition at his Folk Art Gallery has no particular theme, but a strong segment of it consists of works by African-American artists.

Deacon Moore of Dallas weighs in with one of the show's most affecting pieces, "Friendly Pool Game, Willie & Oscar." The wooden sculpture shows a pool game including fully clothed figures of the two players complete with hair from the artist's own head. Cues in hand, they stand at either end of a pool table in the midst of a game, the balls spread out on the table's green cover. One of the figures wears a shirt bearing on the back the legend "Better Than Nothing," and Edson thinks this is a message piece -- suggesting a peaceful game as an alternative to the violence in our society.

Another sculptor from Dallas, J. L. Hunter, employs a style that's simpler than Moore's but still effective. Of the three pieces by Hunter, the most interesting is a combined utilitarian object and sculpture, a wagon lamp in which the lamp rises from a sculpture of a green painted wagon pulled by two mules.

Among paintings, one of the most powerful images in the show is the untitled image of a figure painted in black on a yellow background on a piece of corrugated tin. It's by Mary T. Smith, a Jackson, Miss., artist who makes her images indelible by the force of her every brush stroke.

Painters also include Milton A. Fletcher, a now-dead Shreveport, La., artist whose charming and colorful "Country Baptismal" shows people witnessing a baptism in a river flowing by a group of sharecroppers' houses. Fletcher's skewed perspective helps to give the work its vitality.

Anderson Johnson has a storefront church in Hampton Roads, Va., where he covers the walls with paintings of a woman's face. The show includes three of these commanding faces, with their big features, one painted so close-up that the hair is partly cropped out of the image.

The title of "The Family Tree: Three Generation of Families" perfectly describes the painting of Prophet William J. Blackmon of Milwaukee. He depicts a house whose rooms are full of family members in a variety of activities, from skipping rope to getting married to the arrival of a new baby. Out of the house grows a tree, the family tree, whose branches may be interpreted as the past feeding into the present family that we see, or the future springing from the present.

Painted furniture is not only a Baltimore tradition. Somewhat like the works of our own beloved Tom Miller but in a simpler folk style are the pieces by Sam McMillan of Winston-Salem, N.C. Cheerful figures circle two planters fashioned from old ice cream churns, and these and a tall stool all bear the artist's patterns of rhythmic dots, which bring his surfaces to life.

ART REVIEW

What: Group show of folk art

Where: The Folk Art Gallery, 1500 Bolton St.

When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdaythrough Fridays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, through Dec. 15

Call: (410) 669-3343

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