Awareness: Through an African American Lens

Zenith Gallery Presents

Through an African American Lens

Exhibit Dates: February 2 – March 2, 2024

Meet the Artists Receptions: Friday, Feb. 2, 4:00-8:00 PM & Saturday, Feb. 3, 2:00-6:00 PM

At 1429 Iris Street NW, Washington DC, 20012

Featuring Artists: Doba Afolabi, Ram Brisueno, Sheryll Cashin, Julee Dickerson-Thompson, Buzz Duncan, Cheryl Edwards, Francine Haskins, Bernie Houston, Hubert Jackson, Qrcky, Curtis Woody

Join us in celebrating Black History Month at Zenith Gallery with our African American artists. Each Saturday in February at 2PM, we will be hosting an Artist Talk with 2 or more artists:

Saturday, Feb. 10, 2:00 pm – Ram Brisuenos, Sheryll Cashin, Bernie Houston, and Qrcky

Saturday, Feb. 17, 2:00 pm –Julee Dickerson-Thompson, Buzz Duncan, Francine Haskins, and Curtis Woody

Saturday, Feb. 24, 2:00 pm – Cheryl Edwards, and Hubert Jackson

view exhibit

Images l-r: “Chantress” by Cheryl Edwards, “Drifting Down the Pocomoke (Into the Warm World)” by Ram Brisueno, “I Love You Madly” by Hubert Jackson, “Healing” by Julee Dickerson-Thompson

Doba Afolabi was born in the mountains of southwest Nigeria and credits his mother, who was a versatile dancer, as the fundamental force behind his flair for expression. Monet, Van Gogh, Degas and Yoruba stylized carvings were later influences on Afolabi. Doba studied at the famous Zaria Art School. While still in school, he became known as one of the “Zaria Rebels,” an artist’ school known for their experimental style and bold color palette. Briefly, he worked for the United Nations as a graphic designer. He also spent some time teaching art at Yaba Technical College, in Lagos, Nigeria, before eventually immigrating to New York City.

Ram Brisueno’s work uses a variety of mediums, materials, and objects to create narratives that relate to personal identity and social perceptions with an emphasis on highlighting textures, color, and form. His work brings together, with attention, to both surface and concealed images and meanings revealed through intuitive responses allowing a compositional unity that creates themes of mythmaking and personal identity. An artist he admires, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, put it simply “Above all else, it is about leaving a mark that I existed: I was here. I was hungry. I was defeated. I was happy. I was sad. I was in love. I was afraid. I was hopeful. I had an idea, and I had a good purpose and that’s why I made works of art.”

Sheryll Cashin studied painting for years at the Corcoran School of Art, and was an active member of A. Salon, Ltd. artists’ cooperative (now known as DC Arts Studios) and in 1996 began selling large acrylic paintings of famous and ordinary African Americans. Early collectors of Cashin’s work included Peggy Cooper Cafritz, Ambassador Susan Rice and executive Robert Mallett. Known as an author and law professor at Georgetown Law, Cashin’s latest book, White Space, Black Hood illuminates residential caste and the systems of American racial inequality. “I made these collages as an act of self-care in a time of ugliness. In works like, Breonna Taylor, Her Life Mattered I surround Black women in nature and imagine them being healed. I was healed as I produced them. Beauty and internal peace are their own form of resistance.”

Julee Dickerson-Thompson is a multi-media artist.  Her work ranges from painting & soft sculpture/fiber into public art and illustration. Julee is noted for a unique, stylized approach to line drawing that becomes characteristic of her work in all forms of media. “A spiritual momentum is ever present as I explore the Creator’s metaphors by allowing myself to become a vessel for my work.  It is a moment of sweet surrender when I can truly open my pores and allow my soul to be guided spontaneously by painting my libations.” Her goal is “to nourish and delight…the eye…the soul…the Spirit!

Bulsby “Buzz” Duncan born in Kingston, Jamaica and raised in Washington, DC. Buzz is a self-taught artist whose work can be described as deeply emotional and filled with energy. Buzz traces his artistic influence on the great abstract expressionists, and contemporary artists of the 20th Century. Duncan was our first-place winner from our RESIST exhibit in 2017! Duncan’s work is inherently filled with emotional energy, from his abstract pieces to his graffiti style paintings. He addresses social issues such as police brutality with symbols referring to Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin, mass incarceration, and gun violence with paying homage to one of the greatest graffiti painters, Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Cheryl Edwards Since 2008, Ndebele Dolls, and 2018, Egyptian Paddle Dolls, have dominated my practice. They are tools for me in my art making. African Dolls functioning as a bridge to decolonize myself. Ndebele Dolls facilitate knowledge about living in a society that is decolonized. And Egyptian Paddle Dolls offering knowledge about pre-colonial Nubian society. African Americans, including myself, do not always know where they come from. It is a significant issue in our maturation.  But there is a genetic transfer via ancestral memories which manifests itself and can be seen in similarities that exist between Africans and African Americans. Although colonialism is a large factor in this scenario, it is critical to examine the past and present and to re-imagine the future to determine truths toward freedom. In 1987 I traveled to Egypt. In 1995 to South Africa.  Albeit I was not born nor lived in either country, the dolls I learned about stimulated my genetic memory.  Genetic memory is a theorized phenomenon which argues that memories present at birth and without any associated sensory experience can be inherited. It is knowledge incorporated into the genome over long spans of time. During the Harlem Renaissance, African American artists were philosophically encouraged to embrace African culture and heritage in their work. Aaron Douglas used Egyptian symbols and was criticized for such use by Alain Locke.  However, during the Harlem Renaissance, Locke changed his tune and encouraged all Black Artists to access and accept their ancestral roots.  This evolution can be witnessed in artworks created by AFRI COBRA, Afro Cuban Artists and Modern artists also use African Iconography. I have determined in this stage of my art making, post pandemic, that my accessing of ancestral memories has facilitated a shift in paradigm of consciousness.  Honestly re-considering diversity and humanity on a fundamental, foundational level.

Francine Haskins is a mix-media fiber artist, doll maker, quilter, author/illustrator, teacher and storyteller. A Corcoran School of Art graduate who also trained at Catholic University in oil painting and the Smithsonian Associate Program in fabric design, Haskins began her art career at “The New Thing” Art and Architecture center as a graphic artist. She has participated in artists’ trade shows including: Black Memorabilia and Doll Shows, to the great Black Arts Festival in Atlanta Georgia, and the Smithsonian’s Folklife festival. Francine has exhibited widely in museums and galleries across the United States and has been a part of numerous panels on folk art and folklore. One the founding members of the legendary 1800 Belmont Arts (Arts collective), Haskins is renowned for her quilts, her soft sculpture dolls.

Bernie Houston graduated from Savannah College of Art and Design in 1984 and has been a driftwood sculptor ever since. Houston spends most of his time in the Atlantic region. Currently collecting in the Chesapeake and the Potomac Shorelines, finding that perfect piece of driftwood for his carefully composed sculptures. Each piece is shaped by nature and inspired from its natural structure. After visualizing each driftwood piece, he cures, sands, carves, paints and polishes each creation. He sculpts everything from animals to people to objects. Because nature does not mimic itself, his entire body of work is one-of-a-kind. There is not a single piece like it on the plane.

Hubert Jackson was born in Culpeper, Virginia. After graduating from Virginia State University, he moved to Washington D.C in 1971 and earned his MA in painting from Howard University. In the early 1970s, he participated in the historical national movement of community-based mural projects under the advisement and mentorship of master artist Hughie Lee-Smith. Jackson’s work is in a number of private collections throughout the U.S. and has been shown in foreign countries such as Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Lesotho, New Guinea and Rwanda through the Artist-in-Embassies Program, run by the U.S. Department of State.

Qrcky- Art is not a luxury; it is a necessity. It documents history — it helps educate people and store knowledge for generations to come. Generations of people that don’t see themselves in art lose their account. My art allows me to develop an identity and say: “This is my story. This is what I know.” Art unity communities allow us to dialogue about history and its legacy. These are some of the most important works I have done. They speak to who I am, my heritage, and my culture. My work explores the relationship between Black diaspora sensibilities and urban spaces. With influences as diverse as Kara Walker and Jean-Michel Basquiat, new synergies are crafted from constructed and discovered layers. Currently living in Baltimore, I am interested in the sensation of moving, the deconstruction and reassembly of surfaces, and forgetting and remembering what has come before.

Curtis Woody refers to his artworks as “mixed media quilt paintings.’ Woody’s mixed media quilt paintings start with hand cut museum board blocks that are painted, embellished, scratched, and merged to form extremely well-composed, thought-provoking collages that are not terribly pre-planned, but rather, let the feelings and emotions of the overall design dictate how each block fits together. Woody allows the colors, patterns, and textures to direct these compositions. Many of his pieces include replicas of vintage newspaper advertisement, newspaper articles, or photographs – all included because they accentuate the composition, while adding a symbolic richness to the work. The result is a work that strikes the balance between spontaneity and a carefully planned composition of historical relevance.