A Play of Abstraction at Northeastern Crossing

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Northeastern Exhibition - Earl Miller, Manhattan Savoy, serigraphWorks from the Permanent Collection of the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists at Northeastern Crossing, Northeastern University

The Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists fosters knowledge and appreciation of the heritage of people of African-descent in the visual arts globally. It collects and exhibits art in all styles and genres. It celebrates the freedom of artists to express their visions and to comment on their interests without limitation, while also recognizing that artistic creations are often inflected by and sometimes responsive to ideas and prejudices that are part of the socio-political matrix in which production happens.

This exhibition presently abstract works that delight in the improvisational use of color,
texture and rhythm in ways that recall jazz. Though much 20th century art by African American artists was preoccupied with figuration, a significant number of artists found their most inspired expression in the interplay of formal elements freed of representation, and allied to the playful and possibilities inherent in the orchestration of abstract elements. Here the comparison of visual arts and music is very apt. for as lyrics give music specific narrative content, so representation gives art the same. Nevertheless, abstractionists know that formal elements in art and music are perfectly capable of evoking a full range of emotion without the need for representational images or words. It is the playful dance of formal elements largely abstracted and freed from the familiar world that is the subject of the display.

Artists featured are Marion Epting, David Gaither, Earl Miller, Mavis Pusey and Mahler Ryder.

Marion Epting (1940-present) was born in Forrest, Mississippi, Epting and studied at Los Angeles City College and Otis Art Institute. Subsequently he has taught at California State University. Epting has exhibited widely, including Oakland Art Museum, Huntsville Museum of Art, Studio Museum in Harlem, and many others, and is widely represented in national and international collections, as well as in publications and books featuring African American visual artists.

David Gaither is active in Atlanta, Georgia, A self-taught painter, he has pursued an approach to art making that he dubs “Maximalism.” The dominate features of his approach are the use of intricate shapes and patterns in his compositions and a preference for ultra-saturated colors. Although primarily a painter and muralist, his practice includes mixed-media experiments and three-dimensional forms as well. The colorful work has garnered him international attention, as his art has been presented in exhibitions in Switzerland, France, and Dubai as well as across the United States.

Earl Miller (1930-present) was born in Chicago, and studied at the Art Students League and Pratt Institute for Art both in New York, and at the Munich Academy of Fine Arts in Germany. In the l960s, he was active with the Spiral Group in New York. Producing paintings, prints and mixed media art, Miller’s work has drawn very favorable critical attention, including inclusion in exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art and in Germany where he lived for a period of time.

Mavis Pusey (1928-present) was born in Kingston, and grew up in rural Jamaica. By her late teen years, her family had settled in New York. There she began classes at the Arts Student League where after initially focusing on fashion, she switched to printmaking and studied with Will Barnet. She continued her studies at the Birgit Schold Workshop in London and later completed B.A. requirements at Mary Baldwin College in Virginia. In the early 1970s, Pusey worked at the famed Robert Blackburn Workshop and the New School of Social Research, where she later taught. Her exhibition record is extensive and she has received numerous professional awards and lifetime recognitions, including from the Woman’s Caucus for the Arts and the National Arts Education Association.

Mahler B. Ryder (l937-92) was born in Columbus, Ohio, and studied at Columbus College of Art and Design, Ohio State University and the Art Students League as well as the School of Visual Arts in New York City. For most of his career, Ryder taught illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, RI. A sculptor and painter, he was artist-in-residence (l972 and l973) at the MacDowell Colony and a Fellow of the National Endowment of the Arts.  His work was widely exhibited, including a one-person show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Ryder was an excellent jazz musician and often drew on inspirations for jazz in the creation of his work. He also strove unsuccessfully to establish a Jazz Museum in Newport, R.I.

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