In the main gallery of the Richmond Art Center hangs a large painting with the words “BLACK LIVES MATTER” scrawled across the canvas in blood red paint. Around a corner is series of busts of Malcolm X. Scattered between the two are photographs, abstract paintings, and jewelry — all done by local African American Artists.
These works are displayed as part of the 19th annual “Art of Living Black” exhibit, which opened at the Richmond Art Center this Saturday. Showcasing over 60 local African American artists, the RAC show is the only one of its kind in the Bay Area.
“If you look back 20 years ago, there weren’t too many opportunities for African American artists to show their work together,” explains RAC Executive Director Ric Ambrose. “We felt that living in Richmond and having a large population of African Americans, the show just made sense.”
The annual “Art of Living Black” exhibit was founded by local artists Jan Hart-Schuyers and Rae Louise Hayward. The two organized the show as means to combat the startling shortage of African American art in local galleries.
For many of the artists in the exhibit, this show is their first opportunity to display their work. Others, like Oakland Abstract Expressionist Bill Dallas, have been involved in the project since its inception. The imagery ranges from political to poetic, and together they represent the visions and experiences of a population that isn’t often given the opportunity to show art as a community.
While some pieces are clear reactions to the recent “Black Lives Matter” movement, Ambrose says that this imagery is coincidental. “The timing of the show is really serendipitous,” explains Ambrose, “but we are glad to have the opportunity to show work from these artists.”
Framed by the recent national protests, this exhibition serves as a means to continue the conversation about what it means to be African American in society today. To some artists, this experience involves embracing political dissent while others look to their cultural heritage for aesthetic inspiration.
“We give this show the main gallery for a reason,” explains Ambrose. “We need to show more work like this, and we are happy to provide the venue.”
In addition to the “Art of Living Black” exhibit, a faculty art show and a retrospective of artist Yisrael K. Feldsott opened at RAC this weekend.
For more information about RAC’s current exhibitions, click here.