Archive for Ademola.Olugbefola at X Gallery Show

The Afro/Modernist Art of Ademola

Posted in Ademola at Gallery, Uncategorized with tags , on April 25, 2019 by playthell

Ademola: The Master with his Creation

Neo-African Aesthetic Alchemy from the Black Atlantic World

Ademola Olugbefola is a major Afro-American artist who was a leading figure in the evolution of the Black Arts Movement of the 1960’s, which means that he has been about the business of defining a black aesthetic in the visual arts for the past half century. The BAM grew out of the black liberation struggle that blossomed during the mid-twentieth century, just as the African liberation movements began to triumph, overthrowing the system of European colonialism on the continent.

The Afro-American freedom Movement was inspired by events in Africa, which we supported. It was a revelation to see brilliant Africans on television speaking at the United nations, after having been programmed for generations by a racist white supremacist education system and mass communication apparatus, especially the Tarzan movies, to loathe Africans as an embarrassment. By virtue of the emergence of independent African nations on the world stage, courted by the US government in order to persuade them to join the western capitalist bloc in the cold war against the communist nations, Africa had now become a source of great pride.

While the great Civil rights movement was solely focused on gaining full equality for Afro-Americans under constitutional law, a fundamental requirement for blacks to have any chance of dramatic progress after centuries of forced inequality by government policies, others branched out and tackled complex cultural questions regarding literature, music and the visual arts. The paramount concerns of these cultural warriors was who are we? Where did we come from? What were we before we were forced to become Americans by capture and enslavement? And how can we recapture some of what we once were?

The result of these explorations led to an explosion of Afrocentric dress and hair styles among “culturally conscious” Afro-Americans and inspired a tsunami of activity on the part of intellectuals and artists. Black poets sang panegyrics to the beauty of blackness, black Jazz musicians wrote compositions such as Art Blakey’s “Message From Kenya,” and John Coltrane’s “Africa Brass.” And we heard Dizzy Gellespie’s “Night in Tunisia” through different ears. The great drummer and composer Max Roach, along with his beautiful Afro crowned wife Abbey Lincoln – a singer/actress – had joined with Ronnie and Cecil Braithwaite to organize the African Jazz Art Society, which launched the Black Arts Movement in 1958 that came to full bloom during the 1960’s.

Max and Abby, the first family of the “Black Cultural Revolution” were everywhere, making politically conscious music like the album:”We Insist! Freedom Now,”which became, for radical political activists, the sound track of “The Revolution.” The idea of a real armed revolution in the US may sound far out to contemporary readers, but back then in the fires of struggle, it seemed all too real. It was real enough for some people to give up their freedom and others their lives. Hence it was in this turbulent cauldron of struggle and hope, that the art of Ademola was born. A quintessential New Yorker, he was right in the midst of this cultural and political turmoil.

Having a deep interest in fashion and theater set design, Ademola was among the first of the visual artists to heed the call to create a modern art based on a Black aesthetic philosophy derived from their study of traditional African art.  Thus they were mining the same tradition that  had inspired the major creative figures in the rise of modern western art: Picasso, Georges Braque, Salvador Dali, et al.  (for a deeper discussion of this see the discussion with Ademola and this writer on the video below this essay)   It was this deep and abiding interest that led him to join with a band of fellow black artists and create the Weusi Academy.

Among these artistic visionaries was the Master Sculptor Painter Otto Neals, Thomas “Taiwo” Duval, a painter and master African drummer; Abdul Aiziz, Master Print Maker and painter; Abdul Rachman, an innovative painter who produced works of such original conception, complexity of design and bold use of colors that Ademola coined a term for it: “Epic Symbolism.” Recently Otto Neals had a retrospective exhibition of his sculpture mounted in the beautiful galleries of Kenkelba House. It was a sensation! It set new standards of achievement for future sculptors to strive for. There were other gifted artists who joined, or were greatly influenced by the innovative works of the Weusi Academy artist, that are too numerous to account for here.

On Saturday April 14th, Ademola opened a solo show at the X Gallery in Harlem titled “Past and Present Mixed Media.” Located on Malcolm X Boulevard at 118th Street, and named in his honor, the gallery has presented a series of unique exhibitions under the able direction of its Founder and Curator Lisa DuBois. An outstanding photographic artist in her own right – many of her works are fine art – Lisa’s camera lens is an all-seeing eye that has captured some of the most poignant images of our time in the US and abroad. Hence she is an excellent person to curate a show such as this, for a great part of her mission is the bring the works of under-represented artist of talent to the public.

Lisa DuBois

Artist, Visionary and Curator Of  X Gallery

However, this concern does not include the present artist, as Ademola’s oeuvre has been reviewed, celebrated and critiqued in a wide variety of books, catalogs, periodicals, videos, and broadcast media. The pieces in the Gallery’s exhibit were selected from Ademola’s many works over more than half a century. They include objects de art that have appeared in many museums and galleries across the US and abroad, as well as a new selection of minature abstract landscapes.

A great fan of dance, the exhibition also includes some of Ademola’s abstract renderings of dance movements, which one viewer who identified herself as a professor of dance said inspired her to dance! The Exhibition will remain on display until April 28.

Ademola Receives an Award from X Gallery

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The Alchemist In His Studio

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Mask of the Poro Society

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Confrontation!

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In the Realm of Ancestral Spirits

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Musicians Making the Harvest Grow

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Cosmic Graffiti

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Ile Ife!  Home of the Gods

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The Mystery of Ifa 

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The Heliocentric Worlds Of Sun Ra

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Astral Travelling

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Spirit Dance

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Ocha! The Evidence of Things Unseen

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The Grand Opening at X Galleries

Lisa Directing the Show

Artist and Curator a Fine collaboration

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It Was A Diverse New York Artsy Crowd

Like this Dancer/Artist

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It Was a Lively Crowd!

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Freedom Day!

Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln

 

To watch Ademola discuss his Art with Playthell Click on Link

This is a multi-part discourse follow the lables

 

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Text and Photographs by: Playthell G. Benjamin
Video by: The inimitable Kwame Barthwaite
Harlem, New York
April 25, 2019