Respondez S’il Vous Plait (RSVP)
June 2- July 15, 2017
Respondez S'il Vous Plait (RSVP)
Black artists have historically given voice to the social, economic and systemic oppression found in the United States and throughout the African Diaspora. Hammonds House Museum examines the role of black artists as activists in “Respondez S’il Vous Plait (RSVP)”. Featured works by Alfred Conteh, Maurice Evans, Grace Kisa, Michi Meko, Fahamu Pecou, Sue Ross, Kevin Sipp and Fabian Williams and speak to the role of artists as activist, storytellers, truth seekers and critics. Their work boldly illustrates how the challenges faced by people of color resonate with these artists and the unique nature of their gaze. Curated by Leatrice Ellzy.
As a working artist Conteh continues to develop his craft and considers himself a student of history. His personal experiences have sparked new energy toward addressing social issues impacting black communities that he has not touched before. “In my most recent works I advocate for entrepreneurship. Booker T. Washington, Marcus Garvey, and Malcolm X taught us that our empowerment lies in our economic base. We haven’t actualized it. I’ve tried to express that, making the unseen, seen,” he says.Conteh contends that very little is taught about African art history, particularly among aspiring artists of color on the university level. He aims to use his art as a platform for dialogue that encourages other artists to learn about themselves and share their stories more boldly. “It’s problematic when our greatest aspiration is to seek accolades based on what the dominant culture sees worthy of awarding you. We have to see value in ourselves.”A classically trained artist, Conteh aspires to tell a deeper and sometimes grayer story about black people in America, stretching beyond traditional images depicting slavery, church, and romantic relationships.
The musicians in Maurice Evans’ paintings dance, twist, and sway to the beat of the artist’s brush. “I’m a musician and I can feel what they’re doing,” says Evans, who plays the guitar. “I can put that into my art.” Born in Smyrna, Tennessee, Evans’ art career began early. “My mom says I started doodling as soon as I could pick up a pen,” he says, “she would have to follow me around and wipe off the walls.” At the age of fourteen Evans landed his first professional job as a freelance artist for a commercial art firm. This led to a scholarship at the Art Institute of Atlanta, where he studied fashion illustration. The exaggerated, elongated human figure emphasized in fashion illustration became a major element of Evans’ style.
After stints in commercial art and medical illustration, Evans need for self-expression remained unfulfilled. Encouraged by a former classmate to explore the field of fine art, Evans asked himself “what do I have to offer as an artist that is unique?” His fusion of painting techniques, new and traditional, with his background in fashion provided an answer.
Following a commission for the official 1994 Atlanta Jazz Festival Poster, Evans debuted at the National Black Arts Festival with his “Colour of Jazz” series. Since then, his paintings have been featured in many group and solo exhibitions, and collected throughout the southern U.S.
Kisa is a multi-media artist most known for canvases that are full of energy, warmth and strident purpose.
Born in Kenya, Grace says she knew as early as 6 years old that she wanted to “make pictures” and has used her experiences living around the world with her father, who was a diplomat with the United Nations, as a touch stone for creating art that resonates with collectors and critics alike.
After studying Fine Arts at York University in Toronto and the Atlanta College of Art, Grace realized that in order to expand her reach as an artist she would need to be open to breaking the rules and that has led to critical successes for her in the fine arts, graphic art and photography.
Michi Meko’s multidisciplinary work mobilizes historic, contemporary, and speculative narratives that are personal and cultural, physical and psychological. Drawing influence from rural southern culture and contemporary urban subcultures, Meko reveals and builds upon the layered symbolism of ordinary and rejected objects, imbuing them with spiritual powers.
Michi draws influence from Southern culture and contemporary urban. He has an uncanny ability to inspire an urbanized aesthetic that is innovative, challenging and thoughtful. The works allude to conditions both physical and psychological. His work is a proclamation of strength, perseverance and remembrance.
Pecou is an interdisciplinary artist and scholar whose works combine observations on hip-hop, fine art and popular culture. Pecou’s paintings, performance art, and academic work addresses concerns around contemporary representations of Black masculinity and how these images impact both the reading and performance of Black masculinity.
Pecou is a recipient of the 2016 Joan Mitchell Foundation "Painters and Sculptors" Award. His work is featured in noted private and public national and international collections including; Smithsonian National Museum of African American Art and Culture, Societe Generale (Paris), Nasher Museum at Duke University, The High Museum of Art, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Seattle Art Museum, Paul R. Jones Collection, Clark Atlanta University Art Collection and Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia.
Susan J. Ross
In the African tradition, a Griot is the oral historian portraying the cultural essence of a community through the Word.
Susan J. "Sue" Ross, the PhotoGriot, tells the stories of our community through her eye and the lens of her camera. The daughter of a cultural anthropologist and a social worker, Sue is an artist & cultural worker using the medium of photography to document the social, political and cultural experiences of the community.
My work emerges through the layering and remixing of the visual, literary and sonic production of the African Diaspora. It is important to me that I upend the limited box of signifiers that often come to be called black culture. By freely using symbols and signs from various world spiritual traditions I pay simultaneous homage to the African roots of my heritage and the impact of the world on that heritage".
Williams’ influences reflect his coming of age as an ’80s baby: pro-wrestling pageantry, hip-hop culture and music mixed in with hip street aesthetic. Regardless of goings on at the event, the art takes center stage. The bold energy brings them in, but the artistry keeps them talking. While most people associate hip-hop art with graffiti, Williams is more Caravaggio than Wild Style.