August Wilson Center exhibit explores African-American identity in the Appalachian Region
'Fruit of Generosity' by Leslie Ansley.
'Delta Sweethearts' by Clifford Darrett.
'Carlita 1,' by Kelly and Kyle Phelps.
'Homestead Gray,' by David Graves.
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An exhilarating exhibition at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture, Downtown, brings together potent artworks that, combined, shed light on an emerging notion of collective identity that is rapidly moving into national awareness.
Pittsburgh is culturally and geographically located within Appalachia, a region that extends from northern Mississippi to southern New York along the ridges of the Appalachian Mountains. "Common Ground: Affrilachia! Where I'm From" examines, through the eyes of exhibitors, what it means to be an African-American artist living within that region.
Don't expect dulcimers and log cabin quilts. The 46 artworks by 31 artists, local and national, are contemporary, both in date created and intent. They address the African-American experience through a variety of media including painting, sculpture, printmaking, ceramics, fiber, drawing and installation. Works by artists, acclaimed and emerging, are in turn realistic, abstract, metaphoric, expressive, contained, exuberant and contemplative. While the base line is a specific racial group and the common ground a specific locale, the art speaks across color and regional lines.
Two quietly effective ceramic works by identical twins Kelly and Kyle Phelps could be emblems for the recent Occupy movements. The female factory workers of "The Meek" console one another as they clutch pink slips; "Carlita," representing undocumented workers, is fatigued and dejected as she pushes a cart filled with cleaning supplies against the backdrop of a soiled American flag. "We consider ourselves activists ... We want people to know the everyday struggles of common men and women," the brothers, college art professors whose father and sister were factory workers, write in their artist statement.
First Published 2012-03-06 23:16:22