Sumter County Gallery of Art will open two exhibitions on Thursday with a 5:30-to-7:30 p.m. reception for contemporary artists Shanequa Gay and Lorna Ruth Galloway.
Atlanta native Gay has received accolades for her advocacy …
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Atlanta native Gay has received accolades for her advocacy of visual art projects that challenge the violence and injustices committed against the black body in America and across the globe. Her exhibition at the Sumter gallery, titled i come as us, integrates imagery of the black body into paintings, toile patterns, found objects and video media, addressing its use and control for decorative purposes.
When Gay started exhibiting her work, she had "unconsciously chosen to give black women centrality and power in (her) art," which excluded men and created a sacred space for women, as depicted in the series The Southern Way, in which women are portrayed in their Sunday churchgoing best.
Fear for her 18-year-old son caused by the recent police brutality against black men induced a dream in which Gay saw men running in the woods shape-shifting between deer and men while being chased. Inspired by her belief that African-American males are being hunted like wild game and by the work of Kara Walker and Aaron Douglas, Gay then created The Fair Game Project and is now using her art as a platform to advocate for issues she is most passionate about.
Gay created her own narratives pulling from media, poetry, folklore, African and Greek mythologies, and using wood panel, oil, acrylic and vinyl paint to communicate her vision. She employs black silhouettes against colorful, patterned backgrounds of deer-men being chased. Her goal is to develop a visual language that helps people see how police brutality is affecting black men, black families and the greater population.
Gay observes, "What's so great about mythology is the way it collapses hierarchies by creating hybrid forms of animal and man to enforce morality, but also create these dualities of fear and intrigue, beast and god. Contemporary American culture creates heroes out of the bad guy as the audience cheers extreme violence in movies and television as they would cheer for their favorite sports team. We are seeing this same mindset being reenacted in real life. We are a desensitized, violent culture. The discussion should be how do we turn away from this?"
Several of the FAIR GAME Project pieces of the deer-men will be included in the Sumter exhibition.
Karen Watson, executive director of the gallery, said Gay will be "on site for several days in Sumter creating an installation of a black-and-gold patterned wall as an homage to black women who have died as a result of racial violence - Korryn Gaines, Sandra Bland, Renisha McBride and Erica Garner. SCGA will be open to the public during this time to observe the artist at work and ask questions."
Miami-based Lorna Ruth Galloway grew up in South Florida a block off U.S. Highway 1. The aesthetics of the American roadside have been an integral part of the formation of her visual world-view. Works in photo-based printmaking techniques, screen printing, Polaroid transfers and large-tiled wheat paste installations explore space, time, nostalgia and the mediated experience.
Her exhibition, titled Halftone Half-lives, comprises halftone prints that explore homage and appropriation, reality and commodity. Galloway's practice has been greatly influenced by Pop artist Ed Ruscha. She adds her own level of appropriation and "reclaims" what she terms "the supposedly banal." She incorporates simple cellphone camera snapshots - used to capture the deserted Ruscha-esque urbanscapes - and ends up with exceptional explorations of mediation, materials and image making.
Galloway's 2016 exhibition Deadpan Realities was a mash-up of today's video-game culture, historical Pop Art and contemporary art making. Its foundation was the extremely popular video game Grand Theft Auto V (a favorite of the artist.)
Galloway's halftone prints explore homage and appropriation, reality and commodity. The iconic scenery in the video calls to mind Pop artist Ed Ruscha's iconic photographs of gas stations.
Galloway is recreating Ruscha's Twentysix Gasoline Stations (1963) using photographs of gasoline stations from Grand Theft Auto V. Images are captured during game play using a cellphone camera. Gas stations are situated in the picture plane as close to Ruscha's as possible. Photographs are then uploaded to Rockstar Games Social Club, an online platform similar to Instagram, for other members to see.
Galloway downloads the photographs and uses Photoshop to create halftone separations for screen-printing. The halftone, a logarithmic transformation of an image into a series of tiny dots to simulate a continuous tone image, exaggerates the digital, screen-based aspect of the image. At the same time, it references the tradition of photographic reproduction in printmaking.
Galloway combines two seemingly irreconcilable modes - charcoal and silk screen - with the use of a digital image sourced from a video game. Galloway asks the viewer to explore and consider these different levels of mediation. The gasoline stations' corporate icons serve as signifiers to the viewer, but only those familiar with the video game will realize these brands don't really exist. The gas prices serve as an indication of the time the photo was taken. This practice creates images of an "Any Town, USA" that are simultaneously a delicate homage to the places and a blurred disappearance of them.
In addition to the color halftone photographs and charcoal screen prints, Galloway plans for the Sumter exhibition an installation that will engulf the viewer in a multi-dimensional construct of scenes in South Carolina that the artist captured on visits to the state - Sumter County and Summerton - the rural landscapes of South Carolina. Visually stimulating imagery of natural areas and roadside structures will be warmly coated in multi-colored lights.
Gay will give a gallery talk during Thursday's opening, and Galloway will be in conversation with SCGA curator Cole Miller at a later date during the exhibition's tenure, Thursday through June 22.
Watson noted that, "As with all the exhibitions the gallery presents, it is a community effort made possible by our sponsors: Sumter Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, Ralph and Toye Canty, The Glenmore and May Sharp Trust and a grant from the Sumter County Cultural Commission which receives support from the John and Susan Bennett Arts Fund of the Coastal Community Foundation of S.C., the S.C. Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.
"Flowers are courtesy of Poinsett-Bland Garden Club & The Council of Garden Clubs of Sumter."
The Sumter County Gallery of Art is located at 200 Hasell St. in the Sumter County Cultural Center. For more information about the exhibitions and the gallery, call (803) 775-0543.
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