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701 Center for Contemporary Art Presents Tyrone Geter: BLACK!

Exhibition:  July 9 – August 23, 2015

Artist Reception: Thursday, July 9, 7 – 9 pm

Reception Admission: Members, free; non-members, $5 suggested donation

This summer 701 Center for Contemporary Art is presenting a solo exhibition by noted South Carolina artist Tyrone Geter. Tyrone Geter: BLACK! presents recent works by the artist who, after extensive travel, work and study in Africa, made South Carolina his home. Combining masterful draftsmanship with assemblage and installation elements, Geter has consistently produced a bold body of work that offers powerful perspectives on the black American experience. These come not only after  one hundred and fifty years since the end of the Civil War and the passing of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution but also in a period when we are asked to consider the value of black lives in today’s contentious world. Using a visceral, figurative approach into which mixed media elements have been freely woven, Geter’s art holds us captive to its aggressive power and intriguing formal resolutions.

Geter’s art descends from one of the most important 20th century development in African American visual culture—the forging of a black figurative tradition. Rejecting the caricature and stereotypic distortions of black physical features, a number of artists early in the last century undertook the sympathetic portrayal of African Americans in the visual arts. A robust figurative production emerged that was affirmed and broadened by artists such as Elizabeth Catlett, and John Biggers. By the third quarter of the last century, black representation had been effectively humanized. Within Geter’s own generation, a “muscular” figurative expression emerged from a number of artists working both in the Midwest and on the East Coast. They helped to roundout the roster of important artists who like Tyrone Geter, have made this tradition a vibrant part of contemporary art and Black life.  

The exhibition at 701 CCA has been curated by Edmund Barry Gaither, director and curator of the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, and consultant at the Museum of Fine Arts both in Boston.  Gaither is known nationally for his important education and museum-related work on the influence of African American artists on the mainstream of contemporary art. He is respected in the museum field in a number or areas and has served in many positions including the American Association of Museums (now American Alliance of Museums) and as president of the African American Museums Association.  

GranniesFor this exhibition Gaither selected works from a number of series by Geter: 1) Ain’t I a Woman, 2) Living in the Light of Hell’s Shadow; 3) Black Works 4) Southern Breeze; 5) Black Lives Matter; 6) Name Calling; and 7) Dark Angels. All of these works have in common a number of traits that strongly distinguish Geter’s oeuvre. First, Gaither noted that the artist “fundamentally embraces the figure and has rooted his creations within that tradition. Second, Geter is not frightened of emotionality, but instead cultivates empathy and stirs passions within the drama of his presentations. He courts humor, and a spirituality reminiscent of the “soul music” and jazz of the era. Third, he welcomes formal challenges, something that bespeaks of his appreciation for underlying elements of abstraction and which tease and extend the visual richness of his subjects. And lastly, Geter’s themes are drawn from his own life and travels as a black American male living through a tumultuous period in the United States and Africa. In his art, he explores perspectives derived from black experiences with race, class, and colonialism.  Despite his attraction to figuration, he has avoided common traps that ensnare such artists. His work avoids empty gestures and maudlin excesses as it rises above mere realistic renderings.”

Gaither goes on to say that “Though not political, Geter’s work comments critically on the myriad ways that racism has distorted black lives. Stinging observations are directed from outside the community as well as from within. For example, as strongly as he indicts white American society for its mistreatment of blacks since emancipation (Hands Up), he equally condemns intra-racial disparagement and negativity within (Calling Me a Bitch Won’t Make You a Man). His critical viewpoints, and the ways in which he has framed them, reach back to forebears such as Sojourner Truth (“Ain’t I a Woman Series”) and Paul Laurence Dunbar (“The Masks”) both known for their piquant observations couched in colorful layman’s language. Simultaneously, Geter’s responds to contemporary voices such as Toni Morrison.”  

In the end this artist is not only inspired by these voices but also stirred to find his own forceful visual expression. Geter creates compositions that indisputably speak of black realities from black perspectives, while they are also profoundly American. Through pathos, humor and acidic commentary, Geter’s art presents a new visual vocabulary for America’s intractable problems of racial justice, social acceptance, and collective healing. BLACK! offers us a lot to see, and to think about, especially now.

This exhibition opens with an artist reception on July 9, 2015 from 7:00 until 9:00 p.m. Members of 701 CCA can attend at no cost. a donation of $5.00 is suggested for all non-members. Support the only art space in the middle of South Carolina dedicated to contemporary art. Become a member of 701CCA and join in supporting the art of today. For further inquiries or high resolution images, contact director@701cca.org or call Sheldon Paschal (803) 319-9949.

            701 CCA is a non-profit visual arts center that promotes understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of contemporary art, the creative process and the role of art and artists in the community. The center also encourages interaction between visual and other art forms.

            701 CCA is located at 701 Whaley Street, 2nd Floor, Columbia, SC 29201.  During exhibitions, hours are Wed, 11-8 Thurs-Fri, 11-5; Sat, 9-5; Sun, 1-5. For more information, visit www.701cca.org.

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