Four downtown area galleries in Fayetteville have started 2016 with a strong presence of nationally and internationally acclaimed artists to share with the region. Visitors should visit all four galleries to experience the full richness of ways in which artists use materials, techniques and form to create meaning. After visiting each gallery your perception will be heightened; you will have a clear understanding about a predilection in late modern and contemporary art — artists are responding to their personal experiences in culture.

Ellington-White Contemporary Gallery, at 113 Gillespie Street, is exhibiting the photographs and sculptures by Willis Bing Davis, an exhibit titled We Wear the Mask: An Ode to Poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. Texture, pattern and found materials become signifiers for meaning as each art object becomes a sum of its parts to create universal meaning — abstraction becomes the real. 

Davis’ artist statement reveals his reality when he states: “My works address myself to the unlimited resources of possibilities of my existence. The conscious inclusion of social commentary in my work is the first step toward speaking to a universal condition. The rich artistic heritage of African art with its religious, social and magical substance is what I select as an aesthetic an historical link … I feel my art should be a natural extension of my existence, bringing to fruition personal images, symbols and forms that most accurately express my perception of life.”

An accomplished artist, Davis is included in prestigious galleries and museums around the world. This list includes, but is not limited to, exhibitions at Studio Museum of Harlem, American Craft Museum, Renwick Gallery, Maryland Institute College of Art, Savannah College of Art and Design, Anacostia Museum, National Museum of Art of Senegal West Africa, United States Embassy Accra, Ghana and Museum fur Angewandte Kunst (Museum of Applied Arts, Frankfurt, Germany). His art can be found in public and private collections in the U. S., England, China, Japan, France, Australia, plus Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Namibiaand Gabon on the continent of Africa.

In strong contrast to the softened edges, textured layers and physicality of the works by Willis Bing Davis, Rosenthal Gallery on the campus of Fayetteville State University, has opened the new year with Explorer of Form and the Beauty of Number by Vandorn Hinnant. Elaborate drawings and minimalist sculptures are all connected to the interconnectivity of that which is beyond the physical for Hinnant — that which is spiritual. Visitors to the gallery will immediately sense order, harmony, balance and a sense of perfection. 

When Hinnant talks about his highly symmetrical, circular and coded works, he references the influences of how he approaches his relationship with images and object making: “My current work is a further exploration and articulation of an ancient knowledge of relationship passed on to and through notables such as Euclid, Archimedes, Plato, Pythagoras, Leonardo Da Vinci, Giordano Bruno, Johannes Kepler, Albrecht Durer, Maurits Cornelis Escher, Buckminster Fuller, Robert L. Powell Sr., Lynnclaire Dennis, and a great many others.”

He continued: “These forms and images are a reflection of the geometries of nature and embody some of the energetic matrices of nature’s pre-material template. These works of art are to serve viewers as a source of inspiration, as a springboard for the imagination, and as a visual bridge between the arts and the sciences… my practice of rendering visible signs of the unseen ‘Implicate Order’ is in keeping with the ancient craft guilds’ directives, and more ancient canons for referencing the Divine Presence in all things. Each work is born out of a deep communion with what I poetically refer to as ‘The Art Spirit.’”

You will leave Hinnant’s exhibit feeling refreshed and “centered.” So it is not surprising some of his commissions/exhibitions include the Cone Health Sickle Cell Medical Center at North Elam Medical Plaza/Wesley Long Hospital Campus in Greensboro, North Carolina; “Together We Rise” public art sculpture in Winston-Salem; Harrison Museum of African American Culture, in Roanoke, Virginia; The North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching in Cullowhee, North Carolina; and the Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia. 

Gallery 208 at 208 Rowan Street is hosting Dwight Smith: an Artist’s Approach to Discovery. Visitors to the exhibit will enjoy seeing how Smith transitions between mediums; each process contributes to his personal meaning or content. For Smith the act of drawing, painting and printmaking is an immediate source of discovery.

The following statement by Smith is the key to understanding how he moves so easily between the different media: “My research and investigations into contemporary painting involve mixed media painting and drawings that are influenced by material surfaces and scale … As an artist the act of discovery involves methods of integrating opposites into a state of harmony and balance. Elements of design referenced in African, African-American or multi-cultural imagery create a catalyst to begin my visual language that informs the work. Through the work I am responding to the tension generated by a resounding past and an insistent present. Each work is a commitment to intimate concerns about painting and the contemporary language of abstraction.”

Some of Smith’s most recent group invitations to exhibit include NAAHBCU National Exhibition: AfroFurturism, at the Tubman African-American Museum, Macon, Georgia; FORECAST: OVERFLOW at the Brown & Juanita Ford Art Gallery, Wayne County Community College in Detroit, Michigan; Earthy Abstraction: Works by Jack Kehoe, Kipley Meyer, Brian Rust and Dwight Smith at the Madison Artists Guild in Madison, Georgia; and Contemporary Works on Paper at the Brandywine Center for the Visual Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Selected solo exhibitions include OBSERVATIONS: Mixed Media Works from Dwight Smith at the Ellington-White Contemporary Art Gallery in Fayetteville; New works by Dwight Smith at the National Conference of Artists Michigan Chapter Gallery in Detroit, Michigan; Peintures, Le Manufacture in Aurillac, France; and National Conference of Artists International Exhibition at the The National Gallery in Dakar, Senegal.

The Arts Council of Fayetteville and Cumberland County is exhibiting Romare Bearden: Beat of a Different Drum and features the original illustrations of Li’l Dan, the Drummer Boy, a Civil War Story.

Romare Bearden is recognized as one of the most creative and original visual artists of the 20th century. This exhibition includes 26 original watercolors from the only book he illustrated in his career. Romare Bearden: Beat of a Different Drum includes the book and text panels with audio narration by the late legendary poet and Civil Rights activist Maya Angelou. 

An important 20th century late modern artist, Bearden’s work is included in many important public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and The Studio Museum in Harlem, among others. He has had retrospectives at the Mint Museum of Art (1980), the Detroit Institute of the Arts (1986), as well as numerous posthumous retrospectives, including The Studio Museum in Harlem (1991) and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C. (2003).

All exhibits will remain open until mid-February and are free to the public. To call about information to visit the galleries or tour information, please call the following numbers: Ellington-White Contemporary Gallery at 910.483.1388; Rosenthal Gallery at 910.672.1975; Gallery 208 at 910.484.6200; and the Arts Council at 910.323.1776.

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