Thursday, October 19, 2006

Benny Andrews



I just got the sad news today from a former colleague who is working on an exhibition of the artist's work that Benny Andrews is ill with inoperable cancer. I find myself stunned into a furious stillness. Benny Andrews was one of my favorite artists as a child, I was in a funk for months because I saw a piece of his in a black-owned gallery and knew there was no way my family could afford to purchase it. That piece was speaking to me, and I've held an image of it in my head for decades now with the fantasy that I would track it down. The piece was a highly textured portrait of two nude women from the waist up, waiting behind a minimal structure representing a barbed wire fence.




At one point I imagined doing an homage to it with actually wire woven through canvas and bullets, but I ended up doing sound art not visual. Recently I have been working on pieces dealing with waiting. An unconscious homage I imagine.

In this entry some images from his prolific 30+ years of painting. Andrews was a key member of the black visual arts movement in the 60s and 70s and has worked figuratively for most of his career. (above right: North Bound (Langston Hughes Series) 1996; above left: Southern Pasture, 1963; middle left: The Blacksmith, 1988; middle right: War Mementos, 1966; below left: Morning Song (Musical Interlude) 1999; below right: Dream Variations (Langston Hughes Series) 2005)

The family has asked that people not call, but letters are welcome.
Benny Andrews
P.O. Box 1222
Litchfield, CT
06759

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I loved Benny Andrews! He was such a generous and sincere man. I loved the way he would travel to exhibit his work all across the country. If a New Black Gallery or Museum was opening you could count on him to be the very first artist to show there. What a generous soul. God bless him and his family.

 
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