Addison Gallery of American Art

Phillips Academy

Andover, MA



Point of Reference: Frederick Hayes, Glenn Ligon, Gary Simmons, and Kara Walker


"Point of Reference" includes the work of four African American artists: Frederick Hayes, Glenn Ligon, Gary Simmons, and Kara Walker. Featuring "drawings" ranging from large-scale portraits and silkscreens on canvas to video projections and site specific wall drawings, the show examines the critical role that historic, literary, and/or cinematic references play in each of the artist's work. Through these sources, these artists investigate present-day issues of ethnicity, identity, gender, and social relations. (left: Frederick Hayes, Stick, 1998-2000, charcoal on paper, Courtesy of the artist)

While all art begins with a reference point, these four artists create art works with a particularly strong connection to their source material. They also strive to lead the viewer to a greater understanding of that material, whether it be cultural, social, or historical in nature, through art.

Frederick Hayes is a San Francisco-based artist who makes arresting large-scale charcoal portraits of the everyday people who populate the city streets. While the artist's familiarity with his subjects gives them a particular intensity, the monumental drawings also possess a universality. Animated by his bold, expressionistic strokes, Hayes's enigmatic figures invite multiple meanings. Hayes received a B.F.A. and M.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute and recently received a Bay Area Award from New Langton Arts. (left: Frederick Hayes, Untitled (Young Man), 1998, charcoal and pastel on paper, Courtesy of the artist)

Glenn Ligon's recent drawings combine image and text among layers of coal dust, glue, and silkscreen ink. Ligon uses quotes from author James Baldwin and excerpts from Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan's speech at the Million Man March as well as manipulated news photographs of the March in combinations that push the limits of legibility. The resulting images draw the viewer in with sensuous surfaces while the underlying figure and text fragments make potent statements about visibility and invisibility, voice and voicelessness. Ligon received a B.A. from Wesleyan University in 1982 and completed the Whitney Museum Independent Study Program in 1985. His work has been featured in numerous solo exhibitions and is represented in museum collections throughout the United States.

Gary Simmons deftly references American popular culture in his work with biting wit and social commentary. His recent large-scale chalk wall drawings mix material and message in alluring, often explosive ways. By blurring image and content through hand-erasing, Simmons probes the capacity of nostalgic, oddly familiar images to house memory and meaning. His recent videos of skywriting further explore the power of obscured imagery. The subjects of Simmons' recent wall drawings take the form of dreamlike recollections, communicated in the form of disparate images culled as much from legends formed on film, in magazine, and in the world of sports as from what was included in, or omitted from, history books. Simmons will create two new site specific wall drawings for this exhibition. Simmons received a B.F.A. from the School of Visual Arts in 1988 and an M.F.A. from The California Institute of the Arts in 1990. He lives and works in New York. (left: Frederick Hayes, Untitled (Karo), 1998-2000, charcoal andf graphite on paper, Courtesy of the artist)

Kara Walker is a painter and printmaker who is best known for her disarming, yet caustic antebellum slave narratives that derive from African-American history. Walker uses the old-fashioned and genteel medium of paper cut-out silhouette to create shocking tableaux that are simultaneously beautiful and horrific. Layered with parody and irony, these scenarios use racial stereotypes to reveal the complexity of race relations past and present. Walker was born in Stockton, California in 1969, earned a B.F.A. from Atlanta College of Art in 1991 and an M.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1994. She currently lives in Providence, and recently received a prestigious John D. and Catherine MacArthur Foundation Achievement Award.

Exhibition curator Thelma Golden, Deputy Director of Exhibitions and Programs at The Studio Museum in Harlem, will conduct a gallery talk on Saturday, October 7 at 2:00 pm The talk is open to the public, free of charge.

rev. 10/11/00

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This page was originally published in Resource Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for more information. rev. 4/4/11

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