Curated by Melvin A. Marshall, Band of Vices announced its inaugural show which opened on Juneteenth (Friday, July 19, 2020). Featuring works by 18 contemporary visual artists. The original artworks presented are driven by masterpieces that we acknowledge today by notable artists like Jean-Michele Basquiat, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Howardena Pindell to name a few.
Since the shutdown, this was my first visit to a gallery and exhibition to view artworks by artists that I know, and those I have now become familiar with. Band of Vices has been on my ‘to go’ list for quite some time so I was excited to be able to attend. When you arrive, there is a beautiful mural that is painted alongside the gallery along with the name of the space. Upon entering Band of Vices, masks were required. Visibly, a Quick Response (QR) code was made available for guests to scan their cameras and a Portable Document (PDF) popped up on the screen. The document shared detailed the name of each piece and the masterpiece that inspired the final works.
Art curator, Terrell Tilford, was present and extended a welcoming energy. He took photos of guests and encouraged that masks be left on in the photos. This, to him, serves as an opportunity for us to ‘document the times: he also noted that the stylistic masks serve as an indication of personal aesthetic— neither sentiment I considered until then.
Although I am used to attending semi-crowded opening ceremonies, and being able to float and meet new people- I did enjoy the intimacy and approachability in Band of Vices as they practiced abiding by the current statutes. I feel like the visit was very traditional outside of the requirements to wear a mask. The space was not over crowded, and people were able to come in and out as they pleased. I liked that the space was not massive, but very intimate and conversational. I felt like I could speak to the guests and the curator with ease.
My eyes were first drawn to an original painting by Calvin Clausell Jr.. In this piece, a Black man stands with his eyes closed. He wears only pants, a beanie, and rubber band on his left arm. The piece is entitled, African Giant which is inspired by the ‘masterpiece’ by Charles White entitled, John Henry. I enjoyed this painting because it was juxtaposed with a glass plank that fades from a dark mustard yellow, upwards to the color black. The glass is reflecting with shatters that seem to be caused by gunshots.
Though these pieces were not created together, they are in conversation with one another. DeShawn Dumas does a great job with this piece, The Dark is The Light. It is inspired by No. 20 (1957) & White Center (1957) by Mark Rothco.
Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to interview two participating artists from this Inagural show, “Masterpiece” for my podcast High Chroma. In the upcoming episodes, Lanise Howard and Eilen Itzel are featured where we discuss their process and ethos behind their work. Eilen exhibited a piece inspired by Jean-Michele Basquiat entitled, Famous Black Artist as an ode to Basquiats’, Famous Negro Athletes.
In this piece, Itzel informs her own visual language from the original masterpiece by Basquiat. She writes, “FAMOUS BLACK ARTISTS AMONGST MANY MORE,” as a reference to all of those who exist on the spectrum of artist who are Black. On the left, a darker brown shade is used in comparison to the right where a lighter brown shade is implemented. Of the four figures, three of them are positioned with pink floral-like images as their eyes gaze away from the viewer. In the background meeting the top of the canvas: red, yellow, and then blue hues welcome two clouds that are featured on either side of the canvas, as the figures float in a multi-chroma space. Her use of bright colors are very fun and exciting, while representing more than the perceived playfulness. The colors are a non-figurative way to represent energies that exist in the Ifa religion traditional to the Yoruba people. I thoroughly enjoy this piece because, by way of color; by way of religious connotation— I feel represented.
My good friend Lanise Howard also presented, featuring her bold painting, Of an Incandescent Memory, inspired by Madonna Litta by Leonardo da Vinci. Her painting pushes passed the original as she has informed herself (literally) onto the canvas; challenging the idea of herself bearing child and breastfeeding— in her eloborately idealized space. Her color palette helps reimagine this space that exists parallel to this current time.
"I wanted to re imagine the composition and combine it with elements of the digital and infuse elements of the deep past...My intention with this work is to tell a story of the past bridged by the uncovering of a repressed memory, time travel; the pixelated elements acts as a code, as something in transit"
-Lanise Howard with Band of Vices-
My visit was fun and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.