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Visual Vanguard: An Exhibition of Contemporary Black Carolina Artists

Past Exhibition
  • About This Exhibition

    Visual Vanguard is an examination of twenty-five artists who create in a variety of vibrant and versatile media. This exhibition surveys the struggles, strengths, and celebrations of Black creativity in the Carolinas through visual art, performance, video, and poetry. By examining the ambiguity and origination within retakes and variations, each artist amplifies the ideals of racial pride, social power, identity, and the importance of heritage and culture.

    Guest curators, David Wilson and Stephen Hayes, Jr., sought a mosaic of styles that range from didactic to reductive. Their collective vision provides a framework for significations that are inversed and opportunities where form and content merge. Consideration was given to content that is disassociated from its original meaning, ultimately exposing the artist’s process. By demonstrating the omnipresent lingering of “southern roots,” Wilson and Hayes assembled these artists in an attempt to grasp and translate language. Transformed into art, language becomes an ornament at times, and at other times a weapon. At that moment, lots of ambiguities and indistinctness – which are inherent to the southern Black experience – come to the surface.

    These rich creative traditions are paralleled by visual traditions that typically are symbolic in form or concealed from view in order to escape social censure or destruction. Working with natural talent and formal training, and often employing cast-off objects and unconventional materials, these artists have created visually compelling works that address some of the most profound and persistent issues in American society, including race, class, gender, and faith.

  • Opening Celebration Recap

    Enjoy this recap of our opening celebration on August 28, 2021. Be sure to join our email list to stay abreast of upcoming events and programming related to this exhibition.

  • About The Curators

    David Wilson

    David Wilson is a Durham-based, Independent Artist whose creative ties stretch back to the Chicago Black Renaissance of the 1930's and 1940's.

    Wilson's early fascination with the New Negro Movement and Harlem Renaissance lead him to study art at Hampton University (Hampton, VA). While there, he studied under nationally recognized art critic and educator, Dr. Jacqueline Bontemps – a trained student of Aaron Douglas and David C. Driskell. Additionally, Wilson served as a Mentee to Visiting Artists, Dr. John Biggers and James Phillips. Biggers’s legacy as a student while at Hampton was his tutelage under Charles White and Elizabeth Catlett, while Phillips was a student of Weusi and AfriCobra, two groups that led the Black Arts Movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Through the influence of these iconic artists Wilson developed his own personal style of creating that has been recognized as "fresh" and "monumental."

    Wilson has exhibited both nationally and internationally. From New York to Miami as well as Germany and Spain. Wilson’s work is received with awe and admiration in a myriad of mediums, from portraits to hand-painted art glass murals to free-standing sculptures.

    David Wilson's work is included in well-known celebrity collections as well as private collections. His works have been specially created for public commissions for Princeton University, the city of Charlotte, the city of Durham, and the Department of Parks in Raleigh.

    Through collaboration, Wilson embraces his role as a creative facilitator that helps shape an understanding on how art connects with community as an urban space and how its territory, trajectories, and interpretations combine to separate it from surrounding non-urban environments. A primary driver in his work is creation for interpretation by all with an overall goal to foster introspection, communication, and provide a platform for education.

    Stephen L. Hayes Jr.

    Stephen L. Hayes Jr. grew up in Durham with his older brother, Spence, and his mother, Lender, who were pivotal in shaping and sparking his creative approach. When Hayes was in first grade, he broke a remote-control car. His brother took it apart and attached the motor to a battery, bringing it back to life. Amazed, Hayes began breaking all kinds of things to see how they worked and what he could create with the pieces. By second grade, his mother had given him a real workbench; she and Hayes’ brother would also bring home abandoned equipment for tinkering. Working with his hands took many forms and by high school, he learned to crochet.

    Hayes earned a Master of Fine Arts in sculpture at Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta. His thesis exhibition, "Cash Crop," has been traveling and exhibiting for nearly a decade. In his work, Hayes uses three symbols: a pawn, a corn, and a horse to explore America's use (or misuse) of black bodies, black minds, and black labor. Artists, he believes, are as much translators as they are creators. He started teaching at the college level in 2011; currently, he is an associate professor of sculpture at Duke University. He is the 2020 winner of the 1858 Prize for Contemporary Southern Art awarded by the Gibbes Museum of Art (Charleson, SC). He currently creating a monument for the Colored Troops that marched through Wilmington, NC. “Boundless” is slated to be unveiled November 13, 2021. Stephen continues to create and exhibit artwork publicly and privately.

  • Artists In This Exhibition

    Carla Aaron-Lopez
    Endia Beal
    Dare Coulter
    Steven M. Cozart
    de’Angelo Dia
    Janelle Dunlap
    André Leon Gray
    Clarence Heyward
    Percy King
    Marcus Kiser
    Georgie Nakima
    Dimeji Onafuwa

    Jermaine Powell
    Lakeshia T. Reid
    Sheldon Scott
    Beverly Y. Smith
    William Paul Thomas
    Telvin Wallace
    Torreah "Cookie" Washington
    Tony Weaver
    Aniqua Wilkerson
    Antoine Williams
    Jason Woodberry
    Stephanie J. Woods

  • Media Coverage
Preview The Exhibition

Works From Visual Vanguard

Here are some of the works included in the Visual Vanguard: An Exhibition Of Contemporary Black Carolina Artists exhibition.

Plan a visit to the Gantt Center to view these and other impactful works in person.

William Paul Thomas, Nellie Mae's Son, 2017, oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches.

Georgie Nakima, Ankh, 2018, mixed media on canvas, 12 x 36 inches.

Stephanie Woods, What Glitters Ain’t Always Gold II, 2020, family photos transferred onto hand-cut and sewn quilt tops, textile foil, heat transfer vinyl, Sharpie, textile paint, and polished furniture vinyl, 6 x 9 feet.

Antoine Williams, Portrait of a Super Predator Who was Made to Believe She was Cute to Be Dark, 2018, acrylic on acrylic skin, 36 x 72 inches.

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