Community art is a timeless expression of experiences that communicates philosophical, social, spiritual, cultural, and political ideas. This art helps to create bonds, influence society, and support community identity— illustrating the collective history of a neighborhood that only residents can tell.
Harlem Art Then and Now is a celebration of community and contemporary art. Selections from both New York State’s Harlem Art Collection and the work of current Harlem artists outside of the collection pays tribute to the many styles of American art which were the foundations to broader movements. Today’s artists, anchored by the Harlemites who helped set the tone for artist collectives and Black art in America, prove an ongoing rebirth of ideas that continue to uplift the social, economic, cultural and geopolitical experience of humanity.
The visual lens of these artists, the array of subject matter, color, form, and style, symbolism and perspective, narrate authentic stories that illustrate a connection to their influences. Imperative to realization, these works of art are firmly rooted in the expressions and inspirations of Black experiences. Who the artists are and what the artists determine to define is a visual palette for their artistic heirs.
Top Image: Charles Searles, Two Dancing Figures, 1976, oil on paper
Two Dancing Figures, 1976, oil on paper
NYS Harlem Art Collection
Searles’s Dancer series was inspired by a trip to Africa and his love for percussion instruments, particularly the congas. Two Dancing Figures incorporates both bright and colorful African imagery and musical movement.
The First African Son, 2019, oil on canvas
“Artist of the First Kind” - My art is a gift to myself and others, it reflects my heart and soul. I want my art to be significant and real to all who experience it. Since life means change my art is always changing which is a part of the cycle of life.
Dances of the Voodoo Goddess Ezili, 2016, collage and acrylic on canvas
As Artist and Art Curator, I am in pursuit of exploring vestiges of the creative process through the windows of visual curiosity and self-determination all in a quest for art-making as Spirit-driven energy to inspire. My image making speaks from Soul to Soul in every imaginable way creating civilizations.
Malcolm X Pilgrimage to Mecca, 1964, collage reproduction
Katherine Harrison, New York resident, is a self-taught collage expressionist whose creative process is through meditation. She is also a mental health Wellness advocate.
The image, Malcolm X Pilgrimage to Mecca, 1964 is inspired by her own personal journey of spiritual discipline and empowerment.
Cornerin', 1976, acrylic on canvas
NYS Harlem Art Collection
A self-titled Afrocentric artist, Pheoris West incorporates African imagery throughout his work:
Africentricity is what explains the structure of my art work while not neglecting the aspect of making art. Making the art comes from a passion to create that artists are blessed with. Making artwork is a way of creating life.