Gladys Barker Grauer
Speaking Her Mind: Then and Now
Main Gallery, Gallery Aferro
November 11th 2017 – January 12th 2018
Curated by Adrienne Wheeler
Opening Reception November 11th, 4-8 PM @ Gallery Aferro
Spanning over seventy years of artistic practice, and evidencing, in glorious vivid colors, her unwavering commitment to the radically humane, Gladys Barker Grauer, Speaking Her Mind: Then and Now begins with Grauer’s radicalization as a student in the 1940’s at the Art Institute of Chicago and weaves in and out of moments before and after that helped shape her activism and inform her work. Grauer is a prolific artist who works across multiple media including painting, sculpture, weaving, assemblage, collage, and even doll making. Curator Adrienne Wheeler writes: “Gladys decided I should curate the exhibition. Initially, the exhibition was proposed as a retrospective, to which the artist replied, “I don’t want a retrospective, I’m making new work”, I only mention this for purposes of context, Gladys Barker Grauer is ninety-four years old and maintains an active and vibrant art practice.”
This large-scale exhibition brings together a collection of work, new and old, wherein Grauer tackles issues around the injustices of the criminal justice system, and humanizes those who have been dehumanized and marginalized by racism, poverty and gender bias. Grauer writes: “Artists are recorders of events, society, and the culture in which they live. My art expresses my reaction to and interaction with the struggle of all people for survival. This struggle is motivated by the optimism of beautiful people for their intellectual, financial, social, political, individual, and physical survival.” Third in a 2017-18 quartet of solo shows at Gallery Aferro by women artists of color from different generations, the exhibit and the series derived from Artistic Director Evonne M. Davis’ interest in recognizing artists who were making socially engaged work before this kind of artmaking had a label, let alone dedicated graduate programs.
Grauer’s significant and varied contributions as a culture worker- educator, organizer, curator, originator, agitator, mentor- must be illuminated and honored because they inform our current moment of #blacklivesmatter and the curatorial fight against erasure in regards to both the hyperlocal, and the global. A longform interview between artist and curator, conducted to enhance the visitor experience and the cultural record of Grauer’s incredible life, will be published and distributed at the opening reception and online on November 11.
Grauer’s work is unapologetic, without sentimentality or sensationalism, there are no gimmicks, just straight talk, “Speaking Her Mind: Then and Now”.
Educators and activity planners are encouraged to contact the gallery to book a free tour of the exhibits for their youth or adult groups.
About the artist: Gladys was born in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1923 and grew up on Chicago’s South Side. She attended the Art Institute of Chicago and then moved to New York City where she worked as a freelance artist, became involved in civil rights and political movements, and met and married Solomon Grauer. They moved to Newark, NJ in 1951, raised a family, and continued their community and political involvement. In 1960, she ran as the Socialist Worker’s Party’s US Senate nominee. In 1972 Gladys fulfilled a long-time dream and opened the Aard Studio Gallery in Newark’s South Ward. Through her community-based art gallery Gladys helped launch the careers and critical evaluation of numerous black and brown artists. Her gallery addressed the needs of artists of color by providing a forum for mutual support, professional networking, exhibition and selling of their art, and helped set the stage for the larger appreciation of the creativity of artists of color. Those early tentative steps led penultimately to the Newark Museum’s 1983 exhibition Emerging and Established. This pointed the way to the future of visual arts in Newark and a higher standard of cultural literacy in New Jersey. Gladys’ commitment, support and promotion of the arts reached beyond the walls of Aard Studio Gallery to the larger community. She was a founding member of Black Woman in Visual Perspective, New Jersey Chapter of the National Conference of Artists and the Newark Arts Council, and served on the Boards of Theater of Universal Images, City Without Walls, and the Newark Arts Council.and mentored young art students. Gladys taught commercial art in the Essex County Vocational High School system in Newark. Over the past 60 years Gladys’ artwork has been exhibited locally, nationally and internationally. Since 2006 Gladys has completed four murals in Newark. She continues to inspire the next generation of artists and to creatively express through visual discord, her social, political and personal views. Her work is in many private collections as well as with the Newark Museum, Montclair Museum, Zimmerli Art Museum, Newark Public Library, Morris Museum, Noyes Museum, National Art Library of the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Library of the National Museum of American Art, New Jersey State Museum, Morgan State University, and Johnson & Johnson.
About the curator: Adrienne Wheeler is a multi-media artist, independent curator, arts educator, and advocate for social justice. Through her practice, she addresses the injustices that plague society, particularly those injustices affecting the lives of women and children. Wheeler’s work references various Central and West African ancestral, spiritual, and cultural traditions and investigates the ways in which these traditions (often misunderstood, marginalized, and demonized) have stood as tools of resistance against the inhumanity of slavery and other forms of oppression. These works include wood sculpture, mixed media installation, glass book arts, photography and video. Wheeler’s current works in progress are papier-mache Njorowe or “Belly Masks”, (the body plate of an important female ancestral masquerade belonging to the Makonde People of Southeastern Tanzania and Northern Mozambique), and narratives associated with the white dress. This exploration of the white dress began in 2015 with Provisions, a series of artist books inspired by recordings from the Krueger-Scott African-American Oral History Collection, consisting of over 200 audiocassette recordings of interviews with African-American residents of Newark, NJ who migrated to the city between 1910 and 1970 during the Great Migration. Wheeler, whose mother migrated from the South during the Great Migration, continues to use images of the white dress made by her mother in 1942 for her elementary school graduation; she continues the work through interrogation of the tangible and intangible that sustain people, their traditions, spirituality, and community.
Liminal Gallery, Gallery Aferro
November 11th – December 16th, 2017
Opening Reception November 11th, 7-10 PM @ Gallery Aferro
Bayaht Ham is a local artist living and working in Philadelphia. He is inspired by movies, shows, video games and current fashion trends. His works is displayed in a variety of mediums including paintings, drawings and prints. His street fashion images were in a group show entitled Side by Side at Savery Gallery, summer 2016. His work has also been shown at Off The Wall Gallery at Dirty Franks, Black Cat Tavern on 12th st and Eyes Gallery.
Elevator Installation, 2nd Floor Gallery Aferro
November 11th 2017 – January 12th 2018
Curated by Jacob Mandel
Opening Reception November 11th, 4-8 PM @ Gallery Aferro
Ernestus Jiminy Chald is an experimental radio artist, writer, composer, sound designer, and enigmatographer. His radio work has been broadcast on WPOX FM and featured at the National Audio Theatre Festivals. His literary work has been published by the Journal of Experimental Fiction and Oilcan Press among others. Chald’s work often explores the dark underbelly of human existence. His weekly freeform experimental radio program “The Mind’s Ear” is a category-defying auricular peregrination that transcends what listeners expect to hear on the radio.
For Gallery Aferro’s Elevator Music project, Chald focused on creating pieces that simulate for the listener unconventional elevator experiences. Each of these pieces may be viewed as separate auditory rides on elevators of the mind to destinations unknown. When taking an unfamiliar elevator in a building we have never been inside before, there is a sense of mystery as the elevator ascends or descends to the floor we have selected. Though we may have some idea in our minds of what to expect when the doors open, the reality of what we will experience during the ride itself, and what we will find when we reach our destination, is never quite what we imagined. What will we see when the doors open? Will there be people standing there waiting to occupy the elevator after we vacate it? What will the floor we arrive on smell like? Will there be carpeting? Will the room that is revealed to us once the doors open be bright or dimly lit? Will we be pleased with what we find? Will we even arrive at the floor we’ve selected at all, or will something go terribly wrong along the way that prevents us from reaching our desired destination? When we step inside an elevator, it is impossible to know what we will find once we reach our floor of choice of we ever reach that floor at all. We are submitting ourselves blindly to the mercy of the elevator and its occupants, hoping that it will take us where we wish to go, or at least to a place we can tolerate being. Chald’s pieces for the Elevator Music Project play with this sense of elevatorial mystery. The elevator is a rich source of symbolism. It is the artist’s hope that these pieces will cause the listener to consider the elevator in ways they have not considered it before, and, perhaps, give them something to reflect upon the next time they find themselves in need of vertical transportation.