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Celebrating, Challenging with “Raw Nerves”

  • Warren Lyons's portrait of jazz great John Coltrane.
    Warren Lyons's portrait of jazz great John Coltrane.
    ©2010 wcleoart drawings & paintings
  • Lyons's captures the dignity and anger of Harriet Tubman.
    Lyons's captures the dignity and anger of Harriet Tubman.
    ©2010 wcleoart drawings & paintings
  • A painting by Jeffrey Kent.
    A painting by Jeffrey Kent.
    2010 www.rarahphoto.com

Location: Kohl Gallery

October 21, 2014
This is the final week to enjoy the Kohl Gallery show by artists Jeffrey Kent and Warren Lyons, whose works pay homage to black leaders and pointedly illustrate racism and inequality. The show runs through Friday, December 5, 2014.

CHESTERTOWN, MD—Two artists who capture the African-American experience through very different styles are showcased in an exhibition that opened Thursday, October 16, in the Kohl Gallery at Washington College. “Raw Nerves: Homage and Provocation, Jeffrey Kent and Warren Lyons” explores the racial divide that has defined much of America’s social, economic and political history. 

A free reception with the artists officially opened the exhibition that Thursday evening, and each artist returned to campus to talk about his work: Warren Lyons spoke Friday, October 17, and Jeffrey Kent spoke Tuesday, October 21. 

Baltimore-based artist Jeffrey Kent makes bold, provocative statements, layering vibrant colors and elements of mixed-media collage with authentic references to historical elements such as slave-picked cotton and racist Golliwog dolls. The Kohl Gallery show will include a mix of his paintings and sculptural work. 

Kent earned a master of fine arts degree from the Maryland Institute College of Arts, where he was recently artist-in-residence and guest lecturer. He has shown in numerous exhibitions in Maryland, including Preach! New Works by Jeffrey Kent at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and For Whom It Stands: The Flag and the American People at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture. He co-founded Unexpected Art Space, a pop-up gallery that now operates in two locations in Baltimore City.

Warren Lyons is a cum laude graduate of Adelphi University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. He also holds a post-master’s certification in social work from Hunter College; at least one reviewer has noted that his art reflects his “ongoing love for both art and psychology.” Lyons’s paintings and drawings have been featured in numerous exhibitions, including in the Ashok Jain Gallery in New York City, where he lives.

On exhibit in “Raw Nerves” will be six of Lyons’s bold, intricately wrought portraits of historical figures who were key influences on civil rights, social justice and American culture. From Sojourner Truth to John Coltrane, Lyons captures these iconic figures in a visceral way that rises far above mere documentation. “The unconscious and inexplicable emerges and overtakes the primary image,” the artist has said of the portraits. “Consequently, the familiar and the unnamable co-exist beside, within, around and throughout that which is immediately discernable.”

 “Raw Nerves” is co-curated by Alex Castro, an artist and architect who serves as interim director of the Kohl Gallery, and Alisha Knight, an associate professor of English and director of the Black Studies Program at Washington College. 

“I see elements of confrontation and celebration in their work, and I’m looking forward to seeing how others react,” says Professor Knight of the two artists. “Notions of race, class, sexuality, and privilege continue to be sensitive, raw subjects for many people. I hope that visitors will find the works moving.  Better yet, I hope they feel provoked and that, rather than repress any emotions the pieces may stir up, they push themselves to contemplate whatever is at the core of their reactions.”  

The exhibition is co-sponsored by the College’s Black Studies Program and by the Charles Sumner Post #25 of the Grand Army of the Republic, which recently renovated its historic building in downtown Chestertown. First built in 1908 by African American veterans of the Civil War as a social gathering place, the G.A.R. post is now a venue for community events and cultural programing. “One of our goals is to increase interest in fine art and the pleasures of a gallery visit,” says GAR program director Robert Earl Price, a poet and playwright who lectures at Washington College. “This show by two young African American artists is a wonderful opportunity, and we’re pleased to support it.”

“Raw Nerves: Homage and Provocation” will continue through December 5. The Kohl Gallery is located in the Gibson Center for the Arts on the College campus, 300 Washington Avenue. It is open Wednesday through Sunday, 1:00 to 6:00 p.m. (closed Monday and Tuesday and Thanksgiving). For more information, email kohl_gallery@washcoll.edu

– Kaitlyn Fowler ’17

Last modified on Dec. 2nd, 2014 at 4:04pm by .