By: Ari Alex
Pittsburgh had the pleasure of welcoming two new art exhibits, Resurgence—Rise Again: The art of Ben Jones, and Amani Lewis: Subjective Nature, on September 13th at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center. Both of these exhibits encompass a beautiful mix of artistry with political and social justice and will remain on display until December 15th. Both Mr. Jones and Mx. Lewis joined forces with art historian and art/cultural producer and curator, Kilolo Luckett to bring powerful visuals and deep cultural symbolism to the center of its viewer’s attention.
Resurgence – Rise Again: The art of Ben Jones
New Jersey-based artist, Ben Jones, brings his newest exhibit to showcase the art and impact of humankind. Jones uses African symbolism and cultural events to showcase the importance of organizing, and activism, especially among young people to combat these, “Trump times.” Jones’ aim is to spark collective consciousness about saving the planet in terms including, but not limited to, the environment, social justice, building community, and highlighting our history and impact on the world. Jones also heavily references Cuba and Cuban culture in his work to highlight his ties as both an artist and a teacher to the country.
Jones’ uses different textures, colors, and multiple layers to illustrate the not only the pieces in the exhibit, but also the stories behind them, on both a historical and personal level. The exhibit’s main attraction is one of his “wall paper” creations focusing on the impact of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed, 17 year-old teenager from Florida who was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch member. Jones’ uses a private booth like display to showcase his magnificent design. Upon entrance there is one empty chair facing art and on the floor before it are two piles, one of guns and one of flowers. The scene is also set by the sounds Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On and the recording of the 911 call from the neighborhood watch member that killed Trayvon. The display brings forth such an emotional response; one cannot help but to reflect on the current state of the nation.
Amani Lewis: Subjective Nature
Baltimore visual artist, Amani Lewis has graced Pittsburgh with their newest exhibit, Subjective Nature. In this creative mix of media and portraits, Lewis depicts everyday Black folks being everyday Black folks and the beauty that encompasses. Lewis creatively highlights the splendor, humanity, and cultural values of Black folks that are often overlooked, or perceived in a negative context.
Lewis uses their inspiration from classic sculptures and head busts, as well as ancient African practices to depict the true grittiness, resilience, strength, and life experiences that make Black folks so beautiful and relevant. Lewis’ exhibit is so moving it is hard to choose one piece to highlight, but it would be a sin not to mention the impeccable sculpture made entirely out of braided hair as an ode to the history, strength, and longevity of Black hair and its relevance to our culture.
Both exhibits are moving and well-executed displays of history, truth-telling, economic wellness, social justice, and the beauty of our people which I strongly suggest as a must-see. Again, they will be on display in Gallery 1 (Ben Jones) and Gallery 2 (Amani Lewis) at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center until December 15th. There will also be several events to celebrate the current exhibits, such as, a jazz listening and artist talk on October 29th, a film screening, The Art of the Journey, on November 12th, a progressive panel discussion, Seeing Color in Action on November 19th, and a last look panel discussion on December 15th. All Information can be found at https://aacc-awc.org.
ARIELLE E. ALEXANDER, also known as Ari Alex, is a body-positive, intersectional feminist, and personal blogger based in Pittsburgh, PA. She launched her blog, All Things Ari, in 2017 to share her perspective as an everyday Black girl through plus fashion, beauty, advocacy and growth. She uses her platform to support and empower women of color and their businesses. Ari also founded The Queenpin PGH, a community organization existing as a safe space to facilitate the advancement and empowerment of Black women and WOC in the greater Pittsburgh area.