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FEBRUARY 4, 2008
© Amir Bey, 2007
Noah Jemisin with Skoto Gallery Co-founder Alix Du Serech
The Flautists Fumiko Toda and Anna Horsany
Mixed media artist Charlotte Richardson Ka and Skoto Aghahowa, Co-founder of Skoto Gallery
Skoto Gallery presents From Childhood Memories through Pangaea, an exhibition of recent paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture of the multi-dimensional artist, Noah Jemisin. Jemisinís work posesses strength and originality in several media, including painting, sculpture, installations, and performance. In addition, Jemisinís themes havenít been compromised by current trends. Does that mean that to a certain degree he may be too nostalgic and not keeping pace with the transformations that time brings? Not if heís maintaining core aesthetic and social concepts that nourish, and through his innovative use and mastery of traditional techniques and media, he refreshes his viewers and audience.

This was experienced by those in attendance at the reception that was held at Skoto Gallery, located at 529 West 20th Street in New York City (it should be noted that Skoto Gallery won the 2007 Village Voice Readersí Poll as New Yorkís Best Gallery). On view were new encaustic paintings whose fluidity and inventive fusion with historical Ėand prehistorical themes rendered new visions. Seven Hats: Monuments to Black Cowboys, gesso, oil, encaustic on canvas, recalls the saga of African American migrants to the West. For some thatís news, for most of us itís a new addition to African American lore thatís been written, filmed, and told in a variety of ways. Yet Jemisinís use of the media, his approach to the traditional space and texture of canvas, makes it a new story. Other paintings were more subjectively abstract, conjuring the energies of encounters between people, or as the four large vertical panels made of slightly brown hued natural cotton installed on the galleryís wall; those panels are an acknowledgement of the place of cotton in the history of the South; it has an undeniable presence in the room, much like the African American presence in U.S history. Yes, Noah can be nostalgic; his performance, where he was dressed in a gray top hat and black tuxedo, included recitals of his words and poems by Omar Khayyam and a duet by two flautists, Fumiko Toda, and Anna Horsany, played Beethovenís Allegron Minuett and Haydenís Duet #6. There was much sentiment; however, Jemisin still combined the new with the old, as these classical works had something modern in their presentation, while his words were delivered with expressive flourishes. An excerpt of his recital and the duet of Toda and Horsany can be viewed by clicking on the NOWSROOM button above.

There is an aspect of courage in Jemisinís work. Sometime ago, he commented on a painterís use of color, that he wasnít ďafraid of yellowĒ; Jemisinís not fearful in the unplanned flow of encaustic technique, nor in his use of bright color, even as the prints in this exhibition show his potency in muted tones as well. Not all artists who are painters are equally strong in sculpture and vice-versa; I felt the deepest response to a mixed media sculpture, Black Satyr, 1993, iron base, metal rod, wire, leather and burnt tree trunk. Black Satyr's theme is the phallus, and through it Jemisin explores combinations of textures, differing densities, volume, the phallus's mythological and historical backgrounds throughout the world and diverse epochs, as well as the history of Americaís fear of the black man as expressed in the castration and other kinds of genital mutilation of African American lynching victims.

From Childhood Memories through Pangaea can be viewed at Skoto Gallery through March 1, located at 529 West 20th Street, 5th Fl., 212-352-8058 Please scroll down to see some photos from the exhibition.
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