In "Cut Me Loose & Color Me Free," Dennis Winston and John Samuel Greene Jr. share a common voice.
Art of the People
"Cut Me Loose & Color Me Free"
Dennis Winston and John Samuel Greene Jr.
Elegba Folklore Society
101 E. Broad St.
Through Aug. 31
In the Elegba Folklore Society's current exhibition, "Cut Me Loose & Color Me Free," Dennis Winston's splendid woodcut character studies have indeed been "cut loose" to walk the slender wire between fact and idea. Winston's studies of people are specific, depicting those he knows (or knows of) and cares for. One easily comprehends his work and recognizes at a glimpse the nobility he brings out in his characters. But Winston also un-familiarizes them, rendering them with further unfolding depth and intelligence. Whether his figures are champions of small, important moments of friendship or hardship, or are serving one another as guardians, they effectively rise above their identity to advocate for others.
Any art medium, whether it is steel, stone, paint or wood, leaves a distinct mark on the art product. Woodcut is an especially emphatic medium with its vestiges of uncut wood imprinting the background and suggesting trauma and aura interchangeably. Winston's choice of this medium and his deft handling of it are crucial elements in the emotional success of his work. These choices transport the work to a fraternity of mankind outside place and time. This is not generally accomplished in the portrayal of cultural genre scenes, nor necessarily sought, but it rarefies the work.
In the same exhibition, John Samuel Greene Jr.'s mixed-media depictions of village life, both in rural America and in Africa, will delight many. They are constructed like the diorama scenes at natural history museums.
Greene's comparisons and contrasts between American and African life are culturally interesting. Both feature the importance of society in black culture; the interaction and interdependence between family members and friends. The detail-rich stories they tell are anecdotal ideals of life on a good day.
"Mama's Coming" imagines a scene in an African village with the youth engaged in happy activities as two young, pretty mothers approach. The artist ornaments the landscape's textured mud dwellings with decorative motifs, occasionally using bits of textile to achieve that effect. This application of unorthodox referential material is a technique that is occasionally employed by some present-day African artists to invoke the cultural significance of textile design, rather than as a shortcut to an effect.
"Cut Me Loose & Color Me Free" is stuffed tightly into the exhibit area at Elegba. The veteran gallery-goer who is accustomed to a space that is cleared for art will need to adjust to an installation where there is just a breath of wall between each highly charged image. The exhibition is hung so that it jumps back and forth between the two artists, with the intention of proposing a common voice. That voice, or the statement that it articulates, is straightforward. It is that people, connected by purpose, real and legendary, are what bring a story to life, to harmony and ultimately to