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Corridor Gallery to highlight the role of Black artists as activists

DAMASO REYES | 4/12/2011, 5:30 p.m.

The role of the artist in any society is not simply to create beautiful things, but to challenge the way citizens see themselves and the world around them. All too often, artists in the contemporary art scene are so preoccupied with selling their art and making money that they see any meaningful statement they might make as an afterthought at best. The Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College has partnered with the Danny Simmons Corridor Gallery and the National Conference of Artists New York to present a new exhibition, "Black Artist as Activist," which opens on Sunday, January 31 at 4 p.m. at the Corridor Gallery in Brooklyn.

"From all over the country, from the 1960s to the present, Black artists have used politics as legitimate themes in their creative process. In many cases, some of these artists have found social change to be the only viable avenue of their artistic expression," exhibition co-curator and Corridor Gallery founder Danny Simmons said in a statement.

Over a dozen artists from many different disciplines have been gathered together for what may prove to be a groundbreaking exhibition. Participating artists include Regina Agu, Andrea Chung, Kevin E. Cole, Sheryl Renee Dobson, Khalid Kodi, Zoraida Lopez, Joanna Mcfarland, Jasmine Murrell, Shani Peters, Terrance Sanders, Malik Seneferu, Ademola Olugebefola and Derick Cross, among others.

"The artist, in a sense, has no choice but to be an activist, an advocate and transformative agent for depicting the issues of injustice that we as a nation and society should be aware of if we are concerned about promoting peace and equity," said Brenda M. Greene, Ph.D., the executive director of the Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College. "We as a culture and people must do more to support, nurture and protect our artists. They are our visionaries, our witnesses who ensure that we document our lives and experiences. They have made conscious decisions to live and think outside the box. They uncover assumptions and challenge us to think about the images, words and social and political situations that we encounter on a daily basis. Our artists also forecast future directions for Black artists," she added.

For years, the Corridor Gallery has been a safe haven for emerging artists who have not yet found a home in the cutthroat world of New York's commercial art scene. As rents have increased, the opportunity for commercial galleries to take chances on young and emerging artists has shrunk to the point where these potential art stars are leaving New York in droves for the cheaper climes of smaller and, in some cases, international cities. Artists of color, always marginalized, have been especially impacted for the past two decades. The space for art which advocates has also been affected -- which makes this show so important.

"Black Artist as Activist" is on view at the Corridor Gallery, located at 334 Grand Avenue in Brooklyn, through March 28. An opening reception will be held on Sunday, January 31 from 4-6 p.m. For more information, please call (718) 230-5002.