Danny Simmons (234849)
Credit: Larry Hilton

March 16 a new art exhibition goes up at the Harlem School of the Arts titled, “Hoppin’ the Hoodåoo Express,” featuring the works of abstract expressionist painter Danny Simmons, curated by Jonathan Patton, HSA Visual Arts Director. The presentation will remain open to the public through May 27 at HSA, 645 St. Nicholas Ave., in New York City.

The show consists of 10 new paintings in which the artist uses collage elements, seamlessly incorporating swatches of patterned fabrics to demonstrate the influence of aboriginal sources on modern abstract, and to show the intersection of African and Western culture.

Simmons describes these particular paintings as “a phase in the evolution of my work and quest to tie contemporary painting to African spiritual practices.” This connective theme can often be found running through a good portion of the paintings created by Simmons, over his long and fruitful career.

“I intend for my art to possess the same healing spiritual qualities that traditional African makers put into their sculptures and painting,” said Simmons. “The hoodoo, or magic, to be found in the work is not in the object itself, but in the intention of the maker.”

Simmons is well recognized as an entrepreneur and philanthropist, in addition to being an artist. For decades, he has been instrumental in promoting artistic exploration in underserved communities in New York City and now in Philadelphia where he resides. He thrives on watching others discover their passion and their talent. This devotion is evidenced by the number of artistic programs he supports through his Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation and the Rush Arts Gallery spaces he has created, where the works of emerging artists hang alongside his own.

The relationship with the Harlem School of the Arts is a natural fit. HSA has served as a training ground for those pursuing artistic knowledge and the pursuit of artistic development across all of the disciplines (music, dance, theater and the visual arts). “Having this important show of Danny’s art at HSA is in keeping with the direction we now envision for HSA,” said Eric Pryor, president of the organization. “We see HSA becoming a center for the arts, attracting community residents and visitors from across the country, and from around the world.”

“Hoppin’ the Hoodoo Express” will open March 16 with a reception at 6:30 p.m. It is free to the public and will run through May 27. In addition, HSA will present “ARTMAKERS: A Conversation with Danny Simmons” April 6 at 7:30 p.m.

For Simmons, the importance of his work as well as this exhibition is quite simple. “My intention is to uplift and connect people to the spirit through my artwork,” he said.

In 1964, internationally acclaimed concert soprano Dorothy Maynor brought a gift to Harlem. Her fervent belief was that world-class training in the arts stimulates the child, strengthens the family and gives pride of ownership to a community. She opened Harlem School of the Arts in the basement of the St. James Presbyterian Church in Harlem at a time when the community suffered severe physical blight, high levels of poverty and few cultural resources for its young people. From toddlers to adults, the students who came through its doors developed an invaluable sense of purpose and focus, whether or not they pursued professional careers in the arts. The school has produced a long and expanding list of talented individuals, who have gone on to successful careers not only in the arts but also across all business fields. Visit www.hsanyc.org.