Rain Pryor Challenges Race and Visual Artist, Willie Cole Reflects on Harlem
Sometimes all it takes is a title to pique one’s interest, and with one such as “Fried Chicken and Latkes,” you’re bound to ignite a few mind sparks. In this one-woman show by Rain Pryor (daughter of the legendary comedian and actor Richard Pryor), the comedienne challenges the status quo of race relations by revealing her own personal struggles as a biracial woman. “I show the differences between the two halves, Jewish and Black, and the comments people make when they don’t think.”
Pryor hopes that her show will create greater unity by challenging the very concept of race. “I try to bring us back to see that we are divided by culture and religion. We are not divided by race,” she protests. “There is no such thing as race. We are the human race. We have this whole idea in our heads since slavery to look at each other like we are crazy and, it’s like really?”
You might find yourself asking yourself “Really?” after viewing the latest exhibition by renowned visual artist Willie Cole. In “E Pluribus Unum” at Grounds for Sculpture, Cole repurposes plastic water bottles to create a nine foot tall inverted pyramid chandelier and automobile sculptures. The works reference environmental, clean water and oil issues along with offering a critique on consumer culture. “I thought about those issues around water and plastic,” says Cole. “So the car represents the fuel we burn and the water bottle represents the potential for cleanliness and clean air. That’s what came to me in the process of making these pieces.”
While plastic bottles may have inspired his latest exhibition, Cole also reflected on a general source of inspiration: Harlem. During our conversation, Cole noted how Harlem helped propel him forward in the art world as an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem and through his work with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and The National Black Theatre. “Harlem for me was the door because I had been in Newark making great art and not getting attention in New York City,” he says. “When I walked the streets of Harlem it made me feel important like I was stepping in some great footsteps. I met all the Black artists I had read about and it fueled me to pursue my dream as an artist.”
A few Harlem arts and culture notables participated in the African Film Festival, Inc. annual “Family Day Celebration” on Governors Island. The family-friendly event included including storytelling by Malika Leigh Whitney, double-roped fun and fitness led by The Double Dutch Dreamz and needle arts with Michelle Bishop of Harlem Needle Arts. These activities were only a portion of the day’s offerings of free African short films, African dance classes and affordable African cuisine.
Speaking of reasonable prices, the latest exhibition, “SMALL,” at Art in Flux Harlem aims to make art affordable. Curated by Daniel Pizarro the exhibition features modestly sized artworks by 18 artists with the intent to appeal to those with limited wall space and limited budgets. According to Pizarro, “The notion of access was very much in our minds when we were putting this exhibit together. We felt it would be an opportunity to offer moderately priced small artworks that could be attainable to a wider audience of art enthusiasts.” Indeed, Pizarro’s concept is but one of many examples of artists and galleries seeking alternative ways to build a larger audience for art.
With a similar goal of cultivating a wider market for artists, “eMerge: Danny Simmons & Artists on the Cusp” will hold its closing reception on Thursday September 6th from 6-8PM at Strivers Gardens Gallery.
The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.