You know what call and response is, right?
If you've ever been to church or attended a rally, you do. Or if you've listened to music -- like James Brown's "Soul Power" -- you know what I'm talking about.
Yep, its when one person poses a question or makes a statement and the like-minded group proffers a reply. In "Soul Power," when Brown sings "What we want?" the JB's ecstatically offer "SOUL POWER!" Got it now?
NIAD (National Institute of Art and Disabilities) Art Center, that local gem of an artist studio program, is currently offering Call & Response, their own take on this classic form of communication. But in their case the exchange is visual not verbal.
You know what NIAD is right? Alright sleepyhead, here goes: formed more than a quarter century ago in downtown Richmond by Elias Katz and Florence Ludins-Katz, NIAD is program that works with talented and developmentally and/or physically disabled adults. A couple of the artists in the program deserve a wider audience, but more on that later. On a good day, about 50 people can be found at work on painting, ceramics, printmaking, sculpture or exercising.
At the beginning of 2008, NIAD sent a selection of their works (mostly drawings and paintings) a few blocks across town to Richmond High School. With some direction from teacher Ivette Hermann, more than a dozen art students reinterpreted the work. The results are fantastic and unexpected. Call & Response pairs up the student' pieces with the artist originals to beautiful effect.
A few of the groupings are a bit like remixes, elements from the original are given some space and a bigger beat in another. A floating duck drawn nearly in close up by a NIAD artist is redrawn by a youth, but in a minimal landscape and from an aerial view. And that's cool.
But the show sparkles when one artist's piece is simply a stepping stone of ideas for another artist. Billy White, whose line contains the force of Optimus Prime, offers a startling and rugged figure drawing that seems to be part man and part dog in contemplation on a murky field of blue, titled Vincent Van (sic) Gogh thinking about his next art piece he is going to be doing. In response Jose Emanuel Gil has offered The Flowers, an almost square drawing of five blood red flowers in various stages of bloom. The sky behind is rendered in pitch black. The earth below a peaty brown. The associations between the two explode, creating a seemingly endless chatter.
Sylvia Fragoso's Untitled is an all-over composition, a semi-abstract number bursting with plants, birds and bugs swaying under some heavy ornamentation. Araceli DeLa Torre's Tri-Bows is a message back. Fragoso's all over-ness arrives intact but DeLa Torre has replaced the figurative elements with some seriously elegant geometry and pattern, swaying majestically under shimmering fields of baubles. DeLa Torre stands up to Fragoso's colorfully labor intensive piece with a labor intensity of her own, as if Fragoso had given her license to be obsessive.
Next up, NIAD needs to invite Richmond High into the studio to collaborate directly on pieces. The results can only be stunning.