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Painter Michael Singletary ’72 examines racial violence in Lubin House exhibition
Artwork, accompanied by quotations from W.E.B. DuBois and Langston Hughes, focuses on the African American male experience
The linking of the African American male with violence and how that link is portrayed in art are the subject of “The Artist and the Legacy of Racial Violence,” an exhibition of works by painter Michael Singletary ’72 to be shown Feb. 8 to 28 at the Lubin House Gallery, 11 E. 61st St. in Manhattan.
The Rodney King incident, black-on-black crime statistics, racial profiling and the O.J. Simpson trial were among the inspirations for the works included.
The exhibition-sponsored by the Friends of Syracuse University, the Community Folk Art Gallery, Lubin House and SU’s Program Development Office-is in honor of African American History Month. An opening reception, to be attended by Singletary, will be held 6 to 8 p.m. Feb. 8. The gallery’s regular hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, but visitors are advised to call (212) 826-0320 in advance, as private hours have been scheduled during the exhibition’s run.
Singletary’s work in this exhibition depicts aspects of the African American male experience in contemporary America. “It is a thread that runs through my work from the earliest piece in this exhibition, painted in 1972, to today,” he says. Many of the works are from a series called “The Endangered Species,” painted in 1993 and 1994, which deals with modern-day lynching. According to Singletary, “Music had a large influence on my decision to do this series. About the same time that I was working on my pieces, my good friend, jazz great Bobby Watson, was recording a piece entitled ‘The Endangered Species.’ Billie Holliday’s haunting rendition of ‘Strange Fruit,’ about Southern lynching, was not only the catalyst but the underlying theme that I used throughout these works.”
“Throughout history it is most often the artist who has dared to tell society the truth about itself, be it in song, poetry, drama or the visual arts,” says curator Julia Hotton ’54. “Because much of the black experience in America is inextricably linked to violence-from slavery to the reign of terror that began after emancipation to today’s continuing struggle with police and the justice system-it is not surprising that artists have responded to the subject in a variety of ways.” Hotton designed the exhibition to include examples of the work of writers “who have used their talent and skills in the service of the truth.” Text panels with relevant quotations from W.E.B. DuBois, Ida B. Wells, Claude McKay and Langston Hughes will be interspersed among Singletary’s paintings.
Singletary received a bachelor of fine arts degree from the College of Visual and Performing Arts. He was also trained at a joint program of the Art Students League of New York and Vermont Academy; the Rhode Island School of Design; the University of Ghana, West Africa; the University of Guadalajara, Mexico; and the Fontainebleau Music and Fine Arts Conservatoire in France. He was a recipient of a 2000 New York State Foundation for the Arts grant in painting.
Singletary has participated in more than 200 exhibitions, including shows at The Bayly Museum, the Harlem Studio Museum, the Whitney Counterweight, the Hudson River Museum and the Neuberger Museum. He is the official artist for the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame and his work has been featured in the films “Mo’ Better Blues” and “Jungle Fever,” as well as on such television programs as “The Cosby Show” and “227.” Works from his “The Jazz Series” have been featured on albums by jazz musicians such as Don Pullen, Bobby Watson and Bill Saxton.