Tuesday, August 17, 2010

John Abner - Philadelphia Journeyman Painter

Diligence has its rewards. The Bible confirms it, “… knowing that He rewards those that diligently seek Him.” This is a universal law. Pursuing diligence has a measureable payoff. To survive and thrive as an artist in Philadelphia an artist must be diligent. Today, I am compelled to acknowledge the fortitude of one such diligent Philadelphia artist; John Abner. There are many others. Today it’s about Abner.

As Gallery personnel, on a regular basis, we look at lots of art. Whether during studio visits, CD requests in the mail, online, at opening receptions, the museums, the street artist, art related events, we see tons of Artwork. Bombarded with imagery, we are often “Art Drunk” and numb to the incoming stream of imagery. Consequently, we must rely on varied innate mechanisms to trigger our synapses and cut through the numbness. It takes strong artwork to get the synapses firing.

There are times when something strikes us hard but is not long lasting. At other times, we like and appreciate something that carries us down the road much farther. The keepers grab us and don’t let go of us. Unfortunately, finding everlasting like is the exception and not the norm. Keeping score is difficult. There are many ways we categorize our varied artistic tastes. From a business perspective, “Strong” work generates confidence in trading. This is the artwork we see and return to as the “givens” in our equations of acceptability. This is artwork that holds up on its own across the board; stands up critically against mush of the contemporary work that’s out there. This is the level of artwork that keeps your attention and demonstrates professional confidence. This artist, having put in his time, paid his lumps has learned the many sides of the art business. Many call this the work of a journeyman. Their vision is clearly presented with confidence; their work commands respect.

Recently, I ran into some strong artwork by a mixed-mediast. I’ll be honest, I was caught off guard. My usual bent for the “straight” painter was eclipsed by the power of Abner’s work. I yielded to its strength. Asked to present the artwork on August 28, 2010 at “The fourth Wall Salon” http://www.fourthwallarts.org/, at the Trinity Center for Urban Life, (South) 22nd & Spruce Streets, I met with Abner to preview the work to be displayed. As a side note, Abner, having studied "stain glass", serendipitously became part of the team that rei-installed the stain glass windows at the Trinity Church.

The work came to me! Almost like a reminder of why I am here, the reason why I am fighting for the Philadelphia artist, I was sent prime examples of the awesome “Fine-Art” that exists and is being created here in Philadelphia. Abner, born and raised a Philadelphian, a product of Temple University's Tyler School of Art, beyond his painting talents is a remarkable resource of Philadelphia art history.

Accredited accolades validate his prominence as an accomplished artist, activist and educator. Having coordinated several projects with the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia, he has also exhibited his artwork in juried shows locally and nationally. Abner has been published in several publications including Roll Call: A Generational Anthology of Black Literature and Art by Third World Press.

I am not normally given to spelling out the nomenclature. In this instance, I think it is important to share the caliber of artists that have remained in Philadelphia carving out career paths despite a “Fine-Art” community that has not responded in-kind. I am compelled to share John Abner’s work despite my full calendar here at Knapp. I am convinced similar acknowledgements will bolster my argument of Philadelphia “possessing” the power and ability to nurture and retain solid professional Fine-Artists.

Maybe that’s what I need to do-dedicate a portion of my blog to acknowledging Philadelphia’s journeymen.

Abner has been diligent in designing and creating this contemplative body of work. His work is challenging and will give you pause. With sophisticated and innovative vision John’s imagery is “hooded” or veiled by a barrier, a bold black matrix-esque gridding. Requiring intuitive skills, the viewer is forced to fight through the barrier like a combatant. In time, the viewer’s senses align and discern an appropriate way to focus around the obstruction; solving the puzzle.

The resulting phenomenon: The gridding seemingly dissipates, becomes less combative and falls submissive to the now dominant de-puzzled imagery. Abner showed me a series of these medium-sized mixed-media studies that he will now enlarge into larger works.

Thumbs up!