Oakland artist Carolyn Jean Martin’s exhibit “Incidents and Autobiographies”opened at The Jerry Adams Gallery at Berkeley Community College, 2050 Center St, in Berkeley, California runs through April 11, 2014. The opening reception took place March 6,
At the event, the artwork exhibited invoked poignant questions which inspired dialog among viewers in the gallery. Young art students smiled in recognition at pop culture references in the images, including a hashtag # and an at symbol @. An older visitor used a cell phone to look up some phrases on the internet. African American art lovers old enough to remember the nineties responded to a Queen of Rage rap lyric, explaining what afro puffs are to woman from overseas.
“It’s about race and representation and perception of what is blackness in America,” said Martin. “I love Afrofuturism, but this is very present, dealing with what is going on now, in the Twenty-First Century, in our ‘post racial’, ‘post-black’ society. Post-racial society doesn’t exist. It just brings dialog about race to the forefront.”
Ambient musical sounds filled the gallery space as a group of art lovers diverse in age and race gathered around. The music was performed by Steve Card, who said he customized his set to match the overall tone and feel of the artwork on display.
“The concept was to have some sustained liquid sounds like the gold, peppered with sounds of percussion instruments to compliment all of the texture she uses in her paintings,” said Card
The use of metallic materials including gunmetal and gold leaf in her works created a high contrast environment. Her pieces are raised, textured square or rectangular objects in shades of bronze, copper, black, and gold. The colors seemed to reflect the African Diaspora, and both the names and the materials gave the art military, post industrial feeling.
“I’m an American history freak,” said Martin “I am constantly obsessed with themes of war and Americaness. War is very present in American history and culture with our nation having been at war for over a decade now. “
Historically, the military has been as much a fixture in African American lives as rap lyrics and afro puffs. The percentage of African Americans in the military was twice as high as the percentage of African Americans in the US population up until 2005.