Art exhibition: “Figures, Light and Abstraction,” at UH Hilo Campus Center, open to public through April 12

The exhibition, featuring acclaimed Black artists, is a sampling of four distinct approaches to form and visual media.

Three pieces of artwork in reds and black.
The exhibit, “Figures, Light and Abstraction,” features the artwork of (clockwise from top left) James Brown, Cynthia Hawkins, and Debra Priestly. Also in the showing is the work of Ashley Cole.

By Susan Enright.

The public is invited to an art exhibition at the University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo campus featuring the art of acclaimed Black artists from throughout the country.

The exhibition, “Figures, Light and Abstraction,” is running Feb. 1 through April 12, 2024, at the Campus Center, room 301. Hours are Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., closed weekends and holidays.

The group show features the art of James Brown, Ashley Cole, Cynthia Hawkins, and Debra Priestly.

Lamerol Gatewood pictured
Lamerol Gatewood
Michael Marshall pictured.
Michael Marshall

Exhibition presentation coordinated by Professor of Art Michael Marshall, director of the Campus Center Gallery, with support by members of the UH Hilo Black History Month Planning Subcommittee and students enrolled in a special topics gallery management practicum (Art 294).

“This is in conjunction with the calendar of Black History Month and Women’s History Month events,” says Marshall. “Students enrolled in my introduction to gallery management course were engaged with the exhibition preparation and installation.”

Curator of the exhibition is Lamerol Gatewood, an acclaimed contemporary visual artist from Brooklyn, NY.

“The figure has been represented since the beginning of time in a myriad of ways,” says Gatewood in his curator statement. “This exhibition is a sampling of four distinct approaches to form and visual media.”

The artists

James Brown presents a series of collages that create “illusory conjunctions.” His experimentation is described as “bold, positively irreverent, and demands the viewer come to terms with what they have witnessed.”

Image of Christ and another image of Black person's nose and mouth.
“Turbulent Changes,” by James A. Brown.

Ashley Cole’s abstract work is created with unstretched canvases saturated in brown and black tones inspired by all shades of melanin to convey an interpretation of mental, spiritual, and physical freedom.

“What aids in my evolution as an artist is the studying of historically black abstract artists such as Mary Lovelace O’Neal, Sam Gilliam, and Al loving,” says Cole in her artist’s statement. “I am on a personal mission beyond influence that derives from my subconscious and my need to create meaningful experiences through abstraction.”

Cynthia Hawkins’s monoprints explore color and form meant to evoke the jazz idiom of call and response. Her practice engages contemplation of “natural forms, astronomic forms, maps, and interstellar locations to construct and reconstruct positionality and distance.”

Debra Priestly’s work is represented with a selection from her black and white “Mattoon Series” that recalls memory, ancestry, history, and culture through paper pattern cutouts that inspire close inspection. The work is meant as a visual preserve of “great aunts intricate handmade lace tablecloths and great grandmothers canning for the winter months.”

Art exhibit, art hanging on cement walls of the Campus Center.
The exhibition, “Figures, Light and Abstraction,” is running Feb. 1 through April 12, 2024, at the Campus Center, room 301, at UH Hilo. Hours are Monday through Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., closed weekends and holidays. (Photo: Art Department/UH Hilo)

Story by Susan Enright, a public information specialist for the Office of the Chancellor and editor of UH Hilo Stories. She received her bachelor of arts in English and certificate in women’s studies from UH Hilo.