Bryan Wiley is a photojournalist who has traveled the Atlantic Black diaspora documenting altars and ritual practices by African descendants and in doing so, illuminates continuities in beliefs and customs of descendants of former slave populations. Wiley uses the concept of altar (a high place of veneration) as a vehicle for intersections in art and history. Altars, in many cultures represent sites of ritual communication that often open a pathway to divine consciousness with the supernatural world. They also act as a place of public social interaction and intervention that explores disruption and continuity of African peoples and their descendants.
Wiley has assembled his photographs of altar objects from Brazil, Haiti, Cuba, South Carolina and New Orleans into large ornate frames creating collages that reveal the blurred lines between sacred and secular worlds. Wiley’s assembled images focus on the power of the natural elements, earth, wind, fire, and water as manifest in the deities venerated in the altars. Large photographs of the physical locales and the surrounding landscapes contextualize his interpretive installations creating a quiet atmosphere of reverence. Wiley reveals that the process of visiting the countries, gaining access to the rituals and ceremonies has profoundly impacted his art practice, “Since I’ve been on this journey, I have listened to my spiritual voice more” said Wiley. Lizzetta LeFalle-Collins, Ph.D. Collaborating Curator
The Art of Richard Mayhew represents a complete retrospective exhibition for Richard Mayhew, a nationally recognized, Aptos-based painter. The exhibition features, Mayhew's paintings from the late 1950's through the 1970's, consisting primarily of landscape with some figurative works as well. In 1957, Mayhew enjoyed his first solo exhibition as an academically trained artist and announced his unique style of presenting the natural milieu to the New York art world. During the tumultuous period of social and cultural transformation of the 1960s, Mayhew worked as an artist and an activist most notably as a founding member of Spiral, the legendary group of Black artists including Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, and Hale Woodruff, organized in 1963 to address issues of civil rights and racial equality through their art. Through the 1960s and 1970s, Mayhew establishes his career as an artist tirelessly working with a sense of spiritual depth and freedom of color, form, and space.
The MoAD exhibition explores the personal and professional foundations of Mayhew’s style as a young man of African and Native American descent coming of age in New York during the 1950s explosion of Abstract Expressionist art. It gathers together the best of Mayhew's paintings that combine his unique style, philosophy for painting, and synthesis of artistic and social influences that set the trajectory of his artistic career.
The exhibition catalogue features four critical essays — by art historian and scholar Lizzetta LeFalle-Collins; the exhibition’s curator, Bridget R. Cooks; artist and educator Nashormeh Lindo and, art advisor and author Halima Taha — discuss his beginnings as a painter, his early body of work in New York during the height of Abstract Expressionism, his activist role in a community of African American artists, and the spiritual and philosophical inspiration for his signature "moodscape" paintings. This catalogue offers information and images that have never before been publicly available, plus an extensive career chronology and a bibliography. It is an invaluable resource both for admirers of Mayhew's work and those who are discovering his work for the first time.
The Museum of the African Diaspora would like to first thank Guest Curator, Bridget R. Cooks, Ph.D., and Richard Mayhew, Ina Mayhew, Stan and Marguerite Lathan, Dr. Edward Littlejohn, Lucy Castellanos, Dr. Alphonso and Brenda Belsito, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Newark Museum, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Ball State University, National Academy of Design, and Whitney Museum of American Art for loaning work to the exhibition.