The abstract painter's first gig as a curator opens next week at Hammond Harkins.
In recent years, admirers of contemporary art in Columbus have taken note of New York artist Alteronce Gumby. He made his Columbus debut at Hammond Harkins in 2016, and in subsequent years, his vibrant abstract paintings have been featured repeatedly at the Short North gallery. Thus, the 32-year-old provided a natural connection between New York and Columbus when Hammond Harkins was looking to participate in I, Too, Sing America, the citywide celebration of the Harlem Renaissance’s centennial.
In August, Gumby was among four artists featured in the group show Northern Suns: A Celebration of the Harlem Renaissance, and the 10-artist exhibit he curated, To Dream Avant-Garde, will be unveiled later this month at the gallery. The latter show—the title is a reference to the famous line “a dream deferred” from a poem by Harlem Renaissance writer Langston Hughes—runs from Sept. 28 through Nov. 11.
“Alteronce is an incredible artist,” says Hammond Harkins co-director Chet Domitz, “but we also wanted him to be able to showcase his curatorial skills.”
Gumby, a Philadelphia native who earned degrees from Hunter College and Yale University, had not previously curated a show on his own at a commercial gallery, but he was eager to join the tributes to the Harlem Renaissance.
“I just wanted to be a part of the celebration and recognition of what those innovators, influencers, artists, poets, philosophers [and] performers have all contributed to the landscape that is New York City,” Gumby says.
To reflect their ongoing legacy, Gumby chose present-day artists who have direct connections to contemporary Harlem. The artists included in To Dream Avant-Garde— Derek Fordjour, Aaron Fowler, Hugh Hayden, Lucia Hierro, Leslie Jimenez, Eric Mack, Faith Ringgold, Tschabalala Self, Tariku Shiferaw and David Shrobe—are natives or residents of Harlem, or have worked there in the past.
“They have some reference of what’s going on in Harlem today or have seen it change from the time they were born to where they are now in their practice,” Gumby says.
His goal was to present an exhibit that illustrated how the ideas of those associated with the Harlem Renaissance remain a touchstone for today’s artists. For example, Gumby connects the style of Romare Bearden to that of several artists in the new show; Dave Shrobe, Aaron Fowler and Tschabalala Self provide a direct linkage to Bearden’s use of magazines and fabrics to form collages in his paintings, he says.
The intellectual legacy of the Harlem Renaissance, Gumby says, is “still kind of festering and fueling, and I feel like the artists of today are carrying that torch of inquiry.”
To Gumby, who also has worked in London and Paris, it is not surprising that something as simple as a place can provide an artist with inspiration.
“Every artist, if they’re a good artist, they’re just a sponge,” he says. “If you’re working in Harlem ... it’s an overflowing well of knowledge, of experiences, of life. It’s nothing short of an abundance of inspiration to just bring back to the studio.”
Hammond Harkins, 641 N. High St., will host Alteronce Gumby for To Dream Avant-Garde’s opening reception on Sept. 28 from 5 to 8 p.m.
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