A couple of years ago as part of my baseling experience, I went to the “Ink Art Fair: Contemporary Prints and Drawings” at the Suites of Dorchester in Miami Beach. It was there that I talked with Pia Gallo of Pia Gallo Gallery who showed me a display of Jean Michel Basquiat’s notebook along with a drawing that was torn from his notebook. I thought, “my times have changed.” “Looks like works on paper are no longer the stepchild of the art world,” I said to Pia.
It was at that moment I thought of investigating works on paper by African American artists at Art Basel. I would focus on these artists. Instead of meandering around through the maze of booths in confusion, I would have a plan. With over 200 galleries vying for attention, it is easy to get lost in the maze of outstanding artwork if one does not have a game plan. So I compiled a list of artists from articles on the internet with a brief summary of the artists’ work.
I even went into a different entrance. I entered on Washington Avenue— shorter lines and indoors. Talk about a new approach! I took my notebook of the Black artists I had seen in 2012 and narrowed it down to works on paper. After pairing artists with galleries with the help of the staff at the information desk, I charted my course for the day’s venture.
As I began my planned route, I suddenly thought of my favorite artist Jacob Lawrence but quickly dismissed the idea since I had forgotten to check to see if any of his works were there. Hardly a minute had passed when I stumbled upon “Bus” by Lawrence at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery. God was looking fondly on me, I mused.
My excitement at finding Lawrence’s work subsided as I pondered the scene in the painting. It was in his signature gouache on paper with brown, blue and red color scheme. It depicted life in the segregated South. The painting showed a bus with whites comfortably seated and blacks jammed in the back with empty seats separating the two races. Two worlds on one bus. Quiet symbolism permeated the painting as is typical of Lawrence’s work.