Sunday, September 27, 2009

Spanierman Gallery to Showcase "Danny Simmons-From There to Here"

East Hampton, NY - Spanierman Gallery, LLC at East Hampton is pleased to announce the opening on October 8, 2009 of the exhibition, Danny Simmons: From There to Here, featuring abstract, radiantly gestural paintings created by the artist over the course of fifteen years, in which he has sought to reveal a spiritual presence beyond that of the art object’s physical properties. Drawing inspiration and motivation from the African contemporary and indigenous art and other tribal examples that he has collected over the course of many years (his collection numbers close to 2,000 items), he is motivated by a desire to think about spirituality and to seek a way to access, channel, and touch it through the creative process. Simmons views a painting as similar to a message in a bottle or a spiritual emanation that when sent out into the world encompasses a realm of experience and a life of its own beyond that of its creator.

A self-taught artist, Simmons evolved his work through studying all of the major art-historical movements. Eventually he developed a strong interest in Surrealism, encompassing the work of Miró, Dalí, and André Breton, in particular. A turning point for Simmons was his discovery of the art of the Cuban artist Wilfredo Lam (1902-1982), whose paintings combining modernist styles with those of the indigenous arts of the Americas, were admired by and exhibited in the late 1930s alongside those of his friend Picasso. Simmons was drawn to Lam’s expression of a humanism transcending the individual and to his effort to liberate the African heritage in Cuba from cultural subjugation through a conveyance of its spiritual basis. Another important influence for Simmons has been the art of the contemporary African-born painter Ouattara, who blends African and Western subjects through physically diverse materials and totemic, mythic imagery, expressing the way that personal identity today is hybrid in nature, bringing together experiences of colonial and postcolonial history.

Danny Simmons - Beyond Heaven’s Gate, 2008 Oil on canvas 36 x 36 inchesDeveloping from these sources, Simmons’s earlier paintings often incorporated figurative elements and specifically referenced such work as the bark paintings of the Pygmy people of the Ituri Forest of the Congo and Kente textiles from Ghana and Sudan. Gradually he developed his own visual language, using line, color and form as conduits for capturing the spiritualized essence of this work and making it his own. Rising at 5 a. m. to paint, Simmons works surrounded by silence, letting his canvases speak and evolve with their own rhythms and voices. A color is usually the starting point for Simmons. Mixing paint from powdered pigments, he will bind layers together and build up surfaces and then often peel or scrape them away, so that his method, as in a divination ritual, conveys us beyond the realm of the physical. With their dense textures, in which writhing color has a kinetic force that seems self-generated and glistening presences hover within palpable atmospheres, Simmons’s paintings function as objects of power and mystery. While there are resonances here of Picasso, Pollock, and Surrealism, Simmons pulls together disparate threads to come up with new and original results.

Simmons is the older brother of the hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons and the rapper Joseph “Reverend Run” Simmons. He is the cofounder of the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, which provides disadvantaged youth with access to the arts and education and promotes a diverse group of emerging artists. Simmons was also recently appointed chairman of the New York State Council on the Arts. In 2002 Simmons and his brother Russell established “Def Poetry Jam,” introducing poetry to mainstream television in a long-running series on HBO in which original poems are spoken along with performances by well-known actors and musicians. An author himself Simmons has published a novel, Three Days as the Crow Flies (2004), consisting of a fictional account of the New York art scene in the 1980s, and a book of poetry, I dreamed my people were calling but couldn’t find my way home (2007). This March, Simmons’s collection of African art along with his own paintings will be shown at Queensborough Community College in Bayside, New York, and will be the subject of a book entitled House of the Spirit accompanying the exhibition.

This is Simmons’s first exhibition at Spanierman Gallery, LLC at East Hampton.

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