Shaw was known for his stark woodcuts, drawings and paintings that depicted drug use, urban violence and the personal hell of his diabetes and heart disease. These unflinching portrayals occupy the exhibit’s final room. His big, chilling “Street Madonna & Child,” in which an anguished mother witnesses a drive-by shooting, is the kind of “ripped from the headlines” image that sticks with us
But the true final word is Shaw’s small drawing of President Obama at the helm of a ship.
“Art can be big physically or big conceptually,” says painter Jimi Jones, one of the nine black artists in the show. A large work that riffs on stereotypes is “an easy concept,” explains Jones, intending no disrespect toward his late friend. It’s a theme that’s expected. But “Obama as president … that’s the last word,” Jones says. Without the changes of the last century-and-a-half that led to his election, “we’d still be slaves, physically and mentally.”
Beyond Emancipation is on display at Kennedy Heights Arts Center through Feb. 25. Go here to read Kathy Schwartz's full review.