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Art: Beyond Emancipation

By Kathy Schwartz · January 31st, 2012 · CityBeat Recommends
dThe Dream by Kyle and Kelly Phelps - Courtesy Laura Krugh of KHAC
Thom Shaw, the great Cincinnati artist who died in 2010, has the last word in Beyond Emancipation at the Kennedy Heights Arts Center — and it’s not what you might think.

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.

It’s sad to think that this is the state of society nearly 150 years after the end of slavery.

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.



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