|Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson, Hot Boiling Sun,|
watercolor on paper, study. Photo courtesy of
Hammond Harkins Galleries
Look at this woman's right arm, how it travels between muscular and emaciated to end in the huge, sinewy hand. Notice not only the expression of concentration and restraint on her face, so succinctly laid down with unhesitating brush strokes, but the form of her body—the breasts dangling and twisted, the spread of hips and legs that balance visually and literally the vessel of cotton on her slanted shoulders. The position of the figure on the paper is askew, emphasizing the sense of slow, falling; of a moment between stumbling and rising. The twisted body doesn't determine the direction: It's that implacable face that will.
None of the condensed effect of this single study is lost when Robinson transfers and multiplies it to her magnificent, rich, multi-paneled painting, Hot Boilin' Sun.
|Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson, Hot Boilin' Sun. Mixed media and collage on paper. Courtesy of Hammond Harkins Galleries.|
Detail of left panel, below
"Hot Boilin' Sun Comin' Over Me from Sun-Up to Sun-Down Slaves Picked Cotton," is Robinson's inscription. In this complex composition of women and children in the cotton fields, the writhing and twisting of the study's one body is dispersed across the whole, rhythmic panel. The pain and effort are embodied by the group in which each individual is (literally) entwined with her neighbor. Any chains here are the chains of community, shared labor and sisterhood.
Neither are these slaves actually depicted under the hot boilin' sun. To the contrary, they don't stand, but float angelically against a clear blue sky in which they appear to gather not literal cotton, but soft dollops of cloud. These women have crossed over Jordan yet remain in community with one another through a river of shared relationship represented by the graceful, flowing composition of the entire work.
Both of these works, on view through October 9 at Hammond Harkins Galleries in Columbus, are among a vast show of the late Robinson's breathtaking, Presidential Suite, a vast work comprised of many pieces—her unique RaGonNon fabric collages, watercolors, paintings, and writings.
|Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson, President Barak Hussein Obama from Presidential Suite. RaGonNon: mixed media: fabric|
embroidery, buttons, music boxes.
In her Presidential Suite, Robinson finds a consummate home for the passions unfailingly embodied in her tremendous body of work: justice, community, and hope that knowledge of the past can inform a better future. For her, President Obama presented the best hope for a future in which the accomplishments of African-Americans would be allowed to shine through the narrative of slavery and repression, fertilizing the ground for more and more to come.
It's central to Robinson's lifetime of work and thought that deep historical knowledge must inform the on-going quest for a better world; without knowing history, one lacks models, mores, and power. This central theme has been reported here in several reviews of her work (see March 8, 2015; May 3, 2012; August 24, 1011.) President Obama's election was not only a political event, but a climactic one in the history of African-American history and culture. The shining history she recorded with such loving passion across her entire career could reassert itself now under a government led by a new exemplar. The point of the Presidential Suite is of past and present joined for a just future.
All photographs in this post are thanks to the excellent work and generosity of Hammond Harkins Gallery.