Great American Artists is an exhibition of new figurative works by artists Christopher Batten, Endia Beal, Halima Cassells, Alonzo Edwards, Sydney James, Gregory Johnson, Richard Lewis, Mario Moore, Sabrina Nelson and Senghor Reid. Through a series of studio visits, collaborative meetings and documentation, these artists developed a consortium with two major goals in mind: to increase collaboration among artists in Detroit and to strengthen the network of artists who employ similar themes in their work.
Divided into a three-part series, subtitled Roots, Branches, and Seeds, this year-long exhibition represents the generational structure of the group and the development of the artists.
Exhibiting second are Christopher Batten, Halima Cassels and Senghor Reid who form the “Branches” of the group. They have used inspiration derived from The Roots to create murals, installations and large figurative works worldwide. Their work explores environmental issues and the communities in which they live.
• Born and raised in Detroit, Christopher Batten has had a profound interest in Visual Art since the age of four. After completing an extensive college preparatory Visual Arts program at Detroit’s Cass Technical High School, Christopher went on to study at the Columbus College of Art and Design. He later completed his Visual Arts training at Detroit's College for Creative Studies, graduating with a BFA in Illustration Spring of 2006. Exhibited nationally, his works have appeared in the National Black Fine Arts Show and Embrace (an exhibition associated with Atlanta's National Black Arts Festival), amongst others. In addition to his studio Artist, Christopher creates live paintings, and is also an Art instructor at Detroit's Chapel Hill Children's and Youth Art Center. Without question, Christopher aims to use his work as a means of triggering thought and subsequent change among his viewers.
• Halima Cassells is a multi-faceted visual artist, who uses vibrant colors to create bold paintings, mixed media creations, and murals. Through her art, Cassells seeks to question, document, and artistically express her often-uncommon discoveries. For example, she has drawn unique themes from the principles of quantum physics through which she explores the concepts of common unity, self-similarity in universal design, and the role of the observer in experienced reality. Among other ventures, she spent 10 years teaching mural making in the New York Department of Education, and established the Detroit Mural Factory where she has employed 20 professional artists, provided training and stipends for young artists, and engaged over 600 community members in creating public art. She recently collaborated on several mixed-media projects that inventively fused stylistic genres and experimentation with interdisciplinary art forms. This new focus, a collaboration of the blackhackerspace collective, produced the experimental film called the Detroit Dance Project. Cassells has exhibited atnotable venues including the Virgil H. Carr Center, Charles H. Wright Museum (Detroit), Skylight Gallery (New York), and The Center for Michigan Universities (Japan).
• Senghor Reid’s interest and training in art began early in life. He attended numerous special art programs before graduating from Detroit’s historic Cass Technical High School. As an art major at the University of Michigan, his interests in art broadened to include writing and film. In 1998, he attended the New York School of Drawing, Painting and Sculpture where he participated in marathon drawing and painting sessions. Later, Reid earned a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of Michigan and a Masters in the Art of Teaching, in art education, from Wayne State University. As a painter, Reid creates both figurative and abstract works. He utilizes a vibrant color palette and almost tactile brush strokes that punctuate his themes of political and cultural issues. His drawings, paintings and collages were initially drawn from hip-hop culture, as well as the lives and work of other visual artists. Recently, Reid has expanded his scope to include the undercurrent of politics and ignorance surrounding the conservation of our natural environment. In 2009, Reid was awarded a Kresge Artist Fellowship for his “commitment to innovation and artistic achievement.” He received a glowing Testimonial resolution from Detroit City Council for his work and contributions to educating children in Detroit and the prestigious Governor’s Award for Emerging Artist from ArtServe Michigan. Reid’s works are in many private and public collections, including the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan and the State of Michigan Board of Education.
This exhibition was organized as a partnership between the Great American Artists and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History Contemporary Artists Program.