– John Lewis, Congressman and civil rights leader
|Andrews at Queen's College, 1997. © Benny Andrews Estate|
|Benny Andrews, Circle Study #2, 1972. © Benny Andrews Estate|
At once exhibiting an interest in abstraction, surrealism and figuration, Andrews’s work has a unique way of achieving unification despite its pastiche-like quality. While he may paint a large surrealist landscape (i.e. Circle Study #11) in one stroke, he creates a mixed-media portrait in the next. On view in “Expanding Tradition” is Poverty (America Series), which is composed of oil and graphite on paper with painted fabric collage. Seen in videos chronicling his process, Andrews roams the archives of his studio, drawing not only inspiration from the works that line the walls but oftentimes cutting figures or images out of past canvases themselves. This method of creation reads in the collage-like nature of his product, a remarkable blend of textures, colors, and, ultimately, of experience. Of his incorporation of fabric, Andrews says in American Vision (June/July 1992), “Where I am from….We wear rough fabrics. We actually used the burlap bagging sacks that seed came in to make our shirts. These are my textures.”
|Benny Andrews, Poverty (America Series), 1990.|
© Benny Andrews Estate
Drawing from his rural upbringing, heritage, and the cultural climate of his moment, Andrews’s output of work is extensive, socially critical, political and personal. Politically engaged as Andrews’s work is, however, it cannot be said that his oeuvre exists only for the time in which he experienced and created these representations of poverty, racism, and sexism – the themes in his work remain relevant today and are poignant reminders of the necessary role that artists play in the fight for justice, equality and love.