Yeelen Gallery presents “Black Freedom,” a series of works by Miami-based artist, Jerome Soimaud, on view from February 18 to May 2, 2015.
Known for his intricately detailed, large-scale works of charcoal and graphite on canvas, this exhibition features the pillars of the Civil Rights Movement in Miami, anchored by a tribute to the last hours of the iconic Jumbo’s Restaurant, a historic symbol of the undoing of American Jim Crow. “Black Freedom” functions as a critique on the socio-psychological atmosphere of the nation. “Black Freedom” is a continuation of the centuries old conversation on race in America and will commemorate Black History Month at Yeelen Gallery. The significance of this exhibit comes at a time when the nation is facing mounting division and a crisis of racial, and socio-economic disorder, we hear the cries and we are taking action, says Karla Ferguson, gallery director. During Miami’s behemoth ‘Art Basel Week’ protesters took to the streets shutting down the major artery that is I-95, stopping traffic for hours and impeding collectors, tourists, and locals alike from attending the numerous events that represent over $11 billion dollars to the City each year.
“Black Freedom, responds to recent events in the U.S. such as the killing of Michael Brown an unarmed black man by a white police officer; it speaks to the re-animation of the Civil Rights Movement and intends to expose and contribute to the end of the structures of racism, both institutional and psychological, which remain deeply ingrained in our culture, yet so repugnant to our existence as civilized people,” said Ferguson. “Soimaud’s landscapes in shades of gray reflect the struggle for equality across lines of race and ethnicity, as well as the familiar nuances I have personally experienced as a black woman in the United States. I see the landmarks of hope in his landscapes, and the strife of the people in his work. I observe generations of young and old, black and white, that have taken up the torch and continue to fight for the inalienable rights that should be afforded to all citizens of this great nation and beyond.” Soimaud’s style is a distinctive technique of painting with charcoal and graphite, which is interwoven with light and a delicate yet exacting attention to detail. This simultaneously ephemeral and realistic mien in his work offers a fleeting glimpse with the contrasting feeling of permanence. His subjects pay homage to a bygone era of de jure segregation, while revealing the bastions of the psychological color line still separating the races in the Miami Community. “Black Freedom” reminds the viewer that the fight for equality is not yet at an end, and calls for a new era of activism.
Jerome Soimaud’s work is rooted in the knowledge of spirit: that which is not always viewed, but deeply felt. Spirituality and metaphor were guiding personal forces for Soimaud before he transformed them into visual mediums. Within his multidisciplinary practice, he employs a range of media, from charcoal drawing and painting to photographic exploration of varying cultures and experience. Focusing on expressionist abstraction early in his career, Soimaud studied at the Academie de la Grande Chaumiere, after working under the instruction of architect Alain Farel at The Ecole Nationale Superieur des Beaux-Arts in Paris. The simultaneously ephemeral and realistic mien of his portfolio is owed both to this multiplicity of education and to his movement from abstract to figurative work. Soimaud maintained, throughout this growth, the belief that the most literal works, at their root, are abstractions—hence the nuanced quality of even his most straightforward pieces. He tends to focus on people, both their energies and realities. His most frequent subject matter are those he meets on his travels and in his local neighborhood; he portrays his subjects with tenderness, recording moments as both observer and participant. As his practice continues to shift, he pursues each piece as a beginner, a nod to the cyclical nature of visual art and existence. The artist currently lives and works in Miami, Florida.