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Celebrating Black History Month: The advancement of Black art

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — 2 NEWS continues to celebrate Black History Month by recognizing the accomplishments of people making an impact on Black arts and culture. This month, The Willis “Bing” Davis Art Studio’s EboNia Gallery is honoring Black History Month with a new exhibit called “Black Life As Subject Matter II,” featuring a display of inspiring visuals of the Black experience in America. It’s an exhibit of 20 local and regional artists responding to current events and is available virtually through April 30. “It features one of our charcoal drawings by Mr. James Pate called ‘Ayo’s chair’ where he’s talking about his young son growing up in this society and the different pillars he’ll need to grow. But also, he’s talking about other fallen heroes. Mr. Floyd is here, Breonna Taylor is involved in the image. Emmett Till is involved in the image,” said Bing Davis. Davis, who is now 83, and still creating, said he has always viewed his work as an agent of change both in society and in the arts. A new HBO Max documentary, Black Art: In the Absence of Light, was inspired by the late Davis’ close friend David Driskell. The film highlights Driskell’s landmark 1976 exhibition, “Two Centuries of Black American Art,” as an illuminating introduction to the work of some of the foremost Black visual artists working today. It sheds light on the fact that 85 percent of artists in major American art museum collections are white, and only a shocking 1.2% are Black. On Monday, Davis recalled some of the last moments he shared with Driskell who helped move black artists forward when they were still fighting for space in museums. “I smile as I remember drinking tea from his garden but he also was a real down-to-earth person and artist who nurtured everyone,” he said. Driskell died from COVID-19 last April. Davis said his landmark exhibit helped pave the way for artists like himself. “What was happening in the arts is a reflection of what was happening in society. The racism and exclusion were consistent and ran rampant in all areas, and the arts was one of those,” said Davis. “We have been a part of the American expression, but not a part of its joy and celebration.” Davis said he hopes the Willis Bing Davis Arts Studio will continue Driskell’s mission. “Part of our task is to continue to create and also education and correct the exclusion that has been there in the arts,” he said.

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