photo by Avery Childress

Black Wall Street art gallery strives for reconciliation

By pairing the works of white and Black artists the gallery hopes to encourage conversation through art.

The Black Wall Street Arts has just opened a brand-new art gallery downtown, aiming to help ease racial tensions in Tulsa and get people to open up and discuss their feelings surrounding the Greenwood Massacre. The gallery opened on Friday, September 7, and will be open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday at 101 N. Greenwood Ave.

The first series set up by the gallery is one called “Conciliation.” It pairs one Black artist with one white artist in a joint exhibition each month. Ricco Wright, the gallery’s artistic director, hopes that the gallery will be part of the solution to Tulsa race relations. For September, the artists in the exhibition are Alexander Tamahn and JP Morrison Lans. Tamahn “has always gravitated towards vibrant, rich color palettes,” explaining that “eye-catching color and varying textures offset some of the heavier content of some of [his] subject matters.” Lans also plays with color in a unique way, stating that she “manipulate[s] light in [her] work, transforming the blush of skin into vivid neon hues or omitting the color altogether to develop the figures beyond our everyday perception.”

Both artists have phenomenal pieces on display at the gallery — one which particularly caught my eye was “No More Bloody Backpacks,” an acrylic on canvas by Tamahn. It’s an illustration of a yellow backpack branded with “HOPE,” and with three bullet holes dripping blood. The bright and vivid yellow of the bag juxtaposed with the deep maroon blood of the bullet-holes falls neatly into Tamahn’s self-described style. It’s eye-catching and beautiful, and the subject matter is tragic and relevant.

Another piece, “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize” by JP Morrison Lans, is a graphite and gouache portrait with a twist. The background is plain beige, while the central figure of the portrait is done in graphite. The woman in the portrait has an organic fluidity, and as Lans has described, the graphite omits the true color from the face of her portrait. The choice of graphite for her face gives her an almost robotic feel despite her organic and realistic features, which is amplified by the color where her eyes and mouth should be. Pure, opaque red gouache fills the woman’s eyes and mouth, and red lines — not unlike lasers — shoot from her mouth and each eye, meeting finally at a point in the air.

The “Conciliation” series at the Black Wall Street Arts Gallery is off to a promising start with the works of Lans and Tamahn. Tulsans clearly took interest in the Gallery. The premiere was crowded, but in typical Tulsa fashion, there was never a feeling of coldness or pretentiousness. It was lively, with music playing and groups of people filing in and out of rooms to look at pieces or to purchase merchandise. I am eager to see what Dr. Wright will curate for the October exhibition of the “Conciliation” series for the Black Wall Street Arts Gallery, and I am also eager to see how Black Wall Street Arts will continue to push the boundaries of our discussions about the Tulsa Race Massacre and Tulsa race relations in general.

Post Author: Avery Childress