Thumbtack 'Paintings' of Black Icons Shown in TriBeCa

By Julie Shapiro on February 28, 2012 7:17am 

Andre Woolery, a Harlem artist, uses thumbtacks as a medium.
Andre Woolery, a Harlem artist, uses thumbtacks as a medium.
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Andre Woolery

TRIBECA — Andre Woolery paints in thumbtacks.

Using thousands and thousands of the brightly colored pushpins, Woolery, a self-taught artist who lives and works in Harlem, has crafted portraits of black icons ranging from President Barack Obama to rapper Kanye West.

Many of those portraits, which are between 2- and 9-feet tall, are now on display at TriBeCa's Frontrunner Gallery, in a show aptly titled "Bruised Thumbs."

While the thumbtack medium is playful and inviting to viewers, Woolery has a serious message in mind.

"I primarily focus on a black experience because I want to [create] balance in the representation of 'black,'" Woolery wrote on his website.

"History has pounded negativity [and] stereotypes onto the race and out of that rubble I want powerful images to emerge that place the black experience in a vibrant, triumphant and beautiful manner."

Woolery, who grew up in New Jersey, began exploring painting and street art as a creative outlet after graduating from Duke University in 2003 with a degree in computer science.

The meticulously built pieces at Frontrunner Gallery include "Jay-Z 'The Tackover,'" made of more than 7,600 thumbtacks, "Kanye West 'Tacks on Tacks on Tacks,'" made of more than 8,000 thumbtacks, and "President Obama 'Wet Paint,'" made of more than 10,000 thumbtacks.

"Bruised Thumbs" is on display at Frontrunner Gallery, 59 Franklin St., through March 1.

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