BUCKTOWN — Black and white, South Side and North Side: These polarities that dominate the city's political, economic and cultural landscape are front and center in a Chicago Artists Month exhibit, which hosts its closing reception Friday.
“I thought about this year's artist month theme, 'The City as a Studio,' and I considered that a lot of black artists that I know tend to primarily exhibit on the South Side,“ Chicago native and artist/curator Makeba Kedem Dubose said about the inspiration for the exhibit at Calao 22 Space, 2320 N. Damen Ave.
“With all that's going on in the U.S., I wanted to do something dealing with black and white in a non-racial way,” she said. “I want to exhibit positive art. I don't want to downplay what's been going on with our people in this country but I wanted this work to act as a reprieve. You can't live in anger."
Color plays a major role in the exhibit: The white walls starkly contrast with the inky black art pieces. Besides the art, the walls, tables and lights are all white, with just a lone lavender wall to add variation.
"I feel that this show is bringing the black and white issue of the U.S. in a peaceful environment. Purple and white represent peace. Everyone who comes says that it feels so peaceful. It's a peaceful vibe bringing black and white together in the same art. We are not separate.”
She also placed an emphasis on bringing in the work of black artists.
“I thought, 'I have an opportunity to show these artists in this new space in Bucktown,'" she said, adding, "So many don't get the opportunity to show their work on the North Side since Nicole Gallery [a noted River North gallery owned by Haitian gallerist Nicole Smith] closed."
"It's south coming north, on one level," she said of showcasing black artists in the predominantly white Bucktown neighborhood. "On another level, it's referencing the cultural connections that were transferred from the south to the north during the Great Migration."
The pieces from 22 artists include abstract designs, sculptures and even an installation of black leaves and candles called "Secret Garden."
But the most consistent details are the faces: Some are whimsical, boasting intricate patterns or mystic additions while others are more realistic.
None of the work displays anything overtly race-oriented and yet, most of the pieces show some aspect of the African-American form or tradition.
Dubose, curator and owner of Calao 22 Space, is also creative director of the nonprofit Chicago Global Health Alliance and co-founder of Collaborative Mavericks artistic collective, whose members are featured in “Migrations in Black and White.”
The "Migrations in Black and White” closing reception on 6 p.m. Friday at Calao 22 Space, 2320 N. Damen Ave., Suite 2F
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