835 W. Washington Blvd.
Chicago, IL 60607
June 4–July 30, 2022
Opening reception: Saturday, June 4, 5–7 PM
Building on a central tenet of AFRICOBRA’s philosophy, Beck’s aesthetic vision is rooted in positive portrayals of Black family. Reveling in the mystery and mysticism of everyday life, Beck extends the definition of family through space and time, including humanity’s kinship with nature and the metaphysical world.
Wielding portraiture as an instrument of remembrance and nobility, Beck lovingly venerates historical African American ancestral heroes in a series of memorial portraits that includes luminaries such as President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, depicted by Beck as Fourth Dynasty Egyptian prince Rahotep and his wife Nofret; Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress; Frederick Douglass, national abolitionist leader, orator, writer, and social reformer; Lewis Howard Latimer, an inventor who worked alongside both Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell; Biddy Mason, California real estate mogul, nurse, and philanthropist born into slavery; and Fannie Lou Hamer, a civil rights activist known for her prescient declaration, "Righteousness exalts a nation. Hate just makes people miserable.”
In a body of paintings juxtaposing traditional African masks with images of contemporary Black faces, Beck examines how personal and cultural identities are both formed and concealed. Inspired in part by the poem “We Wear the Mask,” by Paul Laurence Dunbar, which begins, “We wear the mask that grins and lies,” Beck’s mask paintings oscillate between hyper-realistic visages and pareidolic abstractions, continually challenging perceptions of what is real, what is imagined, and what remains hidden behind the veils of our eyes.
Beck speculates about the astral roots of ancestry in a body of otherworldly paintings rooted in concepts like two-directional time, multi-dimensional space, and the interstellar origins of life. Within these uncanny painted worlds, electrified sunrises co-exist with ominous dusks; shadowy figures gaze awestruck into fiery, celestial voids; and the departed commingle with the living amid chimerical forests abundant with flora from across the globe.
Consistent throughout Sherman Beck at Kavi Gupta is a sense of aesthetic clarity, projected by an artist defined by both humility and erudition. Exalting the enduring power of the medium of painting to spark moments of magic and intrigue for viewers, Beck perceives his paintings less as definitive statements about subject matter, and more as pliable visual examinations of the space where ideas and intuition meet. I try to suggest more than a moment in time,” Beck says. “Symbolically, the work is a statement about life—a metaphor. Let anyone seeing it make something of it.”