Chief Teefie, marker on Strathmore paper, 24″ x 24″, Alonzo Troy Humphrey
Today I really screwed up at work. I told my art partner I’d have the money, I knew where the money was but I had spoken too soon. My boss says if it’s not going to have an impact in five years, don’t worry about it; the adrenaline rush is a trip, though. My art partner, Alonzo Troy Humphrey, is creating images in a stream of consciousness, to interrupt with mere monetary concerns while he draws stories of Chattanooga, Philly and Africa in sweeping lines from a sharpie marker is counter-productive. Alonzo is well known for his marker drawings of thoughtful memories and cultural metaphors. Going into Alfred Pennyworth mode, I contacted the guy at the place with the money and we all synchronized our our watches for the ritual business exchange of culture for commerce.
The place with the money is Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Frank’s, and the man is Togo Travalia. Wearing a grey suit and melon hued tie, Togo met Alonzo Troy Humphrey, along with Katy the Art Dog and I, at the 12th Annual Juried Art Show and Sale on the corner of 13th and Pine Streets on a chilly afternoon the day before Thanksgiving. The famous dive bar has hosted art shows since 1978, the juried art shows and special exhibitions are inevitably mind blowing. And Alonzo’s mind was blown with the show. The place wasn’t crowded except for a few day drinkers so we could really see the exhibition of 44 outstanding works, and Alonzo’s art really pops in the heady mix. Both of his entries had sold and he won the juries #BlackLinesMatter award, a topical pun with real world relevance, the exchange between artist and gallery manager went down in the booth by the vitrine in the corner.
Miss Timma, marker on card stock, 11″ x 8.5″, Alonzo Troy Humphrey
Togo, the business man, thanked Alonzo so sincerely for his participation in the show and told him how proud he was of his accomplishments I was moved to tears; Alonzo has been exhibiting and selling at Dirty Frank’s for over five years. Explaining how by creating, making, marking and participating, his art was contributing to the community at large, Togo encouraged Alonzo to continue his pursuit. Alonzo told Togo about a new drawing he’s working on about boxers duking it out in the ring. The drawing of Chief Teefie sold before the show was even hung and Miss Timma sold the first day. The Under $100 theme offers a unique opportunity to purchase art by Philadelphia artists that is affordable and professionally curated. Full disclosure, not only am I Alonzo’s art partner, I participated in the jury.
Before you freak out, this practice is not uncommon since the juries are usually made up of artists and entrepreneurs who have participated in Philly arts, no deference was given to Alonzo’s work, my influence on the jury was literally one of five votes. Two of his three entries survived the cut from 175 artworks vying for some of the available 45 spots. The elimination process is simple, five jurors vote on each entry, majority rules. When a participants work is reviewed they leave the room and Togo or Jody add their voice. This winnows out the most popular pieces as voted on by a group of contemporaries attuned to the Philadelphia art scene. The process takes hours and each piece is considered carefully and fairly. Being included in the jury is such an honor, the team at Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Frank’s assembled a group of Philly’s art influencers, social practitioners and artists to create an art show that is beautiful and inspiring.
Since I had already entered the show before I was asked to be on the jury I felt comfortable that my prejudice for Alonzo’s art would be balanced, although, I must say that Alonzo Troy Humphrey is a unique and special voice in the art conversation of Philly that deserves to be heard. He’s been participating in art shows for years, his drawings speak in a language of marks that leave a trail of time, whether it’s a swift sure handed swipe with the marker, or deep layers of ink driven through liminal space into the paper until the surface nearly shreds and the markers are worn to nubs. As the shadow lines grow, his images of the solitary woman on the porch in a rocker, the homeless man, the black cowboy, the African chieftains by the sea emerge with liveness from the lines then over time fade to black. Humphrey’s drawings are about telling a story in symbols, signs and metaphors; moments in time expose episodes in the artists life that are serene, poignant and exciting.
Written and photographed by DoN Brewer
Off the Wall Gallery at Dirty Frank’s 12th Annual Juried Art Show and Sale through December 26th, 2016.
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