Listen to the artist:
Fred M. DeWitt is an African American interdisciplinary artist with a disability who is researching and exploring ways to deconstruct notions of white supremacy as it is promoted in early American art. DeWitt’s research at Berkeley places materials as a cornerstone of cultural liberation. Coffee, cotton, gold, clay, sugar, ground pigments are just some of the elements he uses as a means of cultural renewal.
DeWitt’s artwork reveals how Black bodies are repositories for trauma – Black bodies are commodities; even Black joy is commodified. DeWitt’s most recent work tries to depict the violence enacted on Black bodies without directly showing violence. A seemly endless loop of Black men and women are harassed, beaten and killed over and over again on social media platforms. Black death is a spectacle, a sideshow. Dewitt views art as: A responsibility to address these complexed social issues; more to the point, how can I document the struggles of urban life without adding to the traumatic terror, the horror of this American reality? Can this be done with abstraction and if so, how do I keep the work accessible? What are the materials which mark this space and time? What are the materials most associated with Black destruction?
DeWitt’s art practice incorporates painting, sculpture, and performance art. DeWitt’s most recent paintings fuse Asian woodblock printing techniques, with Western oil painting. DeWitt uses ink, oil and natural pigments on paper, wood, silk and canvas to create hybrid motifs. The artist is a narrative history painter who explores parallels between 19th century artistic expressions and present-day realities. DeWitt’s artwork is a reflection of the life I have lived. The work is about the fears and trials of being an African American man with a disability. The work is about the challenges of urban life and the beauty of our united human conquest.
To learn more about Fred’s work please visit his Instagram
Visit the exhibition catalogue
Kevin B. Chen
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