Buffalo, NY - Mayor Byron W. Brown announced today that the top of Buffalo City Hall will be illuminated in rainbow colors on November 9th and November 10th to help promote an important art exhibit, and he’s encouraging the Buffalo Landmark Illumination Team (BUFFALOLIT) to do the same. On Friday, November 11th, Burchfield Penney at SUNY Buffalo State will present LEROI: Living in Color, the first museum retrospective exhibition of Buffalo born and internationally acclaimed artist LeRoi Johnson. Over 70 pieces of Johnson’s artwork will be on display in what he defines as the most significant exhibition of his 50-year career.
Mayor Brown stated, “As a proud supporter of Buffalo’s talented and diverse arts and cultural community, it’s important to recognize the role art plays in engaging audiences and advancing social change. I look forward to viewing Artist LeRoi Johnson’s bold and bright abstracts that highlight his unique viewpoint based on his experience as a Black American. It is my hope that as residents get to know LeRoi Johnson and his works, they come to appreciate how art is a reflection of the world around us and it can serve as a force for social change.”
As an artist, LeRoi Johnson is inspired by all he encounters in the world around him. Describing his work as “electric primitive,” his vibrant compositions are internalized and abstracted reflections on personal experiences. With an international artistic presence, Johnson’s influences span across continents. Central to his work are bold, bright colors and African, Caribbean, and South American cultural influences depicting dreams, visions, African ancestry, and otherworldly elements.
As a close friend of internationally acclaimed Brazilian artist Abdias do Nascimento, the two shared an interest in African-influenced art and are considered pioneers of Buffalo, New York’s Afro-Brazilian school of art. Johnson’s work embraces a unique viewpoint based on his experience as a Black American. He engages with multiple perspectives of identity, social justice, and narrative, blurring the lines between the real and the surreal.
“This project exemplifies the Burchfield Penney’s role in our city: a celebration of art as a recognition of accomplishment combined with an educational approach that supports students and cultural partners making a difference in our community,” stated Burchfield Penney Art Center Acting Director Scott Propeack. “These are the exhibitions that can inspire generations for the future.”
City of Buffalo Chief Diversity Officer Chantele Thompson stated, “The Living Color exhibit will be a wonderful opportunity to celebrate diversity and foster inclusion in our city’s arts and cultural community. We are excited that Burchfield Penney has welcomed LeRoi Johnson’s works as a featured exhibition and proud of everything he has done as an accomplished, and world-renowned artist from our city.”
Although Johnson’s artwork has been highlighted in international group shows and art fairs, LEROI: Living in Color reframes the attention given to Johnson in a global context through a localized and collaborative curatorial position as the artist’s first retrospective exhibition.
This exhibition is connection-building and creates a dialogue across communities by incorporating an innovative partnership with other local organizations. Students from The Buffalo Center for Art and Technology, Squeaky Wheel Film and Media Art Center, Just Buffalo Literary Center, and the Buffalo Public Schools worked with Johnson to create multimedia compositions that support the exhibition’s central themes. Through a series of culturally enriching experiences and engagements with Johnson, they created work that incorporates their own experiences and artistic interests. Engaging the next generation of artists, arts administrators, and enthusiasts transformed them from passive viewers to active participants. They participated in shaping the exhibition LEROI: Living in Color. This collective approach transforms our thoughts about exhibitions, collaboration, and community. The exhibit begins on Friday, November 11th and runs through March 26, 2023.