By: Charity Hester
WASHINGTON – The young boy dressed in black and white could be viewed as staring into the distance with a look of confusion. He was barefoot with his clothes disheveled and hair all over his head sitting on a stoop, which told the story of what his life entailed: a life no one knew or seemed to care about. Some see it as a way to depict what he was facing during this era but artist Al Burts saw it as this young man’s story and life.
Al Burts is an artist who uses the thin lines of a ballpoint pen, sometimes mixed with oil paint, to create bold works of art that display the unheard story of African American values and lives that have been pushed aside. He worked on a variety of surfaces including un-stretched canvas, paper and wood to displace his realistic and symbolic images inspired by the African roots of America.
Burts grew up in Alexandria, Va. and went on to Virginia Commonwealth University. He also addeded the illustrious Duke Ellington School of the Arts, and an old artist of The National Gallery in Washington, D.C.
When choosing Al Burts for this current display at the Anacostia Arts Center Gallery, it wasn’t a hard decision according to Amy Lokoff, the visual arts coordinator at the Anacostia Arts Center, “We selected Al Burts to exhibit work at Honfleur Gallery because he is an extremely talented local artist whose work we had been following for the past few years. He reached out to us about doing a solo show when we were in the process of putting together our 2018 season. We jumped on the opportunity because his draftsmanship and large-scale pieces are eye-catching and memorable.”
“What separates Burts from other artists is that he isn’t different; in fact, he executes the same message as other artists that have been shown in the gallery at the Arts Center, which first drew my attention,” said Camille Kashaka, the director of Anacostia Arts Center.
“I wouldn’t say that Al Burts is particularly different from other artists whose work we’ve shown. Honfleur Gallery has been committed to exhibiting high quality work by underrepresented groups since it’s inception in 2007,” she said. “Over time we’ve started to lean toward showing even more local and less international artists and emphasizing work by women and artists of color. Al Burts fits right in with the work we look for and want to be exhibiting.”
Burts used his current display of “ Jim Crow: Neglected Weeds” to paint the unheard story of African Americans’ lives and the suffering they went through during the era of Jim Crow. The gallery of 13 images vividly depicts Burts’ representation of art and his idea of how to tell the stories and paint the pictures of so many lives he feels were important. The Neglected Weeds Gallery has an array of paintings that have a modern twist with a mix of mid 1960s, that draws guests into the images to want to know more about the artist and the image itself. Each painting tells a different story and has a different meaning with its own symbolism depicted by Burts.
Terrence Nicholson, Associate Creative Director of Anacostia Arts Center, shares his opinion on the ‘Neglected Weeds’ exhibit at the Honofleur Gallery.
“I am personally really proud of this exhibit. It’s really important to me to support artists who are making work in the DMV. The show becomes so much more meaningful for visitors when they learn that he is a native Washingtonian or went to Duke Ellington School for the Arts. People often overlook the fact that there are living, working artists in their neighborhood or town and this show creates that connection. Burts’ portraits are of common people, and more specifically black people, that are elevated through their portrayal in his drawings.”
If you or anyone you know are interested in viewing the Neglected Weeds (available until November 25th) Gallery or more at Anacostia Arts Center http://anacostiaartscenter.com/contact/ stop by:
1231 Good Hope Rd SE, Washington, DC 20020
Phone: (202) 631-6291