Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 31
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
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Robeson’s Life and Legacy Honored at Arts Council Members’ Exhibit

Dilshanie Perera

The theme of this year’s annual membership exhibition at the Arts Council of Princeton is “Native Son: Works Inspired by the Life and Legacy of Paul Robeson.” This year’s exhibition has been renamed the “Princeton Annual,” and it is the first year that it has been held at the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts.

The show, which is on view until September 19, with a closing reception on Thursday, September 17 from 5 to 7 p.m., presents work both new and old from members of the Arts Council working in a range of media including bronze and clay sculpture, painting, photography, and printmaking.

While the art that greets the viewer upon entering the Taplin Gallery on the first floor of the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts has to do with this year’s theme, other work that is not directly related is also on display. All pieces that were submitted are shown.

“We wanted to find a theme that made sense for the building, the Arts Council, and the community, and we also wanted the exhibition to be inclusive” explained Executive Director of the Arts Council Jeff Nathanson, who noted that some of the work submitted “was not recent, but is definitely related to the theme” of Mr. Robeson’s life and legacy. “Other artists either made new works, or had existing works that conceptually related to what Paul Robeson stands for,” Mr. Nathanson added.

Michael LaRiccia’s piece “Robeson, The Real Wonder, #1,” is a digitally enhanced, scanned drawing that takes the form of a comic book cover where Mr. Robeson is the superhero-protagonist.

Adjacent is “1166 Quarry”, a mixed media work by Raymond F. Waters that uses anthracite (coal), linen and wood to spell out “Robeson” in three dimensional mirror-image letters.

Rita Nannini’s series of four gelatin silver print photographs entitled “Wish You Were Here. Postcards of Paul Robeson in Princeton” whimsically places a postcard image of Mr. Robeson into the landscape. The scenes captured are identifiable from around town, and include the Paul Robeson Center for the Arts, St. Paul’s Church, the P-Rade, and Communiversity.

The idea for a themed members’ show was first considered when the Arts Council was located at the Shopping Center, the idea being to “bring a more cohesive, conceptual approach to doing a show,” Mr. Nathanson said.

The first show was curated by artist Ik-Joong Kang, who designed “Happy World,” the permanent installation at the public library, and the second was based on Michael Graves’s design for the new Arts Council building.

Mr. Nathanson finds this year’s theme for the “Princeton Annual” to be fitting, particularly because “so much about art and society and politics today are a result of what Paul Robeson and people like him struggled for.”

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