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Black Art


another one containing Malcolm X. Staring out at the viewer along three borders is a seri4es of eyes, the top row which suggests the CBS television emblem. America is hereby warned.

Gary Rickson (b. 1942), president of the Boston Negro Artists Association, also emphasizes the message aspect of art. His "Somebody's Upstairs in the Attic" is an allegory, in which we see a brick with 'Black Power' lettered on it, a starless American flag, a star-and-crescent, and other symbols. He also has a surrealistic, almost symmetrical oil called "Nature vs. Nature."

Considerably younger than this group of seven is Henry de Leon (b. 1945), who has the only sculpture and photography in the exhibit. There is an untitled limestone piece done when he was a junior at Brandeis, and a recent wood sculpture called "Negrita." Both of these are semi-abstract, and beautifully rhythmed with smooth following curves. His twenty photographs range from middling to excellent. Particularly effective is the juxtaposition of an old Negro woman with moles, ten-thousand wrinkles and white hair, and a laughing young boy in swimming trunks.

Youngest exhibitor of all is Al [Alfred J-] Smith (b. 1949), a Boston University student. One would never suspect his youth from the four paintings he has in the show: the punningly titled "King of Spades," "After the War," "Crucifixion," and "The Feast." Smith is also a poet, and he brings a poet's imagination and fantasy to this quartet of allegories. These are sophisticated and profound works. They also have intriguingly enigmatic features, which keep the viewer standing in front of the canvases for a long time. Favoring subdued colors, Smith has executed these oils with complete technical assurance. They would do credit to a master at the peak of his career, and the fact that a twenty-year-old produced them is all but unbelievable.

Few things in life are more exciting than the discovery of a phenomenal talent that has burgeoned early. In the case of Al Smith, one is tempted simply to repeat the words with which Schumann welcomed the work of the twenty-year-old Chopin: "Hats off, gentlemen--a genius!"

(The exhibit "Black Artists From Boston" continues at the Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, through August 31, and is free to the public. The Museum is open daily except Monday from 1 to 5 p.m.)

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