Jamestown Arts Center exhibition explores the work of artist Algernon Miller

JAMESTOWN, R.I. — Fourteen new works from a leading figure of Afrofuturist art, Algernon Miller, are currently on display at Jamestown Arts Center.

Algernon “Al” Miller is a multidisciplinary artist whose latest works invites viewers to contemplate and re-evaluate universally accepted concepts. As an Afrofuturistic artist, Miller describes his “multi-dimensional being-ness” art as an exploration of the themes of ancient African civilizations, as well as the past, present and future of African American life and culture through the lens of technology, fantasy, science-fiction and visual arts.

Lucy Paiva, Jamestown Arts Center marketing director, said the exhibition “Coming and Going: New Work of Algernon Miller” showcases Afrofuturist concepts in a thought-provoking manner. The exhibition opened last week and will be running until October 28.

“Al Miller’s work draws on sacred geometry, numerology and the structures of nature, science and architecture, and he frequently references African and African-American artistic heritage, such as beading and quilting traditions,” Paiva said. “Yet, his use of new technologies traverses the so-called digital divide that associates Blackness with technological disadvantage.”

Paiva added that Miller’s works transform non-material into material, experimenting with sound, kinetic energy, solar-power, 3D animation and holography.

“Along with many Afrofuturist thinkers, he is conscious of a long line of ‘Blacks in Science,’ [an] under-recognized [group of] black inventors and innovators,” Paiva said. “His emphasis on light, both represented and used as an artistic medium, undermines historical associations of blackness with darkness, and reinforces Afrofuturist metaphysical concepts.”

Miller was educated at the School of Visual Arts and The New School (both based in New York.) Throughout his education, he was influenced by African studies and Afrocentric writings, eventually evolving into what he calls a “transformationist” consciousness that synthesizes past, present and future, according to Paiva.

Miller’s major public commissions include his Tree of Hope on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, and the Frederick Douglass Circle at the northwest corner of New York’s Central Park, which opened in 2010. His works are in several prominent collections, and have been featured at New York’s Museum of Arts & Design (MAD), the New Museum, the Whitney, The Studio Museum, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and in France at the Espace Lyonnais d’Art Contemporain, Lyon, among others.

In a statement from Miller, he said these 14 new works from 2022 to 2023 focus on abstract paintings as a foundation that serves as an experimental base point for the rest of his artistic journey.

“It is where work and play are combined — it’s my Ground Zero,” Miller’s statement said. “I then layer patterns and codes to create a synthesis of painting with the illusion of dimensionality, the coming and going of all things in space and time and where past, present, and future exist simultaneously.”

The exhibition’s curators are Bob Dilworth and Karen Conway. In a statement from Dilworth, Dilworth said telling stories is an essential part of an artist’s life. Miller’s abstract artwork depicts African American themes and concerns in a speculative narrative that imagines possible futures.

“This highly innovative body of abstract paintings at JAC represents a course and vision for his new direction,” Dilworth’s statement said.

Jamestown Arts Center gallery hours are Wednesdays through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. “Coming and Going: New work of Algernon Miller” is free admission for all. For more about about the exhibition, visit jamestownartcenter.org.

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