Hallwalls Editions

A series of special limited-edition Hallwalls 40th-anniversary posters by John Jennings available starting October 24, 2014


 
John Jennings
Set of twelve 40th-Anniversary Posters, 2014, each 12 x 18 inches, archival inkjet print on 300gsm archival paper with matte finish
$250
Edition of 48, Signed and numbered



May 4, 1958–February 16, 1990
April 3, 1982
October 8, 1939–July 12, 2010
October 4, 1985

b. NYC 1985
September 19, 1986
May 22, 1914–May 30, 1993
April 6, 1990

April 17, 1991
October 7, 1934–January 9, 2014
May 18, 1995

October 12, 1996
May 20, 2006
September 25, 1923–December 26, 2011
October 6, 1997

"I was introduced to groundbreaking, genre-crossing, Afrofuturist graphic artist John Jennings by my friend Renata Toney at the dinner for Buffalo-born underground "comix" legend Spain (a.k.a. Spain Rodriguez) held at Don & Camille Metz's house on the weekend of the opening of the major retrospective exhibition Spain: Rock, Roll, Rumbles, Rebels, & Revolution (September 14, 2012–January 20, 2013), which Don and I had curated for the Burchfield Penney Art Center, where Don and Renata work. John had just moved to Buffalo to join the faculty of the UB Art Department that fall semester, and his interest in comic books as both a practitioner and a fan is what had led to his momentous meeting with Spain, a groundbreaking graphic artist from a generation or two earlier whose work John knew and admired. Like anyone knowledgeable about comics, Spain and John Jennings both were admirers of (and influenced by) Jack Kirby, and that night was the first time I heard about John's collaborative work with Stacey Robinson (who happens to be Renata's cousin) under the collective nom de plume "Black Kirby." I referred Jennings to Hallwalls curator, John Massier, who loved Black Kirby's work as much I did (which isn't always how it goes), an exhibition slot happened to open up unexpectedly in November, and Black Kirby's show opened at Hallwalls on November 9, 2012, closing just before the holidays on December 21.

Having gotten any potential conflict of interest out of the way first, I invited Jennings to join Hallwalls' Board of Directors in the new year (after the show had closed, of course), and he accepted and was elected on January 13, 2013. It's essential for Hallwalls to have practicing artists as part of its Board of Directors, especially as prolific and up-and-coming an artist (and UB professor) as Jennings, but the thing about being as active and hot as Jennings has been the past couple of years is that he's out of town a lot, for exhibitions, panels and other speaking gigs, and (in his case) even Comic Cons! So, being conscientious as well as busy, he felt guilty about missing a lot of Board meetings, and wanted to do something to help the Board's fundraising efforts for Hallwalls.

I forget now whether he or I had the idea first, but either way, putting our heads together we cooked up a way that, despite the heavy demands on his time (he also got married this year!), he could help us by donating his artistic talent. The idea would be to go back (using our nifty on-line Timeline, of course) through 40 years of Hallwalls events—of which there have been literally thousands—pick some number of them out, and retroactively create posters in his signature style illustrating (as if promoting) events that happened 40, 30, 20, or 10 years in the past.

Jennings' initial ambitious idea had been 40 posters, but what we have so far—for this launch date of October 24, 2014—is this stellar set of 12, selected by John Jennings out of literally dozens of suggestions I fed him from our memory banks. Of the dozens out of thousands I picked out for him to choose from, this even dozen represents the ones that caught Jennings' eye and imagination first. Although many more equally worthy subjects are necessarily left out (I would've liked to see Lester Bowie in his white lab coat or Ethyl Eichelberger playing the accordion, to mention just two off the top of my head), I think these 12 iconic personages represent a diverse cross-section of 40 years of Hallwalls programming in the visual arts (Keith Haring, Guerrilla Girls), experimental writing (Kathy Acker, Samuel R. Delany, Harvey Pekar, Amiri Baraka), performance (Laurie Anderson, Lydia Lunch), and jazz and new music (Philip Glass, Cecil Taylor, Sun Ra, Sam Rivers). Half of these artists are still with us, but sadly, the other half are deceased (Haring, Acker, Pekar, Baraka, Sun Ra, Rivers). Their inclusion in this set of posters serves as a tribute to their lives and works as well, and we are proud to be able to include them among the thousands of artists who have visited Hallwalls over four decades, from Kathy Acker in 1977 (the first of her two visits) to Amiri Baraka in 2006 (the last of his three).

John Jennings calls the signature technique he employs in making these posters—as well as in his work in comic books and other graphic design for printing (actual posters for future events, book covers, fine art prints, etc.)—"Virtual Xylography," which is to say a digital version of woodcut, the analog version of which he learned from one of his mentors, Thomas Kovacs, former head of graphic design at the University of Illinois in Champaign, where Jennings studied. Often working from appropriated photos (or composites of several) turned into transparent templates, Jennings works in PhotoShop CS5 on an Intuos tablet, "gouging out" the negative space with a stylus as a traditional woodcut artist would gouge out the negative space from a block of wood. Like comic book letterers, he hand letters much (not all) of the text, as in the case of most of the artists' names on these posters.

Jennings then turned the digital files over to his UB colleague Jeff Sherven, of the Experimental Print Imaging Center (ePIC), for printing on archival paper, and each set of 12 images will be packaged together in a shallow archival box. At the A/V Imbroglio: Redux event in Asbury Hall on Friday, October 24th, the first 12 sets of 12 posters—each individual poster signed and numbered by the artist—will be available for sale at a price of $250, with all proceeds to benefit Hallwalls. Jennings will be present at the event. More sets will be produced, also signed and numbered, up to a maximum limit for the edition of 48, depending on demand."

- Ed Cardoni, Hallwalls Executive Director
 
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Laylah Ali
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Laylah Ali's work explores power dynamics and interpersonal conflict through compositions that position culturally, racially and sexually ambiguous figures in precarious, loaded, and unexpectedly humorous situations. Ali uses concise—even minimal—imagery that is specific in rendering and intent. While there are narratives in Ali's work, they are stories whose open spaces often give them the atmosphere of fables.