Feature: Artsy Vanguard 2021 x Alteronce Gumby

Jewels Dodson, Artsy, December 1, 2021

written by JEWELS DODSON


Standing in front of  Alteronce Gumby’s painting Black Star (2019) is what it must feel like to be enveloped in the Milky Way. A whipped palette of dark metallics filled with mystery and mysticism cascade across a lightning-bolt shaped canvas. The shades are both indeterminate and intoxicating. With each velveteen brushstroke, the artist unearths the nuanced tones that live deep within colors. Through his abstract paintings, Gumby takes viewers on an odyssey beyond the provincial politics of the present, nudging open the door to worlds both within ourselves and well beyond this one.
Gumby’s work dives deep into color not just visually, but symbolically and politically. “I felt like these color codes towards Black people have been reinforced throughout pop culture and throughout society,” Gumby explained. “I feel like that’s why when Martin Luther King said, ‘I’m Black, I’m proud of it. I’m Black and beautiful,’ he was trying to push against these color codes that have been reinforced through color, race, and culture.”
What’s most beguiling is Gumby’s versions of black are a conduit for a deeper connection with a color, culture, and people that have long been condemned. Gumby’s 2017 solo show “Black(ness) is Beautiful” at Paris’s Fondation des Etats-Unis featured Heavy is the Crown (for Jack Whitten, 2018), in which he reconstituted the dark hue by creating intense texture, eradicating the rudimentary notion of black being an empty void.