Jonathan Green

Jonathan Green's artwork suggests another more recent trend in African American art, a trend which exists as a continuation of the self-conscious affirmation of identity which occurred in Harlem. Green, born on St. Helena Island amidst a long-standing Gullah community, travelled to Chicago to study art at the School of the Art Institiute of Chicagio. The artist eventually moved back to the South and currently lives in Naples, Florida. He is thus in the unique position of having experienced both communities, urban and rural, and both styles of art, folk and formal.

Tales, 1988.
Oil on masonite, 24 x 36 in.

Oyster Pickers, 1990.
Oil on canvas, 47 x 98 in.

According to Ronne Hartfield, "the work of Jonathan Green...expresses this dual concern, this double consciousness of isolated experience rooted in and strengthened by the communal." This suggests, then, that move to urban Harlem and the modernism present in art there, eventually came back South and resulted in this "double consciousness" -- an awareness of self and community, a response to both a fracture with the past and a trend toward creating continuity with this past. As Hartfield states in response to Green's work, "For black people, becoming American has been less about Lewis Lapham's invention of self than about the integration of past, present, and future." Thus, Green's work, like much of the art which has moved between North and South, is concerned with a marriage or dialogue between past and future, rural and urban, communal and individual.

In Green's work here, one sees a rich variety of Carolina colors fused with an individuality of style. Tales at once suggests the strength of a southern, rural community and depicts its individuals in rich, unique colors which stand out on their own. For Green these people seem to be of meaning in both spheres. They are at once distinct individuals but could not exist (that is, would not be in his painting) unless they were part of a larger community.

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