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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

ODU Art Gallery to Host A.B. Jackson Retrospective Exhibit through Aug. 2

"Passerby: An A.B. Jackson Retrospective," an exhibition of works by the late artist Alexander Brooks Jackson, (1925-1981), will be on view at the Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries at Old Dominion University through August 2, 2015.

A.B. Jackson achieved many "firsts" during his career. He was one of the first African-Americans to graduate from Yale's fine arts program, earning a BFA in 1953 and a Masters in Graphic Arts in 1955, after studying under renowned Bauhaus color field painter Josef Albers. Jackson was also the first black artist admitted to the City of Virginia Beach's Boardwalk Juried Art Show. Denied entry because of his race in 1964, he came back to win the top prize in 1966. The oil painting for which he won, depicting the religious subject "Veronica's Veil," now graces the collection of the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art and will be part of this retrospective. In 1967, Jackson became the first black professor at Old Dominion University, having previously served as chair of the art department of the Norfolk division of Virginia State College (now Norfolk State University).

Despite powerful, personal associations with breaking color barriers, Jackson's aesthetic remained somewhat apart from the social, critical and political agendas promulgating a "black art" label amongst both the mainstream and counterculture art worlds. His work, instead, draws inspiration from Rembrandt, who, according to Jackson was "the master of saying it with very little... He sacrificed detail for an impression of the moment." The drawings, paintings and prints in this retrospective tell the story of a man who said time and time again "seeing is my religion." Obsessed with depicting light, his subjects vary in nature, but follow clear thematic and stylistic threads. Jackson reveals a deep sensitivity to the humanity of people of any plight, despite race or creed, while employing a visionary approach to rendering even the simplest objects.

Jackson's broader oeuvre is fully represented for the first time by breaking his work into thematic threads, including genre and figural studies known as the "Porch People;" portraits of Christ and other religious subjects; and pastoral works and studies depicting the natural world. A breakthrough investigation into his deeply contemplative "Man and the Wall" series, which features anonymous figures seemingly lost against a walled background, raises questions about the isolating ramifications of conforming to cultural identity. A salon-hanging wall of Jackson's pen and ink drawings reveal the exquisite detail of a draftsman whose handling recalls the Old Masters.

"Passerby: An A.B. Jackson Retrospective" will be the first large-scale analysis of Jackson's work since his untimely death in 1981, when the Chrysler Museum of Art, Old Dominion University and Norfolk State University held a tripartite exhibition in his honor. Close to 90 works from institutional and private lenders from along the East Coast appear together in the current exhibition, including the Chrysler Museum of Art, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art, the Suffolk Art League, the North Carolina Central University Museum, and works from numerous private collections, including that of Larry and Brenda Thompson. A WHRO documentary film about Jackson shot shortly after his death, and WTVZ-recorded audio of Jackson discussing his work will accompany the exhibition, and catalogs will be available for purchase.

The Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries are located at 4509 Monarch Way, Norfolk, VA 23517 in University Village on the campus of Old Dominion University. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 11 p.m. - 5 p.m. Parking is available in the 45th Street Garage.

For more information, call 757-683-6271 or visit the Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries website. Contact Kathryn McGuire, guest curator of the exhibition, at 757-810-4890, or Ramona Austin, curator of the Baron and Ellin Gordon Art Galleries, at 757-683-6272.

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