Richard Lewis: Idea of Ancestry

OPENING RECEPTION: OCTOBER 19TH

Idea of Ancestry, an exhibition featuring the paintings and drawings of Detroit artist Richard E. Lewis. Focusing on Lewis’ portraiture over the past two decades, the exhibition emphasizes what he refers to as the “collective intelligence” of his work, a sort of collaborative process that occurs with the sitter. This exchange usually includes members of Lewis’ family or his friends, and lends to the intensity and warmth of his portraits. Idea of Ancestry is titled after a poem by Etheridge Knight, a work often discussed in the context of Black cultural history as it centers the interconnectivity of lives within families, and across communities. 

Although Lewis was an avid draftsman throughout his childhood, originally encouraged by his godmother, he began painting his family and friends in the mid 1980s, and continued this practice throughout his time in New Haven and New York City, recording a personal history while simultaneously addressing the intersections of race and class in the United States. In Lewis’ portraiture, the viewer encounters what art historian Dennis Alan Nawrocki identifies as the “resilient humanity” of his subjects.

Richard E. Lewis was born in Detroit in 1966. An alumnus of Cass Technical high school, he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the College for Creative Studies and a Master of Fine Arts degree from the Yale School of Art. Shortly after graduating from Yale University he moved to New York, where he was an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Lewis returned to Michigan in 2002, and taught art at universities and colleges across the Detroit Metropolitan Area. He received a Kresge Artist Fellowship in 2011, and was recently featured in the exhibitions Sonic Rebellion: Music as Resistance (Museum of Contemporary Art, Detroit) and Evidence of Things Not Seen (College for Creative Studies). 

Richard E. Lewis: Idea of Ancestry is guest curated by New York-based art historian Maymanah Farhat. 

The opening reception of the exhibition is on October 19, 6-9pm, at 4130 Cass Ave. This event is free and open to the public. 

The show will run through November 9th, 2018