Wed. Oct 28th, 2020

Artifacts: Made In Black America |1979-12-8

Hand painted vase by Cecil Cooper

At the Gallery of the New World (159 W. 45th St. Man.), the walls and floor are lavishly appointed with African masks, handcrafted clocks, tribal stone sculptures and leather carvings depicting the queens and pharaohs of Ancient Egypt. What distinguishes the Gallery’s collection, however, is that it is composed entirely of the work of Black-American artists. Andi Wilson, the Gallery’s director and coordinator, established the shop precisely in order to tap the creative energy of this oft-neglected group. Though African and Caribbean art import shops existed in abundance, Andi recognized a glaring paucity of showcases for the creations of our indigenous black artists.

The diminutive size of the gallery belies its extensive array of artwork and the vitality of its versatile talented staff. Outside the shop rests a display case of hand painted vases and exquisite leather work. Once prospective customers enter the premises, they find themselves surrounded by original paintings and etchings, hand wrought gold and copper jewelry, leather bags and necklaces, elaborate sculptures, candleholders and an exciting assortment of other types of craft work.

Six accomplished, experienced artists are represented in the gallery’s collection. Most of these men and women have their own studios and have given individual exhibitions of their work. The group’s members also frequently participate in citywide craft expositions.

Marvin Sin’s Egyptian Design
Marvin Sin’s Egyptian Design
  • M. Sin’s (a.k.a Marvin Kelly) specialty is the art of leather work. Along with Egyptian designs, his bags display etchings of astrological signs, animals, West African scenes or anything else you can think of, for the artist does custom work as well. The beautiful leather and wood paintings that hang on the shop walls are his creations.
  • Tom Feelings is a painter and well-known writer and illustrator of children’s books. His repertoire includes depictions of black people going about their daily routines, colorful scenes of African life and realistic portraits.
  • Starting with empty water cooler bottles, Cecil Cooper designs hand painted vases which are an unparalleled blend of beauty and innovation.
  • Onnie Millar is a tribal stone sculptress whose exquisite, one-of-a-kind pieces reflect her many years of experience in the field.
  • Shariff Zizwe, master craftsman and furniture designer, fashioned the handsome clocks which remain one of the shop’s most sought after items.
  • Also associated with the Gallery is Jamal Mims, whose Sun Gallery, which features his original jewelry, is located in Washington DC
Shariff Zizwe's Wood Sculpture
Shariff Zizwe’s Wood Sculpture

Andi Wilson’s outlook for the Gallery is quite an optimistic one “I believe that various art forms can develop into industries and become vibrant economic forces throughout the world. The Gallery came into being because I believed that by nurturing the talents of Black artists I could advance the objectives of all black people.” In the future, Andi foresees a time when his group of artists will collectively design pieces, do interior decorating and incorporate their combined talents into projects worthy of the new art world they are helping to create. During the first three weeks in December, the Gallery will sponsor an International African Arts, Crafts and Gifts Exposition, which will premiere in New York and then move on to Washington DC for a few weeks. Artists from North Carolina to the Caribbean to Tanzania will participate in the exhibition. There will be performing artists and film presentations as well.

The Gallery also has a referral service for hair sculpting. With the help of creative cornrows, twists, extensions, rasta braids and imagination, the Braiders of the New World are making hairstyling into an art form.

Prices at the Gallery run from $10 to $500, and shoppers can purchase custom designed work within this range, depending upon the item.

The Gallery of the New World is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11:30 am to 7:00 pm. Interested art lovers may call (212) 997-1565 for more information, but the best alternative is to drop in at the shop and browse around. It’ll be more than worth your while.

Keep reading this issue – next article

See a list of all archived Routes editions