Friday, February 23, 2018
A tumultuous year notwithstanding, 92-year-old Columbia artist Laura Spong will present an exhibition of small paintings at if ART Gallery in Columbia, S.C., March 3 – 24, 2018. The artist’s reception is Saturday, March, 3, 2:00 – 4:00 pm.
Spong last year received the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts for Lifetime Achievement, South Carolina’s highest award in the arts. The City of Columbia then declared September 5, 2017, “Laura Spong Day.” Her work was exhibited at Columbia City Hall in January, and Spong just closed a solo exhibition at the Sumter County (S.C.) Gallery of Art. This month, she was to move her studio from Vista Studios on Columbia’s Lady Street to the new Stormwater Studios on Huger Street. But while her fellow artists at Vista Studios are making the move, Spong will not, her health having taken a bad turn toward the end of last year. While Spong has made a substantial recovery, she’s not in a position to make the move. Instead, she’s now painting at her Columbia home, creating smaller paintings.
“Working on smaller paintings is simply not as taxing physically,” says Wim Roefs, owner of if ART Gallery, which represents Spong. “That’s important as Laura doesn’t have the energy she used to have. She still has the talent and drive, though, and it shows in the new works.”
Spong, a native of Nashville, Tenn., was born in 1926. She is among South Carolina’s most prominent abstract painters. Spong was included in Abstract Art in South Carolina 1949 – 2012, the South Caroline State Museum’s historic overview of abstract art in South Carolina. In recent years, Spong has had solo exhibitions at the Spartanburg (S.C.) Museum of Art, Young Harris College in Young Harris, Ga., and if ART Gallery and a two-person exhibition with Carl Blair at the Florence (S.C.) Museum. Spong also was represented in group shows throughout the Carolinas and in Georgia and Tennessee. The South Carolina State Art Collection, the South Carolina State Museum and the Greenville County (S.C.) Museum of Art have acquired both early and more recent paintings by Spong in the past decade.
Since the late 1980s, Spong has been a full-time artist, keeping a studio at Vista Studios in Columbia since 1991 and gradually increasing her now considerable reputation. Much of her career has been documented in three exhibition catalogues, Laura Spong at 80: Warming The Chill Wind With Celebration of 2006; Laura Spong 2006 – 2011: Age As An Administrative Device of 2011; and Laura Spong At 90: Six Decades In Paintings, all published by if ART Gallery.
Thursday, February 22, 2018
In conjunction with the South Carolina State Museum exhibition Leo Twiggs: Requiem For Mother Emanuel, if ART Gallery presents the solo exhibition Leo Twiggs: Remembering. The exhibition will include the last work in Twiggs’ series of painting commemorating the 2015 murder of nine parishioners at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. The exhibition opening reception and gallery talk will be Saturday, March 24, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. The show will run through April 14.
Orangeburg, S.C., resident Twiggs, born in St. Stephen, S.C., in 1934, is among South Carolina’s most revered and important artists, arts educators and arts administrators of the past 50 years. In 2017, Twiggs received the Elizabeth O’Neill Verner Governor’s Award for the Arts for Lifetime Achievement, the highest award in the arts in South Carolina. Twiggs is the only person to receive a second Verner Award; in 1981 he was the first person to receive a Verner Award as an individual artist. Twiggs last year also received the Order of the Palmetto, South Carolina’s highest civilian honor.
Twiggs’ series of paintings inspired by the 2015 Charleston Massacre at Emanuel AME church has traveled extensively through the Carolinas. His 2004 career retrospective, accompanied by a catalogue, opened at the Georgia Museum of Art and traveled to the Gibbes Museum in Charleston, S.C., the Greenville County (S.C.) Museum of Art, the Delta Fine Arts Center in Winston Salem, N.C., and the South Carolina State Museum in Columbia. Twiggs has had more than 70 solo exhibitions, the largest being Civil/Uncivil: The Art Of Leo Twiggs at the City Gallery at Waterfront Park in Charleston, S.C., in 2011, curated by if ART Gallery owner Wim Roefs. His work was selected for the South Carolina State Museum’s 1999 millennium exhibition 100 Years, 100 Artists. Among the many other places where Twiggs has exhibited are New York City’s Studio Museum in Harlem; the Schenectady (N.Y.) Museum; the Palazzo Venezia in Rome, Italy; the Herbert F. Johnson Museum at Cornell University, Ithaca N.Y.; the Mississippi Museum of Art; and the American Crafts Museum in New York. Twiggs’ 1997 exhibition, Commemoration Revisited, a return to paintings of tattered images of Confederate flags 25 years earlier, received national attention. Already during the 1970s, his work was included in several national exhibitions representing a who’s who of African-American art.
Twiggs’ career and body of work is extensively documented in the 320-page, heavily illustrated, 2011 book Messages From Home: The Art Of Leo Twiggs (Orangeburg, SC: Claflin University Press). He is featured in dozens of books, articles and other publications, including Elton Fax’s 1977 book Black Artists of the New Generation; the Studio Museum’s 1978 catalogue Leo Twiggs: Down Home Landscape; Samella Lewis’ 1990 book African American Arts and Artists; Amalia K. Amaki’s A Century of African American Art, 2004; and the 2006 if ART catalogue Leo Twiggs: Toward Another Retrospective.
Twiggs in 1956 received his B.A. Summa Cum Laude from Claflin University in Orangeburg, S.C. In 1961, he studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, in 1964 earned his MA from New York University, and in 1971was the first African-American to receive a doctorate in art education from the University of Georgia. Formerly a distinguished professor of art and executive director of the I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium at South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, S.C., Twiggs is S.C. State professor emeritus and distinguished artist-in-residence at Claflin University.