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Y2 A2 NEWS FEB 21, 1993

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Pays off

Collagist Andrews finally gets his due

By Roger Green

DETROIT- " Just introduce me as a painter. I'm a painter," said Benny Andrews, smiling as he stepped to the lectern at The Detroit Institute of Arts.

Andrews, whose distinguished career as a painter spans 30 years, described his life and art in a slide lecture sponsored by the DIA's Friends of African and African -American Art, and by the Michigan Chapter of the National Conference of Artist. The lecture and an exhibit of Andrews' paintings-at downtown Detroit's Sherry Washington Gallery - were intentionally and appropriately scheduled in February, Celebrated across ther [[their]] country as Black History Month.

Certainly Andrews' personal history, as he described it, contributed inspiringly to Black History Month in Michigan. In his lecture, Andrews linked his subjects, and vision, to his arduous early experience as a share- cropper's son in rural Georgia. "When people ask, 'Where does your work come from?,' I tell them, 'That's where it come from,"' he said.

'The Sic Em Man,' collage and gouache by Benny Andrews

It's true that Andrews overcame formidable obstacles in the south, where during his early years - the 1930s and '40a - educational and other opportunities for blacks were near nill.

Yet Andrews also overcame obstacles in the North where, after graduating from the school of The Art Institute of Chicago in 1958, he discovered that dealers and other art leaders spurned his figurative, narrative collage paintings.

At a time when Abstract Expressionism was in Vogue, Andrews; art never really "fit in,' he said.

Only obsessed persistence explains the critical and financial success he eventually achieved, with exhibits as important galleries and major museums. Besides creating his collage paintings, Andrews has been a visiting artist, critic and lecturer at many colleges and universities. From 1982-84 he directed the Visual Arts Program of the National Endowment for the Arts.

Andrews' early pictures are autobiographical - portraits of family members and pictures of field work on the Georgia cotton plantation. While rendered realistically, the paintings are stylized in