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2/2 AZ News 2/21/93
ANDREWS, from E1

Share-cropper's son takes aim at stereotypes
Artist Benny Andrews speaks recently at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

ways that Andrews refined but retained throughout his career, Figures are simplified and noticeably elongated, while contours are exaggeratedly sharp. Over time, Andrews perfected his collage technique, wherein pieces of painted canvas are attached to the surface of a canvas on stretchers, along with articles of clothing and multicolored scraps of fabric.

"I start out with a mess and build my work," the artist said.

The vision that Andrews expresses is upward-looking. Through the years, as he invested his elongated figures and other subjects with more and more spirit, they became increasingly universal, even archetypal. Andrews attributes his transcendent vision to his early experiences: to supportive family members; to Sunday church services ("Such a release," he recalls); and to the private reverie that working the cotton fields always inspired.

Visitors to the Sherry Washington Gallery will see how Andrews developed his collage-paintings over 30 years. The earliest works, from 1962, are small and seemingly more concerned with solving formal problems that with revealing universal values or truths. One noteworthy early work, "Woman Ironing," is an abstract arrangement of hovering planes that includes simplified portrayals of a woman and an ironing board.

In Andrews' more recent paintings, figures are sharply silhouetted against unpainted backgrounds of primed, tautly stretched canvas. The empty white backgrounds set off the textural and chromatic richness of Andrews' collage elements.

Articles of used clothing, complete with pockets and zippers, convincingly describe subjects' bodies. Scraps of canvas, inventively folded and twisted, portray facial features and other anatomical parts. Applications of paint, often with one vibrant color bleeding into another, increase the collaged areas' richness.

Most works, such as "Portrait of a Collagist" (a self portrait) and "Blacksmith," portray a single starkly isolated figure. "I =like to deal with the individual up close," explained Andrews, who also delights in giving figures identities by portraying them in particular kinds of clothes.

Yet despite his attention to particulars, Andrews makes his figures emblems for timeless, universal personal qualities and societal roles. To shatter sterreotypes, as a means of fostering understanding among people, is his goal.

"I grew up in a society where everything had to do with race, 24 hours a day," he said. "I've always tried not to be overwhelmed by that, and my message to everybody is not to be overwhelmed."
The Sherry Washington Gallery, where Andrews' exhibit continues through April 10, is located in the L.B. King Building, at 1274 Library St. in Detroit. Hours are Tuesday-Saturday, noon to 6. For more information, call (313)961-4500.

Transcription Notes:
Image: Photo of Benny Andrews.