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Camaraderie: Yusuf Al-Waajid Sculptures and Woody Johnson Negroglyphic Paintings 

When: Jan. 23-28 2008

This dual exhibition of the work of Yusuf-Al-Waajid and Woody Johnson, longtime friends and both fixtures in the East Bay art scene, has been assembled in honor of Al-Waajid's 75thth birthday. Both artists reclaim cultural identity by fusing traditional African art motifs and styles with a host of other influences from both ancient and modern art -- not surprising when you remember how much Cubism, Expressionism, and Surrealism owe to Africa's preference for vital force and spiritual power over naturalism. Al-Waajid, a third-generation carver who helped his grandfather fashion railroad ties in 1930s Louisiana, and later worked as a seaman, longshoreman, and music promoter before discovering his aptitude for sculpture, employs his self-taught technical expertise transforming to transform found materials into eclectic examinations of race, religion, politics, and spirituality: "At an early age I learned from my father to observe and read the signs in nature. ...I allow the wood to guide me." Johnson, who studied both at CCA and with a Yoruba master carver in Nigeria, and is a well-known sculptor, is showing mixed-media paintings here that imagine how "if Africans had been brought to this country and left alone to develop, what kind of writing would they have come up with." He calls these trans-temporal and transcultural abstractions with improvised pictographs (some quite jazzy and calligraphic) "Negroglyphs."Camaraderie, a catalogue designed and edited by Amanda Williams, is available from the gallery.Truns through January 28 at Joyce Gordon Gallery (406 14th St., Oakland). or 510-465-8928.

— DeWitt Cheng


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