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James Denmark Original Mixed Media Painting

James Denmark (b. 1936)

A gifted athlete, James Denmark was granted a scholarship to study at Florida A&M University, where he met and worked with Samella Lewis. Lewis invited many well-known African American artists to lecture there, so Denmark had the opportunity to meet them and gain insight into their work.

After a short hiatus from school, he enrolled at Pratt Institute of Fine Arts (M.F.A., 1976). He was highly influenced by the colorful collages of Jacob Lawrence, who was teaching at Pratt. Denmark snuck into many of Lawrence’s classes although he was not officially enrolled in them. Lawrence introduced Denmark to Romare Bearden and Al Hollingsworth. It was about this time Denmark moved away from charcoal and watercolor works and committed himself to the art of collage. 

Denmark participated in several historically significant exhibitions, including Rebuttal to the Whitney; Afro-American Artists, New York and Boston; and Contemporary Black Artists, 1969. His collage, Black Odyssey (1980) was executed to commemorate the opening of the new Schomburg Center building in New York. His work is included in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Denmark was represented by Nigel Jackson at the Acts of Art Gallery, where he had four solo shows in the early 1970s. Jackson spoke of Denmark (and the gallery): “I want a big structure, I want a beautiful thing. I want somebody to be able to encourage a man like James Denmark who has done this kind of work, which is unique in itself, to encourage him, not to limit him.” (REF: Acts of Art and Rebuttal in 1971, catalog accompanying the exhibition at Hunter College, Howard Singerman, 2018; essay by Clara Chapin, p. 71)

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