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Danny Simmons Abstract Mixed Media Painting

Danny Simmons (b. 1953)

Simmons’ father worked as a professor of black history at Pace University in New York, and his mother was a painter when he grew up in Queens, so his early artistic interest was encouraged, yet he chose to study business, earning his BA from New York University and an MBA from Long Island University.  He worked in city government and real estate in the 1980s until the market crashed in the early 1990s, when he decided to step back and pursue his first interest —art.  Self-taught, he draws inspiration from the work of modernists, Picasso, Klee, Miro, and Wilfredo Lam.  

Simmons discusses the symbolism of his trademark “dots” in an article found in International Review of African American Art, Vol 17, No. 2, p. 34: 

“I am drawn to dots and dashes.  For me, they are fundamental structures like DNA that are the building blocks of so much.  What I try to do with my paintings is to create abstractions that relate to our African heritages without interpreting them.  It took me a long time to figure it out, but I found my conduit with dots.  Dotting allows me to be abstract and still express my “Africanness”.  From the oldest aboriginal cultures, dots have always represented spirituality and the relationship between humanity and the natural world.  Through dotting, I was able to bridge the distance between Africa and the U.S.”

Simmons developed Corridor Gallery to showcase emerging artists and Rush Arts Gallery for mature, mid-career artists—such as Ed Clark, Frank Bowling, Wadsworth Jarrell, Adger Cowans, and Herb Gentry.  His work with the Rush Arts Gallery has financed and provided opportunities for black artists at every level.

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