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Johnny Coleman

Installation artist, sculptor, and college professor Johnny Coleman was born in Saugus, Massachusetts on January 17, 1958. The son of Florence McCoy and John H. Coleman, he graduated from Redlands High School in Redlands, California and later earned his B.F.A. degree from the Otis Art Institute of the Parson’s School of Design and his M.F.A. degree from the University of California, San Diego.

Coleman is a tenured faculty member at Oberlin College where he teaches studio art and African American studies. His work has been exhibited in numerous galleries and museums, including Cleveland’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the David Zapf Gallery in San Diego, the Akron (Ohio) Museum of Art, and the William King Art Center in Abington, Virginia. His published works include “Landscapes of the Mind: Psychic Space and Narrative Specificity” in Space, Site, Intervention: Situating Installation Art from the University of Minnesota Press.

Coleman has received many awards and honors, including grants from the Ohio Arts Council, the National Endowment for the Arts, ART MATTERS, and the Russell Foundation. In 1997, he was named Outstanding Alumnus of the Year by the Otis Institute of Art and Design. In 2003, he received the Cleveland Arts Prize for Visual Arts.

Coleman lives in Oberlin, Ohio and is married to Annette Macios. They have two children.

Accession Number

A2005.010

Sex

Male

Interview Date

1/12/2005

Last Name

Coleman

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Redlands High School

University of California, San Diego

University of California-Santa Barbara

Otis College of Art and Design

Franklin Elementary School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Johnny

Birth City, State, Country

Saugus

HM ID

COL06

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Massachusetts

Favorite Vacation Destination

Oceans

Favorite Quote

Son, Experience Is An Excellent Teacher But A Lousy Surgeon. It Leaves Too Many Scars.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Ohio

Birth Date

1/17/1958

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Cleveland

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Soul Food, Mexican

Short Description

Installation artist and art professor Johnny Coleman (1958 - ) teaches art and African American studies at Oberlin College. His work has been exhibited in numerous galleries and museums, including Cleveland's Museum of Contemporary Art, the David Zapf Gallery in San Diego, the Akron (Ohio) Museum of Art, and the William King Art Center in Abington, Virginia.

Employment

Self-employed

Oberlin College

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Johnny Coleman's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Johnny Coleman lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Johnny Coleman talks about his immediate family and their move from Massachusetts to California when he was an infant

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Johnny Coleman talks about his grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Johnny Coleman talks about his parent's siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Johnny Coleman shares early memories of his childhood in Redlands, California

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Johnny Coleman recalls his early school days

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Johnny Coleman describes his exposure to art as a young child

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Johnny Coleman recalls the music in his childhood home and neighborhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Johnny Coleman describes the smells of his childhood in Redlands, California

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Johnny Coleman remembers the smells of foods his mother cooked

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Johnny Coleman talks about organizations his family participated in

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Johnny Coleman remembers his time at Redlands High School in Redlands, California and his disinterest in school

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Johnny Coleman describes the house and neighborhood he grew up in

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Johnny Coleman recalls working at Redlands Community Hospital in Redlands, California and taking community college courses

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Johnny Coleman talks about his career with Thrifty Drug Store

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Johnny Coleman recalls influential courses and professors from his time at University of California at Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara, California

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Johnny Coleman remembers learning about black artists

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Johnny Coleman describes HistoryMaker Samella Lewis' encapsulation of black aesthetics

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Johnny Coleman talks about the roots of the black aesthetic in the Harlem Renaissance

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Johnny Coleman talks about sculptor Augusta Savage

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Johnny Coleman comments on the relationship between black artists, white patronage and the term "black art"

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Johnny Coleman recalls the impact of the Black Arts Movement in his youth

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Johnny Coleman talks about HistoryMaker Dick Gregory and other black cultural leaders

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Johnny Coleman describes finding his artistic voice

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Johnny Coleman remembers his experiences at Otis Art Institute of Parsons School of Design and the University of California, San Diego

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Johnny Coleman remembers early recognition for his artwork while earning his M.F.A. degree from University of California, San Diego

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Johnny Coleman describes his use of Toni Morrison's 'Beloved' in his installation piece, 'Rememory: a Response to "Beloved"'

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Johnny Coleman explains how materials from his installation piece, 'Rememory: a Response to "Beloved"' were to be reused after the show's closing

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Johnny Coleman describes works he made for Toni Morrison

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Johnny Coleman describes his trilogy of installation pieces inspired by Toni Morrison's 'Beloved'

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Johnny Coleman describes the use of sound in his installations and his goal of creating ritual space

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Johnny Coleman describes an installation telling the story of his brother being slapped by a white teacher

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Johnny Coleman talks about his Maroon ancestry

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Johnny Coleman describes an ancestor's escape from slavery and an installation piece created from the story

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Johnny Coleman talks about his past and future installation work and exhibitions

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Johnny Coleman talks about his teaching career at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Johnny Coleman describes his studio class, Something from Something, and his seminar, Blues Aesthetic, at Oberlin College in Oberlin, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Johnny Coleman talks about his wife and children

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Johnny Coleman shares his future plans

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Johnny Coleman talks about his indirect route to becoming an artist

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Johnny Coleman reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Johnny Coleman reflects upon his hopes for his children's futures

DASession

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DATape

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DATitle
Johnny Coleman talks about the roots of the black aesthetic in the Harlem Renaissance
Johnny Coleman explains how materials from his installation piece, 'Rememory: a Response to "Beloved"' were to be reused after the show's closing
Transcript
Can you sort of walk us through the 20th century survey of African American art history. Was, I'd just like to have a better understanding of the roots of that kind of black aesthetic rhetoric, if we can call it that safely--$$Um-hm.$$--without, you know, denigrating it--$$Um-hm, um-hm.$$--at all but just to say the things that are being said in the 1980s, you know, they, they have earlier precedence.$$Oh, they sure do. I mean the things are being said (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) So where would you trace it to?$$I would trace it primarily back to, to the [Harlem] Renaissance and to Langston Hughes, you know, at one of, one of our native sons having come in high school from here at Central [High School, Cleveland, Ohio]. And Langston in terms of his love of black culture and vernacular speech and music, music, blues and jazz, and how black folks live and interact and wanting to reflect that on a personal level and on a cultural level, not so much as didactic, though he did write, you know, the, 'The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain' where he's talking specifically about, you know, who you're talking to and what are your reference and, and are you willing to, to identify yourself as, as a Negro artist in, in the lexicon of the day or black artist or do you simply want to be an artist. And he, he put a, a kind of binary in, in this kind of relationship as being an artist which he said he, he viewed as, I just wanna be an artist in an American sense, read: white. And he said that in opposition to an artist who had a strong relationship to community, to culture, to the language of black culture, to images, to history, to the way in which we are who we are not that's its monolithic but the range. And I would say that black aesthetic rests profoundly on his shoulders and some of the ideas that he was articulating along with others, Alain Locke, there in a big way. The Renaissance, you know, was a kind of a seedbed, it wasn't only located in Harlem [New York, New York] it was also happening in Chicago [Illinois], it was also happening in L.A. [Los Angeles, California], I'm talking about just creative expression within black folks. But as a, as an overall movement, it was certainly centered in Harlem and it was so rich and dense there across all the arts, all of 'em. But I think that in the '30s [1930s] is where this aesthetic really--$What happens to all that when the show closes?$$Well it's (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) You said you can't sell an installation?$$No, the, you know, I've been lucky with one, a very small piece was, was purchased out in California. But you can't sell an installation but they were never intended, they, that's a prayer for my daughter, it's a trilogy of prayers, each ones very, very specific and different. So what's gonna happen with it is I have it documented, I have the prayer that I'm speaking to her, physically speaking to her is both written and documented and recorded. She'll have all of that. She has all of, she'll have the locks from inside the boat, she'll have that little shoe form and she has all of the, now she's only five now but she'll have all of the necklaces, she'll have all my notes, the sketches, and that'll go into a book for her. And I've done several pieces for my son, all prayers that went into a book for him. And, you know, with the pieces that are yet to come, each one of 'em, '[A] Song for Ayo' is for Ayo [Coleman]. I don't know what Nyima [Coleman]'s book is titled but--$$Your daughter?$$My daughter.$$Okay.$$Those, that's what'll happen with those, you know. So for me they were prayers and for me the prayers function. And as far as materials, the boat is in a crate, the corn went to Habitat for Humanity, it went to, it was sewed into, into a, oh, gosh, I'm blanking on the term but it's, it'll help in fertilizing some soil. All the straw, there were a 140 some odd bales of straw there, all of that went to Habitat for Humanity. All of the beams which were beams from historic structures, either barns that I had been able to take down or beams that came out of structures that the others had gathered and I purchased ten, all of that's in my studio and is used in other pieces, it's worked into pieces of furniture that I build. But I got a gang of it (laughter).$$Okay.