feature: artist jules arthur gives voice to the voiceless in honoring new portrait series ‘culture & commerce’

August 16, 2016

It is no secret that the history we read in the textbooks, is not the whole one- or even a fraction of it. There are a plethora of black and brown peoples whose stories and input have been eradicated from the records, and placed by the wayside, but in painter Jules Arthur‘s latest series, the stories of creators past are not only recognized, but prioritized- brought to the surface and placed on a pedestal.

“Each portrait in this body of unspoken history and culture is a fictitious advertisement that imagines what it might have been like had these craftsmen and entrepreneurs from the 17th ,18th and 19th centuries been allowed to attain the full extent of their creativity and craft.”

With the through line of his work being to continuously portray the human condition ‘ as experienced by individual personalities’, this Missouri-born artist gives a voice to the stifled, and teaches a beautiful history lesson in the process. Through his unique utilization of texture and resource, Arthur’s pieces possess a potent nostalgia that both pays its respects, and adds another layer of meaning to their contributions.

Featuring forgotten heroes and heroins from all ends of the African diaspora: from Cuba, to Botswana, to Jamaica, to New Orleans; those at the bottom- who truly influenced the top- are now granted the due they deserved centuries ago. Seeking to revive the past grace and ‘brilliance’ of the unsung craftspeople, this loaded series celebrates their contribution to the modern world. Arthur’s powerful series is a crucial one, and as he uses his talents to inform, he unearths a platform of both recognition and reclamation. It is up to artists everywhere to tell the truth, and ‘Culture Commerce’ is a phenomenal example of what can happen when they do. Currently showing at Gallery Josephine  (ending September 5, 2016), this series will give you just the right amounts of beauty and truth. Check out some of Jules Arthur’s ‘Culture and Commerce’ below.

By Cree B. McClellan, AFROPUNK contributor