My studio practice comprises an amalgam of creative processes and historical research.
I utilize printmaking, painting, collage, sculpture, and installation to create works
that address how mundane and seemingly anodyne artifacts embody the complex and pervasive history of race/racism and class/classicism in the United States.
Employing a multi-media approach, I rework and re-contextualize images and
objects to foreground their interactions – both past and present – in this history.
The objects (e.g., picket fences, coloring books, embroidery or pop-culture ephemera)
are visually or physically juxtaposed with contrary or jarring images that release
uncomfortable truths and suppressed stories which are both personal and political.
My studio practice has expanded to consider the process of re-presentation of
objects and histories both in terms of scale and space to create interactions
among different media, and now includes sculpture and installation.
The presence of three-dimensional signifiers is physically confrontational and asks the viewer to wrestle with the complicated origins and dynamics of Race and the resulting implications.
Most recently, my research has been a critical analysis of authoritarian systems of information, control, and power. I focus on how religion, politics, certain methodologies of science and anthropology, and the criminal justice system contribute to and sustain race- and class-based oppression.
Born January 29th, 1985 - Washington D.C.
Aaron is an Assistant Professor of Art at the University of Arizona.
He received his MFA from Northern Illinois University in 2013 and BFA from
Herron School of Art and Design in 2009.
As a teenager and young adult Aaron was active in the local Hip-Hop and Graffiti scene in Indianapolis and both remain as major influences in his fine art studio practice and philosophy.
As the son of mixed-race parents, Aaron’s life experiences have instilled in him
an interest in sociopolitical engagement and social justice work. These experiences
are the guiding forces behind the work he creates.
Aaron has exhibited internationally and received numerous awards, scholarships
and fellowships for his work in lithography and mezzotint. His work can be found in the collections of The Janet Turner Print Museum, The University of Colorado, Wichita State University, the Ino-cho Paper Museum in Kochi, Japan, The Yekaterinburg Museum of Art in Yekaterinburg, Russia, the University of Tennessee Knoxville’s Ewing Gallery Collection, and
The Artist Printmaker and Photographer Research Archive among many other
public and private collections.
Aaron’s hobbies change from year to year but currently include the cultivation of rare, terrestrial orchids and vivarium culture. He is a husband, a dog lover and a workaholic.
NOTES FROM OUR CURATOR
TERESA J. PARKER
"That's Inked Up" Printmaking Blog
The prints of Aaron Coleman give rise to the old claim that art can change the world.
Indeed, the work of Aaron Coleman brings together different factions of philosophy, religion and hip hop culture to make very strong messages about the artist's feelings on society today. They are so strong in fact that they proclaim a day of reckoning is upon us.
Coleman is a mixed media artist/printmaker whose works focus on political and social issues.
He combines imagery from comic books and stained-glass windows
to raise questions concerning misconstrued belief systems and twisted moral values in our society.
Coleman’s background in hip-hop culture and street art is also a major influence in his work. His work is bold, colorful and poignantly creates messages that hit the viewer like a lightning bolt.
Here is an artist who is fearless, who deftly blends together images of saints, silhouette beating of Rodney King, graffiti and much more.
Coleman is using all imagery at his disposal to create striking and effective work that reflects our fears and hopes. He mashes it all together and through the chaos we will hopefully find redemption and
Let us all revel in his glory, for this is an artist worth watching.
First Sunday Tea & Talk Lecture
Click on the link below.
2020 brought on a wave of global transition and that transition continues to push its way through the early days of 2021. The continual rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and the resurgence of white supremacy have exposed the ghosts with unfinished business looming in the land of the free.
We are living in polarizing times not seen to this degree since the Civil Rights movement. Responding to this moment, and rooted in the BLM and Land Back movements, the work in Monumental Shadows respond to the efforts of activist efforts to put the ghosts to bed.
In the past year, across the country, we witnessed campaigns to tear down monuments and statues representing figures and events that uphold White supremacy and settler colonialism. Statues of confederate soldiers, Christopher Columbus and many other historical figures with ties to the genocide of indigenous peoples and people of color and the destruction of the natural world are no longer relics welcome in the land of the free.
Footage of crowds toppling statues riddled with graffiti of revolutionary messages, pushing them into bays and rivers, spread images across the world that oppressed people will no longer stand for the idolization of slavers, rapists, pillagers and criminals or tolerate those who defend them.
The works in this exhibition are inspired by these events, but more specifically, bring into physical for answers to the questions I found myself asking:
Where will these statues end up?
Are they piled up in some white supremacy graveyard of shame and dishonor?
Is there an army of headless, bronze men scattered across the bottom of the ocean?
What monuments will replace them?
The mixed media paintings, which take their name from the exhibition title, present stacked silhouettes of these statues, materialized through bronze, iron and tar on paper. The oxidized and corroding metals elude to the man-made construction of both physical objects and problematic ideologies, their precarious foundation, decaying façade and inevitable demise.
The floral patterns of Colonial Crewelwork embroidery and African Kente cloth motifs are stand-ins for oppressor and oppressed, villains and heroes. Mimicking stained glass windows, all of the works in Monumental Shadows are explorations of authoritarian systems of power.
In this case, under the microscope is the legacy of the church and its roll in perpetuating white supremacy and the radicalization of indigenous spiritualities. In particular, the focus shines a light on the Klu Klux Klan proclamation that it is “one’s Christian duty to uphold the purity of the white race”.
Two series of paintings, Box Monument 1-4 and Cradle Monument 1-4, imagine the monuments that would replace these fallen, false idols.
Guided by written accounts of the brutalization of African people and stories of escaped slaves, the two series present geometric forms that embody these stories, placed in natural settings and serve as my offering of imagined potential, empathy and peace. Box Monument 1-4 are an homage to Henry “Box” Brown who, in the 1900s, paid 86$ to ship himself in a 3’x2.5’x2’ wooden crate form slavery in Virginia to abolitionists in Philadelphia.
These pieces are testament to the enduring spirit, and the extraordinary efforts against all odds exhibited by enslaved people.
Cradle Monument 1-4 expose the practice of digging circular holes in the ground to make space for the unborn child in the womb of a pregnant slave who was laid face down on the ground to be whipped.
This account in particular presents loaded conundrum of simultaneous punishment and protection. The slaver digs a hole to protect his future crop of free labor while whipping the mother. I make no assumptions about the mother, but I try to imagine the paradox of suffering the brutalization while finding solace in knowing her unborn child is protected.
Not missing from my wondering is the circumstance under which the child was conceived in the first place. Lastly, I consider that the earth itself bears witness to this atrocity and has been opened to protect the womb.
These are the stories I hope to see materialized as monuments, memorials and statues. These are the stories, that when passed down from generation to generation, instill in us an empathy for those who came before us and an understating of the generational trauma that must be healed.
Monumental Shadows is an exhibition that not only responds to the times in which we live. It is a body of work that examines history, culture, pain and hope. It is crucial that we do not forget where we come from as it is the only way to pave a new path forward. That path, laden with a knowledge of the past, produces empathy, understanding and trust.