Jesse Howard:  Reflection Of A Community As It Is at the Riverside Arts Center


Exhibition Dates: May 18 – June 24, 2023

Opening Reception: Saturday, May 20, 2023, 3:00 – 6:00 pm

Gallery hours: Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays 1:00 – 5:00 pm

Artist Talk: Saturday, June 17, 2023, 2:00 pm

Listen Here, 2021, Charcoal and acrylic on paper, 38 x 42 inches

The Riverside Arts Center’s FlexSpace is pleased to present Reflection Of A Community As It Is, an exhibition featuring large-scale drawings by Jesse Howard.    

You cannot escape from Jesse Howard’s drawings. The over-sized figures with bold strokes of charcoal outlining exaggerated features and the vibrant washes of acrylic color grab your attention. Who are these people? What is their story? They are all part of Jesse Howard’s community, from the homeless to the church elders, the disenfranchised to the selfie-taking millennials, and the demonstrators to the friends in conversation. 

Growing up on the west side of Chicago, the budding artist watched his uncles draw on the kitchen table as he observed how the characters of his neighborhood could come to life on paper. His faces of men, whether they are down on their luck or confident of stature, are drawn with equal respect. The image is absent of a background or setting, allowing the individual to maintain center stage. Inner City Blues is one such portrait of a street person, his dreadlocks wild and his red-lipped mouth agape, with his penetrating blue eyes referencing back to slavery and the master’s assault.

Raised by African American women, Jesse Howard recognized how these strong females were the cornerstones of Black culture, teaching and maintaining the rules, traditions, and opportunities across the generations. The triptych Moment in Time depicts two women on either side of a young male figure wearing a gas mask as if he’s ready for a protest, his hands rendered as massive nervous protrusions in the foreground. One woman stands with hands on hips, the folds of her belly exposed from her tied-up t-shirt. Her dyed red hair lends to her defiant gaze as the other woman folds her arms, her concerned eyes focused on the youth. Similarly, the women in Howard’s “Crowns” series portray the proud female elders of the church, dressed in their Sunday finest topped by lavish headwear. 

Like the late artist Charles White, Jesse Howard depicts his community as “images of dignity” and celebrates who they are. These aren’t Hollywood models but real people shown in real life situations. Howard walks the streets of Chicago and interacts with his subjects, requesting to take photographs of those who touch him visually and emotionally. The young, old, indigent, and well-off are all subjects for Howard’s emotionally charged visualizations of the Black community and the roles they play in the here and now. Continual news about racism, violence, and inequality against Black people are fuel for his drawings, pushing his fevered strokes and washes of charcoal to shout out against the injustices. 

— Joanne Aono, curator

Inner City Blues, 2023, Charcoal and acrylic on paper, 36 x 24 inches

Jesse Howard is a local artist whose large-scale drawings reflect his experiences as an African American in Chicago. He received a Bachelor of Science degree from Ball State University. Solo exhibitions include Bert Green Fine Art Gallery (Chicago), South Side Community Art Center (Chicago), University Club of Chicago, and Harold Washington College (Chicago). Group exhibitions include the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art, DuSable Museum (Chicago), Logan Museum (Beloit, WI), and Hofheimer Gallery (Chicago).

Howard’s art is included in the permanent collections of the DePaul University Art Museum, Beloit College, Minnesota Museum of American Art, Rutgers University, along with numerous private collections. He has received several awards and grants including a 2022 3Arts nominee, Grand Prize at the Purdue University National Drawing Exhibition, First Place at 58th Annual Beloit & Vicinity Exhibition, and the RagdaleFoundation Residency Scholastic Award. His art has been reviewed in the Village Free Press, Scapi Magazine, and Wednesday Journal. The artist has been featured in the award winning Color of Art documentary along with videos for WYCC PBS, City Vanguard, and the Alphawood Foundation. 

Riverside Arts Center 

Freeark Gallery + Sculpture Garden

32 East Quincy Street

Riverside, Illinois 60546

Gallery Hours: Thursday – Saturday, 1-5pm, Closed Sundays – Wednesdays and major holidays.

Riverside Arts Center’s exhibitions are free and open to the public.

Published by Artdose Magazine

Founded in 2013, Artdose Magazine LLC is an independent print and digital art magazine committed to connecting and supporting the visual arts in the Midwest. Published by Frank Juárez, the magazine is premised on the belief that we all share common goals of introducing, engaging, and offering diverse art experiences. Artdose Magazine LLC appears in print as a bi-annual art magazine, through a weekly art e-newsletter and on Instagram and Facebook. About Frank Juárez Frank Juárez is an award winning art educator, artist, publisher, art coach, and former gallery director living and working in Sheboygan, Wisconsin.. Organizing local and regional art exhibitions, community art events, facilitating presentations, supporting artists through professional development workshops, use of social media and networking has placed him in the forefront of advancing and promoting local artists and attracting regional and national artists to collaborate, network and exhibit in Wisconsin.

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