Johnny Coleman’s art usually has been something you can stand inside, not just beside. The 2003 Cleveland Arts Prize winner and professor of studio art and African American studies at Oberlin College specializes in installation pieces that use architectural constructions, audio, and even smells to immerse audiences. Now, as part of Zygote Press’ artist in residence program, Coleman condenses his expression into two dimensions in a series of printworks he calls Some Spirits: The Free Side of the River.
Coleman’s work has always been an ongoing, nonverbal history of the African American experience, and he doesn’t have to go far to find links to that history. Oberlin played an important role in the Underground Railroad as a milestone for freedom-seeking slaves in their journey to Canada. In Some Spirits, Coleman strives to memorialize some of the slaves whose search for liberty brought them to Northeast Ohio. He has both success stories and chronicles of loss to tell. An opening reception will be held Friday, September 7, from 6 to 9 p.m. An artist talk is set for Thursday, September 13, from 6:30 to 8 p.m.