IV

Narratives of African American Art and Identity

James Phillips

The Dealer, 1966

(From the Junkie in the Twilight Zone Series)

Oil on canvas

20" x 16"


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The Dealer

After graduating from the Philadelphia College of Art during the late 1960s, Weusi and AfriCobra painter and muralist James Phillips traveled to New York, where he became acquainted with several popular jazz musicians and artists. Phillips's experience with New York's musicians and artists inspired him to attempt to mimic the rhythms and moods of jazz music within his own work.

As evidenced in his 1966 painting The Dealer, Phillips began to incorporate jarring color combinations, sporadic zigzagging forms, and writhing compositions that alter the perception of reality. In similar fashion to the musical free jazz style of John Coltrane–an artist with whom Phillips was acquainted–The Dealer displays striking features of improvisation, layered rhythmic patterning, and violent bursts of colorful forms and accents.

In contrast, the title of Phillips's work, The Dealer, suggests a more sinister element to the world of music and art, that of the transforming, mind-altering effects of drug use and addiction.  T. F.

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