Benny Andrews. A Sharecropper’s Reality
The son of sharecroppers from rural Georgia, Benny Andrews produced work that was deeply informed by his memories of growing up in the segregated South. As he explains, “No words adequately articulate the sharecropper’s reality. It is too demeaning, demoralizing, and dehumanizing to get into a verbal language.”1 Though he spent most of his adult life in New York, he carried these early experiences with him. While at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he was a student in the mid-1950s, Andrews forged his own way; he rejected its molding of professional artists, selecting instead to frequent Chicago’s jazz clubs and to hang out with the janitors at school.2 Against the school’s emphasis on abstraction, he favored a figuration with which he could lyrically express the reality of people who face injustices of racism, poverty, and war. Andrews developed a technique of incorporating cut fabric—sometimes from clothes worn by his family3—into his compositions, through which he explored surface, texture, and pattern while intertwining personal histories.
Benny Andrews, in Lowery Stokes Sims, “Benny Andrews: From Earth to Heaven and Back,” in Benny Andrews: There Must Be a Heaven (New York: Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, 2013), 11. ↩︎
William Zimmer, “‘I Believe I’m Doing America,’” in Benny Andrews: The American Series, ed. George Rivera (Santa Clara, CA: Triton Museum of Art, 1992), 5–6. ↩︎
Lowery Stokes Sims, “Benny Andrews: From Earth to Heaven and Back,” in Benny Andrews: There Must Be a Heaven (New York: Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, 2013), 9. ↩︎