Arts & entertainment

gua: Explore black hair & politics through art


Published: Thursday, January 14, 2010 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 12, 2010 at 6:26 p.m.

New York artist and Gainesville native Kenya Robinson uses synthetic hair, combs, brushes, picks, bobby pins, transparency film, string, and other hair products to create beautiful works of art, which she calls "HAIRPOLITIC: Pomade in America," a mixed media exhibit that explores black hair and iconic images of beauty.

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A sample of art from Robinson's exhibit.

Special to the Guardian



What: HAIRPOLITIC: Pomade in America, mixed media exhibit.
When: Opens Saturday, and runs through Mar. 14.
Where: Main Gallery at the Thomas Center, 302 NE 6th Ave.
Cost: Free.
Information: Gallery hours are 8 a.m.- 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday, and 1-4 p.m. Saturday. For information, call, 393-8532.

Robinson, 32, said "politics" is the process by which groups of people make decisions and "HAIRPOLITIC" emphasizes choice of style and adornment, in an attempt to open dialogue about choices.

"HAIRPOLITIC: Pomade in America" opens Saturday and runs through Mar. 14 in the Main Gallery at the Thomas Center, 302 NE 6th Ave.

Robinson will be available to discuss her works during a reception to be held from 5-8 p.m. Feb. 12.

Erin Friedberg, visual arts coordinator for the city of Gainesville, said it's fitting that Robinson's exhibit will run during Black History Month, which is celebrated in February, because Robinson incorporates African American history into her art. "Kenya's exhibition is intriguing and fascinating," Friedberg said. "I find the entire concept, her technique and aesthetic ability so unique and refreshing. It's a privilege to show her work."

Friedberg said Robinson's reception will take place during the 100th anniversary celebration of the Thomas Center, and her exhibit will bring a contemporary perspective and an exciting component to the centennial celebration. "Her reception is so special," said Friedberg. "Kenya brings contemporary perspective, a very exciting component to the Thomas Center Centennial Celebration."

Robinson said HAIRPOLITIC continues to influence her creative choices.

She said the exhibit will feature 30 pieces that represent her creative evolution and includes works from past exhibits entitled HAIRPOLITIC: The Pursuit of Napiness, and HAIRPOLITIC: Platinum Eaters ... art series as well as her exploration into multi-media.

"I try to address perspectives in current, popular culture, " Robinson said in a phone interview. "High or low culture, it's still culture."

Robinson made her artistic mark in the Big Apple in 2008 with HAIRPOLITIC, which was exhibited in the Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Art in Brooklyn.

Recently, Robinson was one of 20 visual artists chosen to receive the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace Residency award, which includes studio space in the Financial District in Lower Manhattan. She said 1000 artists applied for this prestigious award.

"This a major coup for me," Robinson said. "I'm the only one (of the chosen) who has not gone to a formal art school. I'm self-taught."

Robinson's life revolves around art, and a consulting job pays her bills. She's a designer for SueDevitt, an online cosmetic company.

Robinson grew up and attended schools in Gainesville, including Lincoln Middle School, Gainesville High School, and the University of Florida. Her father Lindsey Robinson, and her grandparents, Delia and Horace McKnight II reside in Gainesville.

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