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All Play is Spiritual: Jahbarri Wilson Review

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

October 7- November 1, 2022

Masterworks Bermuda

Dr. Edwin M. E. Smith

Is play a part of why you create? It is for Jahbarri Wilson. He considers all play to be spiritual, that is, enjoyable moments that lead to personal revelations. In his art, he has chosen to enjoy the journey of discovery, reveling in risk-taking and experimentation. He is learning as he creates- not only the possibilities and intricacies of his media, but more importantly about himself and what affects his spirit.

In his first solo exhibition, All play is Spiritual, Wilson has created an energized environment where large, dancing, peacock feather figures seem to vie with the audience for available space to view the various sized mixed-media works on display. Here, at the Rick Faries Gallery, works hang from above and are pinned and hung to the walls. Some appear as sketchbook studies, personal uninhibited notes and experimental mark-making that the audience has been given the privilege to view.

One of the three larger works exhibited is ‘Noon in the Moon- Thank you Cundo’. Featuring distorted figures relaxing and communicating in an imaginary landscape, it is reminiscent of Henri Matisse’s Le Bonheur de Vivre (the Joy of Life). Interestingly, another connection would be the fact that Wilson, as Matisse, in his art-making, also chose to depart from the expected. He has stated that he tried his best to push as many boundaries as he could. Whether he will go on to be responsible for revolutionary developments in the artworld remains to be seen.

Throughout the exhibition, the audience gets to witness Wilson’s passion. His markings are not safe but rather free and confident and not bound by faithfulness to reality.

Wilson is a teacher at Kaleidoscope Arts Foundation, and his work is receiving recognition. He is represented in the 2022 Bermuda Biennial.

This Opening received an outpouring of support by a large audience that included an abundance of young adults. While popularity does not speak to ability, the experience for the young and often new audience may lead to continued patronage and support for this aspect of our culture. By extension this may lead to further participation and discussion and critique of what art is and its role in our society.

Having said all of this, I conclude with the thought that this visual exhibition is good for art. Audiences and fellow artists alike are challenged.

Artists- Are you learning as you create? is art-making an enjoyable experience? What have YOU chosen to do? Why do YOU do what you do? WHAT can we learn about you through what you are exhibiting? How IMMERSED are you? Fear prevents and limits.

Audiences - you are not easy to please. You may have an expectation that artists would be genuine explorers, experimenters, creative and innovative thinkers exhibiting new perspectives and content- but then many of you still have certain expectations of what that should look like. It is easy to dismiss what you do not understand.

Wilson understands the significance of all of this. He says your art is “what you portray and put out to the world, but the deep-down subconscious version of that is what you find through play.”

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