The paintings and drawings I create are intended to build bridges between the past, present, and future for both individuals and ALL groups of people, through stylistic ideas and expressions that crossover into many genres. Historically, my interest in art draws from cubism at the beginning of the 20th century. In contemporary terms, I have been noted to create images that relate to elements of urban architecture, highlighting areas of the city in which I lived and worked. My intention was to create a kind of architectonic lyricism. Much of my work still combines elements of cubism and deconstructionism, thus combining my interests in the musical composition and its relationship to my visual world. A change in rhythm can be compared to a change in line, weight, brushstroke, value, and pitch. Though my work has characteristics of abstract art, I encourage my viewers to reexamine material culture through my art; therefore, my abstraction is not totally non-objective. It is semi-abstraction. In recent years my work has increasingly transitioned into bolder, brighter color, as a shift in mood and tempo create drawings that originate as studies and become important to my process. The forms seem to grow like plants and flowers interweaving together in my vivid pictorial arena. While incorporating shapes that reference biomorphic forms in nature and internal human anatomy, I combine recognizable imagery placed in natural and man-made environments to create paintings that celebrate the enduring positive spirit of humanity through passionate color. This use of vibrant color adds a dreamy and playful quality to my work. As a child, I possessed the passion to put my interpretation of the world around me on paper, later forging those images into paintings. I want the child I once was to be represented in my paintings on a visceral level, and at the same time express the refinement of a maturing culmination. The personal becomes the universal. Art is an important way for me to communicate and subsequently build relationships with others. My work is a spiritual testimony to the visual experiences that arouse my senses. As I examine and interpret the world around me, I seek to share an exquisite interplay of subtle and bold.
Since the beginning of the American Abstract Expressionist movement in the 1940’s, our contribution as abstract African American artists to that movement was present. Unfortunately, at that time, abstract art created by African Americans was overlooked and forgotten until recent years. Since the beginning of American History, our history as Black Americans has been tainted with generational racism and bigotry. Consequently, this tainted history caused biased opinions about the intellectual and creative intentions of black artists expressing their voice, and their artwork had fallen under unfair scrutiny. When European artists, like Andre Breton and Max Ernst, who were influenced by non-western art and native African art in their paintings, came to America fleeing WWII, they brought with them a desire to create “primitive art”. When their African American abstract contemporaries created out of a similar vein it was said by critics to be “naïve” and the “art of children” trying to tap into their ancestral heritage. Biased statements like these were made to undermine our voice as artists of color and pigeonhole us into a generalized view as people who lack anything unique to contribute to contemporary culture. In recent years, we have seen much progress in recognizing the diverse range and subject matter of African American art, but because civil unrest still plagues our country, I have found that our search for freedom from judgment of our abstract voice is still apparent consciously and subconsciously.
In my youth, I struggled to express social and political commentary with my art; however, when I would attempt to do so, I found that my personal aesthetic and ambition to challenge myself creatively suffered. Though I was inspired by artists of all genders, ethnicities, and genres because I was open to all mediums, I believed that all people would accept my art as an African American if I made it apparent in my imagery and subject matter that I was African American. Of course, I closely identified with the inequality of living in America at an early age, but when trying to implement or express these emotions through my paintings, I noticed that my work was becoming somewhat calculated and lacked authenticity. I switched from painting to drawing so that color would not describe my forms, intending that the pencil guide my subconscious in creating a unique conscious vision for me, by me. Thus, my abstract voice was created! My portraits became an inner reflection of the people, places, and objects that surround my everyday life. I did this by creating rhythmic anatomically inspired renderings that told my story through abstraction. I found that it is vital to be true to one’s self in his or her form of expression. In order for me to be truly free from the self-imposed bias or pre-conceived notions of race and gender and creatively express, share, and experience art with all people, my personal intentions must come first. With my art I intend for the personal to become the universal among all groups of people, as we celebrate individual freedom, find our likenesses, and harmonize our differences. I proudly proclaim undeniably that I am a Black Man creating art and my individual drive and vision will always transcend society’s-imposed biases and perceived limitations of my people. Whether the struggle with identity is internal or external, I ongoingly reach above and beyond boundaries to write my own history and success.
Cedric Michael Cox 2021