Platt Studio Washington DC
Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts & Culture in Charlotte, NC, Offers Works by Michael B. Platt
May Issue 2010

Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts & Culture in Charlotte, NC, Offers Works by Michael B. Platt

The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts & Culture in Charlotte, NC, is presenting the exhibit, Spirits and Spaces: The Prints of Michael B. Platt, on view in the Center's Gallery East through Aug. 15, 2010.
Platt, a printmaker, visual historian and visual storyteller is a Washington, DC, based artist who uses digital photography and the printing process to share his keen sense of observation to express traces of the human spirit. As an image maker, Platt's utilization of his experiences of the African Diaspora provokes, challenges and celebrates the human condition.
"For the past three years my imagery has centered on ritual and the transformation of the human spirit that occurs when it confronts imagined or actual events and circumstances. Most recently, using digitally manipulated female figures to manifest such transformations in my prints, as well as the artist books and broadsides done in collaboration with poet Carol Beane, I have addressed issues of slavery, Hurricane Katrina, waiting, and searching for home," states Platt.
Platt also wanted to celebrate the significance of the shotgun house, so he and Poet Carol A. Beane built a replicate entitled Abandoned Space, which is an eye-catching major attraction in the gallery.  The shotgun house is a narrow rectangular domestic residence, consisting of three to five rooms in a row with no hallways. Shotgun houses are still the most prevalent housing style in many southern cities and towns. Yet, that opinion received mixed reviews because some houses are bulldozed due to urban renewal, while others are beneficiaries of historic preservation and gentrification.

Platt is a 2007 recipient of the prestigious Franz and Virginia Bader Fund Grant. Long known as a printmaker, he now prefers the more encompassing designation, "image-maker." His artwork recently has turned to digital imagery and book art that combines image and poetry - fragments, allowing us glimpses of our selves. He continues to create artwork that centers on figurative explorations of life's survivors, the marginalized, referencing history and circumstance in the rites, rituals and expressions of our human condition.
For further information check our NC Institutional Gallery listings, call the Center at 704/547-3700 or visit (www.ganttcenter.org).

SPIRITS AND SPACES: The Prints of Micheal Platt
Spirits and Spaces: The Prints of Michael B. Platt
April 9, 2010 - October 2, 2010 (Past Exhibition)
East Gallery

Michael B. Platt, a printmaker, visual historian and visual storyteller is a Washington, D.C. based artist who uses digital photography and the printing process to share his keen sense of observation to express traces of the human spirit. His subjects are the marginalized and the survivors. Through his artwork the figure prevails, creating images intended to express traces of the human spirit and inspired by spaces with a history - the presence of things left behind. Platt believes that creating art is about having something to say. As an image maker, Platt's utilization of his experiences of the African Diaspora reflect the human condition.
SLATBACKS by Gloria Miller
“THINGS LEFT BEHIND”: MICHAEL B. PLATT AT THE JOYCE GORDON GALLERY, OAKLAND


I really enjoy old places, where something used to be…I went all around town looking for these nightgowns, just blowing in the wind. I don’t know what that means.
—Michael B. Platt

the sea is a bitter memory
of when i thought
my gods had abandoned me

till they appeared
on this other side
telling me
i could fly home

and in the meantime
i sang new songs…
—Carol A. Beane


The woman beside me in the gallery—a stranger—suddenly said, “They used to throw the slaves into the ocean and collect the insurance.” She was looking at a piece called “And the Sea Shall Free Them.” I asked her what made her think that thought. She answered that the piece was about slavery.

The piece was about slavery, though the gallery owner told us it was also about Hurricane Katrina. African-Americans, trapped; the threat of water; a sense of deep memory and dream—memory turning into imagination. (The title is perhaps a reference to Leonard Cohen’s song, “Suzanne”: “All men shall be sailors…until the sea shall free them.”)

We were at an exhibit of extraordinary work by a Washington, DC artist, Michael B. Platt. The work has a complex identity, arising initially out of computer images and Photoshop and ending on canvas—like paintings. Indeed, paint is an element in the creation of these pieces—as is photography. But nothing here is “stable”; everything is affected by everything else. Platt, who is African American—with all the complexity that identity implies—calls himself an “imagemaker.” “He continues to create artwork,” reads his website, “that centers on figurative explorations of life’s survivors, the marginalized, referencing history and circumstance in the rites, rituals and expressions of our human condition.”

The work seems haunted—even when, as in the “Hoop Jumper” series, Platt seems to be expressing a kind of joy. Ghost-like images are everywhere—transparent people with intense presence but no solidity. They made me think of the way memory functions: people who are “there” but whom we can’t touch. The work is also dark, illuminated only by sudden flashes of light or by bits of what appears to be brightly colored paint—which Platt evidently employs not for referential purposes but as a momentary relief of the darkness. “Using the female figure,” reads a notice at the Joyce Gordon Gallery, the artist “creates images intended to express traces of the human spirit, often inspired by spaces with a history and the presence of things left behind. Empty spaces are as much storytellers as those filled with living.” In this work, presence and absence dance together in a whirl-a-gig of consciousness. The darkness is simultaneously the darkness of historical oppression and the darkness of history itself, which is nothing but the obsessive presence of the past reaching into—“coloring”—the present, whether we are aware of it or not. Platt’s wife, Carol A. Beane is a well-known poet, and her work is part of this exhibit. This powerful, eloquent poem is included. Its repetitions, hesitations and contradictions are a perfect complement to what Platt shows us on canvas:

It was only later that the visitations came
from those within the walls; walking the interstices of time
between the doors of no return and remember always
forget-me-not, from remembrance to remembrance,
wrought in iron that which we wish to forget, ever with us;
it was only later that the visitations came walking
the interstices of time between the doors of no return and
remember always those within the walls, the visitations
of remembrance wrought in iron
and tempered in blood, ever with us that which we
wish to forget, the visitations of those within
the walls of time between the doors
within the walls of visitations, walking through the doors;
forget-me-not within the walls of no return,
between the doors of time and the interstices
of remembrance of no return wrought in iron;
the doors remember always;
remember, remember; lest we forget the visitations
of those within the walls, walking times of no return
to between the doors; forget-me-not, remember
that which we wish to forget;
remember always
that it was only later that the
visitations came from those within the walls
walking the interstices of time,
between the doors of no return and remember always,
remembrance and remembrance ever with us…

A recent piece by Michael B. Platt is titled, “Just Looking.” Platt’s work is rich, evocative, complex, moving. It is an assertion that African-American history is not one story but many. It often takes place in what Beane calls “abandoned, unoccupied, and frequently dilapidated interior rooms and exteriors,” but—like William Carlos Williams’ wheel barrow poem—it insists that “so much depends / upon” those dull, null spaces, the fragmentary, the barely knowable, the “frequently dilapidated.” That the principle figures in these spaces are women—“using the female figure”—connects these images with the history of Western art, which is obsessed by images of women (though it is important to note that Platt’s women are black, not white); it also suggests that desire, longing is an element here as well. These are desired women whom neither the artist nor the spectator will ever “possess”: loss, pain, as well as unexpected beauty. (One of the pieces is called “Thinking of Angels”: the figure in it—transparent, like all the other figures—has wings.) “I have addressed issues of slavery, Hurricane Katrina, waiting, and searching for home,” writes Platt. He also addresses the human spirit in all its resiliency and rich capacity for knowing.

“Things Left Behind” will continue at the Joyce Gordon Gallery through January 29, 2011. The gallery is located at 406 14th Street in downtown Oakland. It is open Thursday-Friday, 9 to 6 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.
See www.joycegordon.com/

This essay is for Mark Lencl, who told me about Michael B. Platt and Carol A. Beane.

NOTE: Carol A. Beane's poetry should be centered on the page; it wasn't possible to present it that way in this format.
THE JOYCE GORDON GALLERY, OAKLAND
“THINGS LEFT BEHIND”: MICHAEL B. PLATT AT THE JOYCE GORDON GALLERY, OAKLAND


I really enjoy old places, where something used to be…I went all around town looking for these nightgowns, just blowing in the wind. I don’t know what that means.
—Michael B. Platt

the sea is a bitter memory
of when i thought
my gods had abandoned me

till they appeared
on this other side
telling me
i could fly home

and in the meantime
i sang new songs…
—Carol A. Beane


The woman beside me in the gallery—a stranger—suddenly said, “They used to throw the slaves into the ocean and collect the insurance.” She was looking at a piece called “And the Sea Shall Free Them.” I asked her what made her think that thought. She answered that the piece was about slavery.
The piece was about slavery, though the gallery owner told us it was also about Hurricane Katrina. African-Americans, trapped; the threat of water; a sense of deep memory and dream—memory turning into imagination. (The title is perhaps a reference to Leonard Cohen’s song, “Suzanne”: “All men shall be sailors…until the sea shall free them.”)
We were at an exhibit of extraordinary work by a Washington, DC artist, Michael B. Platt. The work has a complex identity, arising initially out of computer images and Photoshop and ending on canvas—like paintings. Indeed, paint is an element in the creation of these pieces—as is photography. But nothing here is “stable”; everything is affected by everything else. Platt, who is African American—with all the complexity that identity implies—calls himself an “imagemaker.” “He continues to create artwork,” reads his website, “that centers on figurative explorations of life’s survivors, the marginalized, referencing history and circumstance in the rites, rituals and expressions of our human condition.”
The work seems haunted—even when, as in the “Hoop Jumper” series, Platt seems to be expressing a kind of joy. Ghost-like images are everywhere—transparent people with intense presence but no solidity. They made me think of the way memory functions: people who are “there” but whom we can’t touch. The work is also dark, illuminated only by sudden flashes of light or by bits of what appears to be brightly colored paint—which Platt evidently employs not for referential purposes but as a momentary relief of the darkness. “Using the female figure,” reads a notice at the Joyce Gordon Gallery, the artist “creates images intended to express traces of the human spirit, often inspired by spaces with a history and the presence of things left behind. Empty spaces are as much storytellers as those filled with living.” In this work, presence and absence dance together in a whirl-a-gig of consciousness. The darkness is simultaneously the darkness of historical oppression and the darkness of history itself, which is nothing but the obsessive presence of the past reaching into—“coloring”—the present, whether we are aware of it or not. Platt’s wife, Carol A. Beane is a well-known poet, and her work is part of this exhibit. This powerful, eloquent poem is included. Its repetitions, hesitations and contradictions are a perfect complement to what Platt shows us on canvas:

It was only later that the visitations came
from those within the walls; walking the interstices of time
between the doors of no return and remember always
forget-me-not, from remembrance to remembrance,
wrought in iron that which we wish to forget, ever with us;
it was only later that the visitations came walking
the interstices of time between the doors of no return and
remember always those within the walls, the visitations
of remembrance wrought in iron
and tempered in blood, ever with us that which we
wish to forget, the visitations of those within
the walls of time between the doors
within the walls of visitations, walking through the doors;
forget-me-not within the walls of no return,
between the doors of time and the interstices
of remembrance of no return wrought in iron;
the doors remember always;
remember, remember; lest we forget the visitations
of those within the walls, walking times of no return
to between the doors; forget-me-not, remember
that which we wish to forget;
remember always
that it was only later that the
visitations came from those within the walls
walking the interstices of time,
between the doors of no return and remember always,
remembrance and remembrance ever with us…

A recent piece by Michael B. Platt is titled, “Just Looking.” Platt’s work is rich, evocative, complex, moving. It is an assertion that African-American history is not one story but many. It often takes place in what Beane calls “abandoned, unoccupied, and frequently dilapidated interior rooms and exteriors,” but—like William Carlos Williams’ wheel barrow poem—it insists that “so much depends / upon” those dull, null spaces, the fragmentary, the barely knowable, the “frequently dilapidated.” That the principle figures in these spaces are women—“using the female figure”—connects these images with the history of Western art, which is obsessed by images of women (though it is important to note that Platt’s women are black, not white); it also suggests that desire, longing is an element here as well. These are desired women whom neither the artist nor the spectator will ever “possess”: loss, pain, as well as unexpected beauty. (One of the pieces is called “Thinking of Angels”: the figure in it—transparent, like all the other figures—has wings.) “I have addressed issues of slavery, Hurricane Katrina, waiting, and searching for home,” writes Platt. He also addresses the human spirit in all its resiliency and rich capacity for knowing.

“Things Left Behind” will continue at the Joyce Gordon Gallery through December 31st. The gallery is located at 406 14th Street in downtown Oakland. It is open Thursday-Friday, 9 to 6 p.m., Saturday-Sunday, 1 to 4 p.m.
See www.joycegordon.com/

This essay is for Mark Lencl, who told me about Michael B. Platt and Carol A. Beane.